Oct 29, 2020
Amber Alston

How business leaders can think beyond revenue to achieve holistic licensing success

Click here to watch Thinking Beyond Revenue: A Holistic Licensing Approach in the Post-Normal.

This week, the licensing world's attention turns to Licensing Leadership Summit, the virtual global conference bringing C-level executives from the world's largest players across manufacturing, retail, and brands to discuss, debate, and collaborate on the future of brand licensing. Flowhaven is proud to sponsor the event with an interactive booth, product demo opportunities, and a ground-breaking panel discussion that brings our licensing relationship management platform to life and underscores our dedication to helping the community overcome its challenges. 

Available to attendees beginning Oct. 28, our panel discussion "Thinking Beyond Revenue: A Holistic Licensing Approach in the Post-Normal" will see licensing comrades Kalle Törmä, Founder and CEO of Flowhaven, and Anita Castellar, Founder, and CEO of FanGirl Consulting and Brand Management, recall the licensing woes that brought them together and share how they are reshaping both the conversation and real-world application of proactive licensing management to drive holistic success.

With special attention to the complexities of sustaining a licensing business in a radically altered marketplace and transitioning to remote work, the discussion is more timely than ever.

Below, we give an exclusive peek at the discussion, including actionable tips for success. 

What are the most common roadblocks to licensing success?

Castellar and Törmä became quick comrades when a LinkedIn exchange revealed that they shared similar grievances about the licensing industry's preoccupation with revenue. Both business-minded CEOs who treasured integrated processes, each party expressed a desire to see the community they know and love, view revenue as the result of operational success, not a measure of success in itself. 

"If your only goal is revenue, you may be jeopardising the health of your program," says Törmä. "The key is finding the balance between being profitable and ensuring you have a team that is managed well and able to produce the best possible product."

Before founding Fangirl, Castellar served in several high-profile positions, including Manager, Global Merchandising Strategy at The Walt Disney Company and Licensing Manager, Hardlines, Lucasfilm, where she worked on such iconic properties as Star Wars. Törmä worked as a Licensing Coordinator and later, Licensing Operations Specialist at Rovio, creators of Angry Birds. Their unique insights into the challenges of running the world's largest entertainment franchises directly informed their outlook on building holistic licensing programs. 

Together, Törmä and Castellar have identified the six key challenges preventing licensing professionals from developing comprehensive strategies and moving forward: timelines, staff retention, and support, challenges at retail, corporate culture, underdeveloped models for success and revenue.

  •  Timelines  

"In licensing, we're used to time-sensitive goals we can work toward," says Castellar. "Timelines are out the window in 2020. We have to work for what is known. For example, an anniversary date, retail purchase order, or brand debut. Focusing on what you can control will help you build new realistic schedules."

Time management can be a difficult skill for any working group to master. In 2020, as partners recover from the global pandemic's effects, including retail closures, shipping delays, and rapidly altered consumer buying patterns, the need to exercise conscious control over when specific tasks should be carried out to ensure success at market has never been more dire. 

Törmä and Castellar emphasize the importance of effective communication in navigating rapid scheduling changes. The more quickly updates are shared, the more quickly team members can react and adjust their strategies. 

Törmä's advice? If you have a general understanding of how long production and shipping used to take, you can use that as a blueprint for building schedules that allow for flexibility. Ask your partners as many questions as you can, as frequently as you can to minimize surprises and consider digital platforms that give you the option to set notifications and reminders to stay on track. 

  • Staff Retention and Support

"We're all remote now," says Castellar. "I don't think that's going to go away. It was a work trend that was growing, and now everyone has had to accelerate their acceptance of it."

The pandemic forced some companies to furlough employees and others to make a rapid shift to remote work. Both came with a set of challenges. Reduced staffing left some employees feeling overloaded or tasked with responsibilities beyond their skillset. For those who had never participated in remote work, the quick change made it difficult to communicate effectively or soak up the insights usually gained from socializing in an office setting.

"What we see is a lot of fragmented communication as a result of the shift to remote work," says Törmä. "Before you may have been able to talk to your colleague and say 'Hey, I'm working on this amazing deal!'. Today, you're forced to put messages in Slack or some other platform where it runs the risk of getting lost. It's a difficult way to keep track of data and see the big picture of the business."

To overcome the challenge, Castellar and Törmä recommend doing a deep analysis of who is carrying out each task and where their talents would be best applied. For businesses that cannot afford to hire on new talent but may have the funds to invest in software that can alleviate some tasks, exploring comprehensive digital solutions is highly recommended. 

  • Challenges at Retail

"A lot of today's challenges are retail-driven. No one knows when retail will fully reopen, and If you're a global business, you're managing the business in locations that are in various states of lockdown," continues Castellar. "I think there's always opportunity in chaos; if you can bring in a subject matter expert whose advice you can rely on, and you have the resources to support the implementation, you should." 

