By Andrew Flynn
A passion for product may be the calling card of Kingsmen Ltd., but there is a much deeper ethic that drives the men behind the watch, jewellery, and accessory distributor.
Fundamentally, Kingsmen is founded on integrity – and old-fashioned commitment to deliver on promises, to act with complete honesty and openness with partners big or small.
“It’s not that our company is better than others, because it’s not,” says Kingsmen CEO Leonard Isayev. We just take what we believe is a different approach”
“Do what you say you are going to do. Execute, execute, execute. We use the knowledge and experience we have accumulated by working for some of the industry’s biggest brands, working in small and major markets across the world, and also by having experience of being a local Canadian distributor.”
That is the differentiator that has made Kingsmen one of the most successful up-and-coming watch and jewellery distributors in Canada, he says.
Do What You Say You’ll Do
“We invest into the future of a brand. We do what we promise. We promise a lot and we really do it.”
Kingsmen began less than three years ago when Isayev and business partner Mark Nourani, decided to partner on this venture together, fulfilling a long-time plan to create something new.
With more than 30 years of experience in the watch, jewellery, and fashion industry between them, they set out to forge a company that would select a portfolio of brands relevant to today’s market.
“It was always a goal of mine to have my own company and although I studied international business, I majored in entrepreneurship in university,” says Isayev.
“So, it was a 10-year plan that came to fruition almost to the day of when I originally planned to do it. I put together a business plan and sent it to Mark, we looked at it together, reviewed it with people we trust and then decided to jump in.”
Isayev had gained an in-depth understanding of the international watch and jewellery trade over his 15 years in senior business roles for Movado Group Inc. and most recently at Sequel AG in the UK, across Europe and around the world.
Nourani, Isayev’s best friend since early childhood, had a retail background in fashion and for 15 years has been a distributor for formal ladies’ apparel, including the prestigious Texas-based dressmaker Watters. The partnership was an ideal combination of talents, Isayev says.
“That global knowledge and being taught by some of the industry’s most intelligent people really helped us get our feet off the ground.”
Both Isayev and Nourani enjoy an old-school appreciation for fine things – classic fashions, genteel manners, good taste, and above all, a steadfast dedication to their work.
Manners Maketh Man
The fact that the Kingsmen name resonates with the Kingsmanmovies – action spy thrillers that take James Bond-style bespoke fashions, future-vintage gadgets, and aristocratic decor to a new level – is no accident. In the movies, the phrase “manners maketh man” has a prominent place: the message is that integrity on the inside is reflected in an exterior presence that exudes style, confidence, and ultimately a solid moral compass. Which is why you’re unlikely to encounter Isayev and Nourani in anything other than a well-cut, dapper three-piece suit.
“I was living in London, England, around the time the first Kingsman movie came out. It was one of my favourite movies and I was leaving the UK and I wanted to have some kind of connection to the fact that this company was created while I was living there,” says Isayev.
Though a young business (Kingsmen was founded less than three years ago), Kingsmen’s progress has been astounding. The company has amassed more than 150 accounts, large and small, and is poised to end the year at almost 200.
Isayev believes the rapid success has been a direct result of the Kingsmen work ethic.
‘We get asked a lot how we grew so much in such a short period of time. We really try hard to do things differently than your typical distributor,” he says.
“Our partners see us as brand builders because we invest a lot into our people and into the brand – whereas sometimes you get guys who will throw it at the wall and see if it sticks. If it does, they’re happy. If not, they just move on to the next brand, which is a model that works and works well, but is not for us.”
It takes more effort to focus on brand-building in their distribution model, but Kingsmen is not interested in short-term investments, Isayev says. When they decide to represent a brand, it’s because they see potential for a viable long-term relationship.
“What is unique is that we have an incredible collection of accounts and partners,” he says.
Whether it’s a small or large retailer, Kingsmen goes into every meeting with a comprehensive execution plan.
“It’s never just about showing product – it’s about, what’s the investment? What are our expectations? How are we going to get there? What’s the cost? We do a full 360-degree strategy regardless of the size of the retailer.”
“We’re very strict about having the right partners because it’s important to enact on what we promised. There are large watch and jewelry companies that will show product, they’ll talk about how nice it is and how many stores they want. But we do an actual purchasing plan, a marketing plan a markdown plan, a term plan. It is a bit unique – it is a corporate style strategy that we apply to all types of accounts as we believe each owner and their teams want to see how we will work to achieve what we promise”.
Kingsmen’s brands are handpicked and reflect the experience that Isayev and Nourani gained in their time working in the industry.
Paul Hewitt, Ti Sento Milano, Sara Miller, and Les Georgettes make up the core brands that Kingsmen distribute, and all are very high-quality, well-established producers with track records of solid international sales.
“There’s thousands of brands that are out there: they’re beautiful, you have a personal kind of emotional connection to some. We try to take the emotion out of it. We look at the brand itself, the product. Then we look at the company behind the product – they have to have a documented long-term strategy.”
“We also don’t want to take on brands that are just limited to specialty boutiques, they have to cross over into majors and chains. We protect the number of stores that we go into but we also know that all brands need exposure to become successful. It doesn’t make sense to have a brand that can’t grow. That would not be good for us nor our retail partners.”
“One of our most important things is that we’ve stuck true to what we say,” Isayev notes.
The importance of integrity is something he learned during his time in the international business. Experience has paid dividends in the formation of Kingsmen.
“The global knowledge and being taught by some of the industry’s most intelligent people including; Sian Williams, Janet Nimmons, John Marcheski, Cristina Iodice, Julie Magner, Dianne Reichenbach, who molded me on how to run a business and treat people. It is also our current sales team with the likes of Diane Gagnon, Silvana Juri and Caroline Jobin that deserve all the credit for taking Kingsmen from a idea and a plan, to the strong results and partnerships we have today.” Isayev says.
“I learned an incredible amount from the people I worked with both from the teams at Sequel and Movado, but also from our distributors. We had countries that were going bankrupt, we had countries who were at war, we had countries that were prosperous that were all of sudden going through huge amounts of anxiety, but in all the cases we worked as partners to be strong and successful during those times.”
“It was really just learning through a lot of mistakes, fixing them as fast as possible, and how to treat people, how to take a completely different approach to business.”
“As CEO of Kingsmen my role is clear. I am the assistant. My job is to assist our team and partners to be successful. It is that simple.”