First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mike Cregan: We are doing well. Minding all the precautions, yet still getting out.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Butler Luxury.
Mike Cregan: I began my career in banking and also sales: beginning work at Xerox then moving to business development in commercial banking. Butler Luxury started 5 years ago as an outgrowth of a company I founded 20 years ago. We made the clothing hangers for many well-known designers for their shops. As demanding as the designers are, we knew that we could make something even better using our full creative range of skills. So, in conjunction with a Savile Row tailor, one of our customers then, we came up with “What would be the best suit hanger possible?” Around that, we designed a full range of clothing hangers for people who buy custom tailored suits and those who wanted something beautiful in its own right on which to hang their clothing. It took off from there. Today, we are considered the best maker of hangers in the world. Our customer include many well-known designers who use Butler Luxury in their homes. Oddly, most do not know that some of their shops use our hangers—they came to us directly.
How does Butler Luxury innovate?
Mike Cregan: Our basic outlook, since the beginning, has been “We don’t care how many we sell, we only care that they are the best that can possibly be made.” So, we always look for ways to increase the quality and improve the design. Recently, we crafted suit and coat hangers made from Rosewood. Something never done before. They are absolutely stunning, but expensive. We didn’t know if anyone would buy a hanger that expensive. But, we ended up selling out in 3 days.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Mike Cregan: Initially, the virus impacted the making of the hangers. Being an online business, and not requiring contact, the virus did not seem to affect sales, so we ran low on supplies for a while. We made adjustments to the spacing and making of the hangers, and eventually were able to get back up to speed.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Mike Cregan: The most difficult choices had to do with employees. We were not able to have everyone continue working. The Paycheck Protection plan the government enacted helped a great deal, but did not cover everyone, and only funded for 8 weeks. So, it was very difficult having to tell some people that we could not keep them. Luckily it was a small part of the workforce, but still very difficult. You might say that one lesson learned was how valuable those relationships are and the importance of structuring for long term retention.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Butler Luxury in the future?
Mike Cregan: My best way of dealing with stress and anxiety is to take a walk. Stress and anxiety usually manifest themselves as the world “closing in” on you. It’s right in your face. So, once or twice a day, I will take a few minutes to go outside, walk down the street and look at things far off in the distance or medium distance. After a while, my sense of space is restored, the anxiety backs off, and I can get back into the tasks at hand.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mike Cregan: Our competitors are places like The Container Store or Bed Bath and Beyond and The Hanger Project. We plan to stay in the game by continuing to make a better and better product with even better service.
Your final thoughts?
Mike Cregan: COVID-19 is a fact of life, and we do all we can to turn what could be negative into factors that work in our favor.