As part of the Licensing International Mentorship Program Josh Topal, Senior Product Manager at Amazon Studios, interviewed his mentor, Dependable Solutions’ own Marty Malysz. Here’s what he had to say about life in the world of licensing:
Josh T.: I am here with Marty interviewing for a profile for Licensing International. So, to start off, Marty, who are you, and what do you do?
Marty M.: Hi, Josh, thanks for hosting this session today. I am Marty Malysz, President of Dependable Solutions. I lead a licensing industry software development company servicing 60 clients including brands, agencies, and licensees around the world with a team across Germany, the UK, the USA, Canada, Bangladesh, and China.
Josh T.: Great. How did you get into licensing?
Marty M.: I fell into the licensing “found me” category. When I graduated from UCLA, I went into computer selling for Wang Laboratories for five years. Then I joined up with one of my friends to run a custom software development operation. We targeted the music industry, including music libraries, record labels, and music publishers. We quickly became number one in North America and had offices in London, Nashville, and Los Angeles. Our business rose with hundreds of clients while the music industry shrank.
I sold that business in 2002 to gain access to a growing market. Our target was the consumer product licensing market which was ten times larger than the music market and expanding. I am extremely fortunate to be in consumer products now for the last 17 years with a much stronger business operation.
Josh T.: What is your typical day in your current position now?
Marty M.: Well, Josh, my workday follows the sun. When I wake up in the morning, my priority is trying to get a workout in. Then I join our European team as the sun sets. We have offices in London and Germany with four people in Europe. I quickly switch over to our East Coast team right before their lunch, and then I transition on the West Coast and end my day speaking with folks in Australia. I am fortunate to have a talented team around the world who serve our clients directly across many time zones.
Josh T.: What would you say are your biggest personal and professional accomplishments?
Marty M.: My greatest personal accomplishment is marrying my wife, Amy when I was 34. We met in college and never dated. When we finally did, we were married within 7 months! We are blessed with two children, our son Kenny, and our daughter Anna. Amy oversees the HR (Human Resources) and accounting departments. Yes, she is the “love of my life”.
Josh T.: You’ve been around the industry for a while. What are the most significant trends or changes that you have seen in the business in recent years?
Marty M.: While I have seen our company grow and our client’s business volume grows, many of our clients do not have enough personnel aboard. In many instances, clients reduce departments when they bring on systems like ours. What we do is accentuate and glorify data associated with licensing. Our challenge is that companies still need people to interpret the useful information they collect.
Clients that have less turnover and more consistency with agile hiring processes prosper. Turnover challenges momentum and morale. Collectively, we need to keep core, effective people on board. It is hard to recruit people and takes months to replace team members. Many people have retired over the last two years, left the business or companies have cut back on personnel. We are in a really challenging period to recruit and build up new consumer product licensing personnel for the entire industry.
Josh T.: Yes, that leads to this next question what is the biggest challenge you face?
Marty M.: Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge that we face is our own staffing. We have 40 team members in our organization. Even with our dedicated HR (Human Resources) team, it requires 3 months to train and onboard new team members. We find ourselves in constant recruiting mode. We have seen folks retire, switch careers, and even go to work with our clients. We remain dedicated to recruiting young and eager people along with cross-training people to service the licensing industry. We currently have two new interns on staff.
Josh T.: In your opinion, what is the top skill that every licensing executive should have to succeed?
Marty M.: The most important trait for licensing executives is to refine their relationship-building skills. We are in a marketing career that depends on people. We must appeal to people’s emotions, beliefs, and values to love brands, buy licensed products, and enjoy these products or services.
We must look after people, including employees and customers, and treat them with proper levels of respect. We do not see each other in person given that we are working remotely. Sometimes you really need to see somebody in real life (IRL) and give them a hug. We all need better communication skills and better self-assessment skills.
When I say “self” I mean me. I must examine my thoughts and actions and how I bring my authentic self to each meeting and every conversation. People skills are what is most important as the perseverance to be able to hang in there to see each project or conversation through to completion.
Josh T.: That’s great. I agree. Our next question is, what is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Marty M.: There have been two. My dad told me when I got my first job out of college “you have to stay there for five years”. It was good advice. I was able to experience the natural cycle of business rising and falling. The second piece of advice I received from Harvey, an early mentor, to always fill your mind with new thoughts. Do not just pursue books on business. Read books about everything including fiction, hobbies, biographies, and faith. Read always. Always read.
Josh T.: That’s great advice. What is your favorite licensing deal of all time?
Marty M.: One of my favorites taught me a great lesson in perseverance and depending on a little luck. We gained their trust after five years, of building a relationship, with a famous multi-billion-dollar apparel brand.
The challenge was that they were amid a large SAP ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) implementation and could not find a suitable process also to deal with the new Sarbanes-Oxley revenue recognition, called the IFRS 15 or ASC606 which came into effect in 2018. The door was magically opened, and we finally landed their licensing automation business.
This has proven to be a great relationship. They now consider our team to be part of their company operations to not only provide software but even assistance to implement and manage their licensing-in and licensing-out operations.
Josh T.: Marty. Anything else?
Marty M.: I look forward to getting to know you better. Funny coincidence, Josh and I live on the same block here in Los Angeles, and we were put together within the Licensing International mentor program. We are only 10 houses away from each other. Small world, eh?
“Coincidences mean you’re on the right path.”
Simon Van Booy
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