Esti Chazanow is the co-founder and brand manager of LIV Watches. She grew up in Melbourne, Australia, and studied education and business in college, eventually focusing on management, marketing, and organizational structure and curriculum development in the nonprofit and education worlds. In 2009, she met her husband, watch industry entrepreneur Chaz, and they united their backgrounds and expertise to create a brand that would produce high-quality, unique Swiss watches at an accessible price point, direct to consumers, and build relationships. LIV launched on Kickstarter in 2014, and the rest is horological history. Esti is passionate about educating anyone who comes into contact with LIV about the rich tradition of Swiss watchmaking. Her focus is on multi-channel communication and working with the LIV team to craft an authentic fan experience — because the word “customer” doesn’t do justice to the enthusiasm LIV fans have for the brand. Esti lives in Miami, Florida, with her family.
Where did the idea for LIV Watches come from?
My husband had been working in the traditional Swiss watch industry for more than 20 years. He saw that there was a huge disconnect between the traditional scions of the Swiss watch business and the ultimate customer. In particular, he saw that designs were repetitive and uninspiring and the astronomical prices put Swiss Made timepieces out of the reach of the majority of buyers.
Together, we decided that the timing was perfect for a new approach to crafting and selling Swiss Made watches with designs people would love to show off at prices they could afford.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My answer assumes you are talking about my workday, which starts with me checking my emails and tasks and prioritizing what I’ll take care of for the day. It’s necessary to remain flexible to accommodate unexpected demands.
However, it is important to not let emails, phone calls, or meetings dictate your day. Without a routine and plan for your day, these three can absorb your entire day. The danger is that answering emails, phone calls, and attending meetings can seem like you are doing something when you generally aren’t making much progress.
Regarding meetings, I usually schedule them for mid-day, say an hour or so on either side of noon. This practice gives me time to start working before any meetings and still have time to work after them as well.
How do you bring ideas to life?
One constant during our years in business is creativity. We design with defiance, pushing back against boring and repetitious designs. Getting an idea off the drawing board and into the hands of our fans requires a methodical process. In general, when we have ideas, we come up with detailed plans and then assign due dates and specific team members who are responsible for implementation.
If you’re asking about how we brought our company to life – that was through Kickstarter initially. As an internet-based, direct-to-consumer company, traditional financing sources were not an option, at least not the one we wanted to use. Venture capital was a possibility, but that involves giving control to investors who probably won’t share our passion and vision.
Kickstarter fits our business model perfectly. It allows us to invite the ultimate customer to fund the development and distribution of a timepiece. It also gives the people who contribute to a particular watch design direct input to future designs, something we leverage all the time. I’d say nearly every LIV watch has some fan-requested feature in it somewhere.
We also continue to bring new watches to market through a preordering system, whether it’s Kickstarter or our own launch platform. It is a wonderful model that allows us to deliver on our promise of Swiss quality, uniquely designed, accessibly priced wristwatches.
What’s one trend that excites you?
An important trend within e-commerce right now is the emergence of companies that allow buyers to split the cost of a purchase over several payments interest-free payments at the time of purchase. Qualifying takes seconds and a buyer can make a purchase without burdening a credit card or taking the full price hit in one payment.
Today, we accept PayPal, Shop Pay, Affirm, and After Pay in addition to the regular array of credit and debit cards. We think this will be a real game-changer for our ability to grow our fan base.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Delegating. A trap of entrepreneurship is trying to do it all yourself. That is simply unsustainable. You will eventually burn out, make critical mistakes, or both.
Delegating isn’t just telling someone what to do, it’s a process of communication. And, in my opinion, it is a cooperative effort. Am I good at delegation? Yes, I think so. And, the results seem to bear that out. Because I love people and love communicating, I’m always happy to go through the process of delegation.
What advice would you give your younger self?
