Jeffrey Doltis is the owner and managing director of leading menswear tailor and retailer, Savile Row Company. Originally started by his father Gerry, who was a master tailor and made suits for many of the leading entertainment and establishment gentlemen of the day. For 31 years Jeffrey has held the reigns of the company – watching it grow from a niche manufacturer to a global online retailer.
StarCentral Magazine recently caught up with Jeffrey to discuss his journey as an entrepreneur and here’s what went down:
Could you please tell our readers a brief background about yourself and how you got into your business?
My father, Gerry, was a master tailor on London’s famous Savile Row where he made suits for many of the leading entertainment and establishment figures of the day. Growing up, my father’s interests rubbed off on me as I ended up in the shirt-making business shortly after I graduated from school.
At 18, I moved to Northern Ireland to study at Queen’s University and later began working at my father’s factory. There, I immersed myself in clothing design, creation, and manufacturing – learning everything I could about the business.
For 33 years, I’ve been at the head of the company watching it grow from a niche manufacturer to a global online retailer.
When did your entrepreneurial flair first reveal itself?
From a young age, I’ve always known that I had great business skills. It probably sank in for me around 1967 when I started selling shirts part-time in school on behalf of my dad’s mail-order business.
How did your life look before starting in the business?
Even in school, I was always finding a way to get involved in the family business – however possible. I was lucky in the sense that I knew which career path I wanted to take from a young age – I was always attracted to a business career.
As an entrepreneur, what is it that motivates and drives you?
Being at the head of an international company, you can’t wait for motivation to come to you. You have to take action and push yourself to be the best for your family and for your employees. If I had to put it down to the biggest reward or motivator it would be providing financial stability for me and all the people who are involved within the business.
In one word, describe your life as a business leader and explain why.
Integrity. It takes years to build your reputation and only minutes to lose it.
What were your top three motivations for starting your business?
My top three motivators are providing for my family, creating employment, and creating brand value.
What would you say are the key elements for starting and running a successful business?
There are many great qualities leaders need in order to be successful but I would say my top three are vision, finance, and team building.
What are the three biggest challenges you have faced growing the business and how did you overcome them?
Every industry has its challenges but you should never let obstacles overcome you. The three biggest challenges I have faced would be being bullied by other retailers, financial losses in the 2008 crash, and closing factories when production went offshore. As you can see, most of a company’s biggest challenges generally come from factors that aren’t within your control. Remaining level-headed, having the right support in place, and thinking of creative and innovative solutions to get you out of the situation would be my best advice.
What form of marketing has worked well for your business throughout the years?
It really varies according to external factors and technology. We built up the business and the mailing list on mail-order catalogues. As technology has evolved, we use more paid search, email, press, SEO, and social advertising. Once on our site, nothing converts customers as well as having good qualified reviews and we are very proud of our consistently high Trustpilot scores.
As you grew the business, what have been some of the most important leadership lessons you have learned?
When you are down and feel you have been given a kicking, get up and brush yourself off and start all over again.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Never lie to your co-workers or your lenders – honestly is always the best policy no matter how hard the truth is.
What advice would you give to a newbie Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
The same advice as above – be true to yourself, honest, and hardworking.