Ask The CEO

By Hannah Wallace April 30, 2009

For 20 years, Rob Brady’s Robrady Designs has helped clients design and produce innovative industrial and consumer products. His team of 50 (“lots of talent on both the left and right side of the brain”) develop everything from zero-emission motor bikes for Vetrix to floating XTools for boaters. Recently Brady, 45, who says he’s as much entrepreneur as designer, also has been developing companies, including one that specializes in products that prevent identity theft. (Look for their way-cool secure ID badges in the film, The Day the Earth Stood Still.) Exhilarated by “the phenomenal front-row seat” he enjoys working with top companies, Brady often restarts work at 10 p.m. when his clients in Asia get going. If it weren’t for his happy home life, he says, “I’d bring in a cot and sleep here.”

How’s business? Two major clients—60 percent of our business—have gone off the radar. We’ve redefined how we sell. Every day I take my top five people, and we each list the top three deals we are working on and brainstorm about what it’s going to take—new contacts, touches and angles—to get an engagement. A year ago, when business was just coming at us, our sales process looked nothing like this. We’ve become much smarter. And we know our products have to be fantastic right now.

What makes a product succeed? We do reverse retailing; if we’re designing a pen we imagine the pen in the marketplace. What does it need to be successful? Then we design to meet those parameters. I know we can make it look cool. But I want to make sure we get the price right and have proper profit margins. I want to build jobs and factories, and create products that are wildly successful.

What were you like as a kid? I built a lot of go-carts and things. If I had been mechanically inclined, they would have been built better. But I never wanted to be told I couldn’t do something.

Is it hard to find creative talents here? I have a building full of them.

What impresses you in a job applicant? There are a million reasons why something won’t work. Tell me why it will. That’s what we’re looking for.

Do you stress client service? When our XTools [floating marine products] were featured at a show in Las Vegas, we all put on XTool shirts and flew out there on my nickel. It made their company look bigger, plus we knew the products so well we could talk about them to anyone.

What should businesses understand about creativity? Creativity is a commodity. Doing a deal, writing a quote, doing a new company—you need creativity in everything. Creative people are constantly rethinking what they’re doing. It’s a fantastic financial weapon.

Your biggest reward? Making my clients succeed. Or walking down the street, or turning on the TV and seeing a product I’ve designed. Knowing that we’re a company that can play at the Mercedes Benz level and get respect.

In addition to a stepdaughter who’s in college, you have a 4-year-old son. How’s that going? I don’t have the energy of a 25-year-old but I’ve got the bank account of a 45-year-old. That helps.

Filed under
Show Comments