A Video Conversation with Susan Ganz, CEO of Lion Brothers - Part IV


Susan Ganz

Click here for Part IPart IIPart III

When still in her 20’s, Susan J. “Suzy” Ganz walked away from a Wall Street job and took over the running of Lion Brothers Company Inc., the Owings Mills, Md., company with world leadership in the manufacturing and distribution of embroidered and appliquéd emblems.

You could say her career hung by a thread, given the perilous state of the company in the late 1980s after her father’s sudden death, the garment industry itself and the twin forces of globalization and technology. But Ganz says she fell in love with the factory floor, as much as the people working the yarns.

“You know the best period of time was spending time on the factory floor, there were about 350 people and they were some of the most knowledgeable, kindest people one can imagine and they sold me on Lion,” Ganz told citybizlist’s Edwin Warfield in an interview. “I fell in love with manufacturing and it was probably falling in love with people that did it,” she added.

Ganz, who earned her MBA from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and worked initially for Merrill Lynch, turned around the fortunes of Lion Brothers. For her leadership, she has been inducted into Maryland’s Circle of Excellence and thrice ranked in Baltimore Business Journal’s Maryland’s Top 100 Women.

In the interview, she talks about taking operations to China and many other parts of the world, embracing new technology, and building partnerships with the Girls Scouts, NBA, NFL and Nike.

SUSAN GANZ: I think that things that are barriers are only barriers if you see them as barriers. The question is, can they be strengths? There are some fundamental seminal questions…it is not whether you create change, it’s how do you create change? How are you going to approach change? How are you going to approach technology?

I do not think it is a whether question, I think it is a how question and in that there is so much opportunity, we have found so much wonderful white space for innovation and new creations, and that people want that, find relevance. So, the thing that I find interesting is the fact that we are an 118-year-old company and we are as relevant as anybody or anyone today. So, that is far more interesting to me than the past.

We have the values of the past, that is something that is terribly important. The values of the past drive who we are. We have not lost that in our DNA, which is caring for customers, caring for people. There is honor about identity and who people are. We make the products that make people who they are, which is really a privilege but for us the DNA is there. For us, it is all about what does the product mean and what is relevant and how are we going to get there.

EDWIN WARFIELD: You hold a number of patents on technologies for textiles including 3D visualization for print and cold adhesive technologies? Can you tell us about the patents?

SUSAN GANZ: If we look at a microbe it actually reflects very much a 3D philosophy, which is: It's not about how big you are, it is actually about how agile and flexible and relevant you are.

Today, we are 2D. So we manufacture things that are generally embroidery-based or digital textile print-based. They are 2D and even though they are dimensional, we can create 3D products but today it is in a 2D process. But my guess is that in the future it will swap over to 3D and so we are part of innovation groups that look at things within the apparel and textile industry and that nexus of 3D.

EDWIN WARFIELD: Your company has been impacted by the two challenges of technology and globalization? You appear to be an anomaly. How did you survive and thrive?

SUSAN GANZ: In my DNA I am big collaborative whether that is good or whether that is not good, it is just part of the DNA. In this new world order, I think it is exactly the style it fits and that is partially because there is so much information, there is so much innovation out there. The question is not whether one is doing an exercise of discovery, the question is whether one is integrating what is already out there and the only way that one can do that is actually by being out and in and being collaborative. I mean there are many ways that one can direct teams to do things but I think in terms of just general styles and what works, I think our organization is a genuinely collaborative place where people enjoy working with one another. We have smart people who want to solve problems and I think it is that nexus of smart and good, and when you have that you have the opportunity to create something special.

It is generally not the resume although the resume is the basic that is the one for, the question is, what else are they bringing to the table? Is it their strategic thinking? Is it their passion for a particular market? Is it that they are so detail-oriented but they'll save someone else? What is it that they have experience in a market that we have even thought about. What is it that's going to be their 2fer or 3fer?

We've found people of all ages, all industries, all types that become a fit with Lion. It's really interesting. It's a combination of strong expertise and youth. Youth and smarts and questioning, I think the common thread is probably curiosity. I think there's a curiosity that is about our people of wanting to know more and in doing that as a passion to extend themselves. Its not just about what's in the box; what's outside of it. There are probably new channels, geographies and markets that would that we're looking at now and so as we look at who will be in the next iteration of line, it will be different. I’m certain it will be different from who we’ve been. Again, we'll take our DNA with us, our values, our other, we'll pack it up and we'll continue on in terms of what's next.

So, I don't know where it's going to be. We work with clients and now Central America and certainly Asia where we have a strong presence, Europe so who knows where the next geography is going to be; the markets, themselves the question is where are our products going to be relevant?

This year, we are embracing soccer and so creating new collections around just even a simple thing that we haven't worked with before, but (also) where else to be relevant, as well as one goes to more on-demand things…tools for personalization and customization as much as they offer identity. So, the question is, what do we become relevant in a new age of e-commerce? As commerce ships from legacy inventory to on-demand, our products are wonderful for that type of portfolio.

Connect with Susan on LinkedIn

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Edwin Warfield, CEO of citybizlist, conducts the CEO Interviews.

If you're interested in reaching CEOs, please contact edwin.warfield@citybizlist.com

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