Want more customers? Try focusing on art, culture and greatness – Interview with David Hieatt of Hiut Denim

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Following on from my recent interview, Using systems thinking to improve customer satisfaction and employee engagement – Interview with Rob Brown of Aviva, today I am very excited as I want to share with you an interview that I conducted with David Hieatt, an entrepreneur that is not short on experience in creating businesses and brands that customers love.

This interview makes up number thirty-six in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping create businesses that customers love.

Below are highlights from our interview:

  • David is an entrepreneur at heart and loves creating brands that customers love
  • Spent 8-9 years at Saatchi & Saatchi under Paul Arden, learning from and, frequently, getting bollocked by him 🙂 (Note: Paul Arden wrote ‘It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be‘ one of my favourite books of all time.)
  • After spending time in London, returned to Wales and founded Howies (later sold to Timberland) and the Do lectures.
  • Has now set up the Hiut Denim Company to try and revive Cardigan, where they are based, as it used to Britain’s largest producer of jeans, producing 35,000 pairs of jeans a week for 30-40 years.
  • However, the factory has now closed and all of the skill and knowledge in the town was going to waste and the workers had nowhere to practice their ‘art’.
  • From his time at Howies, David grew to love two things: merino and jeans.
  • Jeans are the uniform for creative people and David spent his working life with creative people and their ideas always inspired him.
  • So, with the Hiut Denim Company, he set out “to make a great product, in a great town that knows how to make that great product and sell it to those great people”.
  • There is a lot riding on this project and some of the main things is helping Cardigan not lose the skills that they have embedded in their community, helping it pass on those skills and to get Cardigan making jeans again.
  • When David is asked ‘How do you get somebody to love your company?’ he replies that you have to first love your own company but love it in all sorts of ways where you consider just about everything from a label, to how they open a package from you, to how they can return stuff to you and to make all of those things simple steps for a customer.
  • But, David also believes that you have to consider what a company stands for (it’s cause) and it’s ideas as being really important.
  • Hiut Denim’s cause is to get Cardigan making jeans again.
  • Hiut Denim personalises their jeans and gives each of their jeans a story, a history. David believes that an artist should always sign their work so each pair of jeans is signed by the people that helped make them (see picture below):

David Hieatt at Meaning Conference Brighton Oct 2012

  • We want to make the best jeans we can and not the most jeans we can.
  • It might be that our company may always be small but it will always try to be great.
  • By getting everyone to sign their work it helps build a culture of pride, care and personal responsibility.
  • When you make something great you want to put your name on it.
  • There are about 70 processes that are involved in making their jeans and, in order to be great, they have to be great at all 70 of them. The details matter.
  • David has always been interested in not focusing on growth through sales but through ideas i.e. what ideas can they bring to their industry, what influence and change can they affect. The by-product of which is more customers as the business is seems as being innovative and leading its industry.
  • Simplicity and common sense (that’s not so common) is at the core of their business.
  • Patagonia has always been a great role model of David’s.
  • Visited Patagonia recently and they were super nice to him and he learned that something that he wrote called ‘Journey of a carrot’ whilst at Howies was the inspiration behind Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles.
  • We make great jeans and we, probably, make one of the best jeans in the world but we’d also like to bring some disruptive ideas to the jeans industry.
  • They publish every year a Year Book that tells everyone about what inspires them, what they are doing and what’s coming up next.
  • For Hiut Denim, disruption is about bringing back art, quality and ideas of change to an industry and is not just about technology.
  • This is being mirrored in other industries, like micro-brewing and coffee companies for instance, that are putting craft and art and quality and being great back at the heart of their businesses.
  • David thinks that this is an interesting mash-up of the geek and the luddite or the ‘gleek’.
  • Hiut Denim don’t make a fast jean but they make a great one. They also promote other great stuff here on their site.

About David

David Hieatt

Following a stint working in advertising for Saatchi and Saatchi, David was a founder of Howies (later sold to Timberland), founded the Do lectures and then Hiut Denim with his wife, Clare.

You can connect with David on Linked In here, Twitter via @hiutdenim and @davidhieatt and check out his blog too.

Thanks to Phil Gyford for the image. Now, I’m off to order some jeans!

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