Jun 9, 2015

Ken Kocher – North Dakota

Pursuit of Greatness
Ken Kocher – North Dakota

Ken Kocher joined Hat World, Inc. in 1997 as chief financial officer and was named President in October of 2005. Today Ken has general responsibility for all aspects of Hat World’s business. During his tenure, he has had primary responsibility for finance, information systems, internet operations, distribution, “Lids Create Your Own” and “Lids on the Road,” as well as the early integration of the company’s Canadian business. Prior to Hat World, Ken served as controller with several companies, and was a certified public accountant with Edie Bailley. He is a graduate of the University of North Dakota, with a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting.

Ken Kocher is a very proud, very loyal fan of the Chicago Cubs. It doesn’t matter that the ball club hasn’t won the World Series in more than 100 years and hasn’t even been to the World Series since 1945. Kocher still loves the Cubs.

His office at Hat World Inc. is full of team memorabilia with a heavy emphasis, not surprisingly, on hats. But Kocher doesn’t impose his own fan loyalty on his employees. Instead, he encourages them to show their own colors and wear hats and shirts to work for whatever teams they root for.

While providing a chance to show some love for their favorite teams, it also serves to get employees more connected to the product he wants them to be out there selling to customers.

“You need to be cognizant that the people in your company believe in what you’re selling,” says Kocher, who took over as president of the 7,300-employee hat retailer, otherwise known as Lids, in 2005. “If you’re passionate about your product, which in our case is hats and sports because we sell sports as much as hats, you have a more passionate employee that understands what the customer wants.”

Kocher feels fortunate to lead a company so entrenched in the entertaining business of sports, but it’s not all fun and games at the $466 million company. Kocher’s organization doesn’t succeed because employees get to wear hats to work or because they aren’t allowed to wear ties. It thrives because they are excited about the product and energized to sell it to customers. And it works because employees take part in the process to set goals and then share in the reward when those goals are achieved.

“If you’re results-oriented, you can make any job fun,” Kocher says. “The key is to create competition. That will make your job fun no matter what you’re doing. Even if it’s competition with yourself to get more done today than yesterday or to sell more today than yesterday. Competition is a driving force with everybody. I don’t care who it is. You have to be competitive if you want to succeed.”

This approach helped Hat World navigate through the recession that began in late 2008 and devastated many in the retail business. While many retailers were closing stores, Hat World added 36 stores in 2010 and has continued to expand.

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