To control my stress levels. In the final analysis, there is no point, or benefit, in letting them get too high. Uncontrolled levels of stress can hurt every aspect of your life, personal and professional. Listen to the signs your body is telling you that you are feeling stressed and reset yourself. Like anything else, it takes practice but it is definitely worth it.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That it’s okay to not always have a perfect work-life balance for specific periods of time. In order to build something you sometimes have to accept an unbalanced situation and work really hard. The work-life balance is more of an overall concept; the balance is fluid, and during your journey of life, it can go up and down but overall it should be a balance. \
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Surround yourself with good people and good systems and processes. In order to get things done and move forward, you need to have the tools to manage the tsunami of information and tasks that come your way every day. Simply setting goals and turning people loose is not enough.
Finding good systems that allow you to automate repetitive tasks and focus energies in other areas is crucial. The good news is that systems abound that can make your life, and that of your employees, easier. The bad news is that these options abound. Not every system will be the right fit. You need to find one that supports how you work rather than forcing you to work the way the system is designed. Be prepared to experiment. Most systems these days offer free trials to allow you to test drive before committing to a plan.
While the promise of automation and AI is tantalizing, you still need to constantly work on building and retaining a dream team; a team that is as passionate about your business as you are and that possesses the skills to make it happen every day. My dream team includes my in-house team and all the people who work with us remotely or on an as-needed basis.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Instead of offering traditional “customer service,” our strategy involves what we’ve coined the “fan experience.” Indeed, our goal is to build relationships with people because we want fans, not customers, so we view every person who engages with our brand as a current or potential fan and provide a top-level experience accordingly.
For example, our communication is very warm, friendly, direct, and involved, we invite our fans to become a part of our product development process and we have a private FB group for our fans.
Our fans are as invested as we are in this concept, continually giving us valuable input to improve our designs and processes. Our incredible group of fans is what makes us tick.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Waiting too long to show someone the door. Since I love people, I tend to take too long to make a move with an employee or remote worker who isn’t working out. I’ve overcome this failing now in several ways:
Having clear expectations for work that is not necessarily measurable.
Creating clear deliverables or measures for work that can be measured.
Tying compensation to these deliverables and measures.
Providing performance feedback and coaching at regular intervals to avoid letting a situation evolve to a point I have to let them go.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Since I have kids and am passionate about minimal screen time for them, I would love to see the creation of an audio-only device that streams music/podcasts/audio shows that I, as a parent, have pre-approved. The device connects to the internet via Wi-Fi and is controlled using a simple pushbutton remote. The kids navigate using the remote and can listen to music, or audio content without a screen. Other parental control features would include setting time “budgets” and tracking what is being listened to.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A high-quality webcam for our fan support staff. We are an internet-only brand, yet we have already built a very loyal fan base and many personal relationships. To further the concierge-style level of service, a good camera allows our staff and fans to interact visually (video chat) as well as via voice and text (email, chat).
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Without question, for me, it is FrontApp. I already spoke about the need to manage and prioritize the mass of information that comes into our operations every day. This app allows you to centralize and manage all forms of communication. It’s like mapping multiple email accounts to a single app like Outlook, only you can bring in Facebook messages, chats, and more.
Each team member can have their personal inbox and I can assign messages to the right person, create rules to auto-assign messages, auto-respond to fans and others, and more. You can snooze and tag messages for further control. It is like an IT service desk in many ways, just focused on fan interactions. I like it so much, I use it for personal as well and business purposes.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Goodreads Author). It’s a novel about regrets in life and really gets you thinking about your own regrets. This may sound sad and depressing, but the message of the book is that whatever situation you are in right now is where you are meant to be, regardless of what you may regret in terms of the choices you have made. It is an enlightening read and ultimately very positive and inspiring.
What is your favorite quote?
My favorite is the following:
If someone tells you “I persevered but I didn’t succeed,” Don’t believe him.
If someone tells you “I didn’t persevere and I succeeded,” Don’t believe him.
But if someone tells you “I persevered and succeeded,” Believe him.
- Your work-life balance won’t always be in balance, nor does it need to be. At certain times, it will tip towards work, perhaps significantly. At other times, it will tip towards life. Over your life’s journey, it should balance. Strive for that.
- Delegate to competent trusted employees and team members. Use delegation to help people grow and to allow you to focus on what you do best.
- Search out and use technology tools that automate repetitious tasks and that extend the capabilities of your team.
- Learn from failure.
- Learn to manage stress.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.