The global retail landscape has changed more in the last five years than it has in the last few decades. Sudden closures, unfulfilled purchase orders, and uncertainty about the future of some of the world's biggest retailers have left licensing professionals scrambling to adapt. While licensing professionals cannot determine how a retailer will perform, they can make key adjustments to their internal workflows to ensure that they deliver on promises to retailers and provide the highest quality products on time. Törmä and Castellar advise being as clear as possible when assigning tasks and looking for tools that help you keep your team accountable. 

"The challenges we're seeing at retail today should take us back to the golden triangle of project management," says Törmä." If you have a project timeline and scope, you must look at who your partners are and ask who will be responsible for ensuring part of the project is executed perfectly."

  • Models for Success 

"The definition of licensing success largely depends on who you ask. If you talk to someone on the C-level at a larger enterprise, it's revenue. After all, licensing is a revenue stream based on the successful promotion of the core IP. From an executive standpoint, it's the ability to execute the strategy."

Success is not one size fits. Neither is the process of developing comprehensive strategies to help your team achieve its unique strategy for success. 

To build effective models, it is imperative that you look at your core IP, understand when and if demand for your product has changed, and where your insights are limited. Your model should be flexible enough to change when market conditions do. 

Castellar, whose work with the Star Wars franchise taught her a valuable lesson in building strategies that not only ensured profit but also made accommodations for the diversity in the brand's audience (think Clone Wars fans vs. original film fans), suggests that putting your fans at the center of your strategy is the best way forward. 

"Fans are your brand's consumer base," says Castellar. "You have to super-serve them anytime you can. In the world we are living in now, where strategies have gone out the window, you have to reassess what is normal."

  • Corporate Culture 

"Changing habits is always difficult, especially for companies and teams who have a lot to do," remarks Törmä. "In the moment, it's hard to say 'if we slow down this week to implement changes we can benefit in the future.' But I guarantee you'll be faster afterward. You have to slow things down a bit if you want impactful change and must be able to commit to changing the way you've traditionally worked to engage everyone affected by the change."

Enterprise businesses did not achieve success from luck alone. Many successful institutions have long-standing practices that have helped them cultivate fan bases, attract top talent, and exceed revenue projections. For that reason, the idea of adopting new systems that require periods of reduced activity sounds unappealing. 

However, research has shown that over time, the implementation of new, researched practices can contribute to long-term success. Törmä, who has spent the last few years helping the world's best licensing teams adapt the Flowhaven system first hand, has witnessed these transformations up close. 

Flowhaven users have reported up to 80% increases in design approval process completions and improved speeds for royalty report generation and more. Or, as Kristy Satchel of Art Ask Agency provides in her customer success story, "more time for lunch."

  • Revenue 

"You have to adjust your [revenue] strategy for today's world," gives Törmä. "What you projected for the end of this year may not reflect what the reality will be. You have to go back to your core strategy. Ask yourself, who are your partners? Are your targeted demography and territories still relevant?"  

Make no mistake; revenue is still an important part of building a holistic licensing program. After all, if you want to increase profits, expand your reach, hire additional staff, and scale, you need revenue to do so. 

Revenue can also function as a useful tool for helping you analyze where it would be in your best interest to pivot your strategy. For example, if your toy sold out in Russia but failed to generate profit in Japan, you have a clearer indication of where you should focus your attention.  

Solutions like Flowhaven offer a wide variety of modules that can make the process of tracking and analyzing revenue easy and clear, including royalty report generators that allow for custom deal parameters, flag errors to mitigate risk and compare figures to contract data; data-led dashboards that can be customized to show SKU popularity and territory performance and; so much more. 

The Solution 

To steer your company toward holistic success, you must identify which of the aforementioned challenges is impacting your program most. "Inefficiencies can lead to lost revenue," says Törmä. "It is best to be proactive early on to remove bottlenecks."

After identifying the most pressing issue, you must craft a strategy that prioritizes the issue while remaining flexible to meet today's unique needs. 

Törmä and Castellar, a long-time customer, agree that adapting a licensing relationship management system like Flowhaven is the most effective. The Flowhaven solution is the only licensing relationship management solution on the market. Developed for licensing professionals by licensing professionals, the intuitive platform solves for all of the operational mishaps  that deter companies from meeting their goals. 

"You're already working to solve all of these challenges. People don't like the word processes, but they're designed to help you. It's how you spot the inefficiencies. Systems are important because they help you spot and centralize the inefficiencies." 

  • Notifications and reminders to help teams assign responsibility and ensure project deadlines are met
  • Agreement management modules including expert-approved contract templates and smart technology to ensure that each action your team takes falls in line with deal parameters
  • Royalty management and validation to mitigate risk, ensure transparency, and guarantee you recoup the maximum revenue from your deals
  • Data-led dashboards to give you clear insights into the health of your programs. Easily customizable, this feature is ideal for assessing archival data to build comprehensive forecasts about the future of your business

To watch "Thinking Beyond Revenue: A Holistic Licensing Approach in the Post-Normal," head to today.

Video available Oct.29-Nov.28. 

Flowhaven is the world's first licensing relationship management solution and the only tool developed by licensing professionals to solve every operational challenge affecting the community. To learn more about our solution, book a free demo today.

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