The 5/5 Sessions: Andy Katz-Mayfield
Andy Katz-Mayfield is the co-founder and co-CEO of Harry's, the shaving start-up known for its rapid success and brand presence. Inspired by a terrible drug store experience shopping for razor blades he had the idea for Harry's direct to consumer business model and tracked down a former peer at college, Jeffrey Raider, to become his co-CEO. In May 2013 Harry's was able to purchase their Germany manufacturing partner and have continued to grow in market presence ever since.
1. What are the main things that surprised you when you first got involved in product development ?
“I think the simplest way to answer that question is just how hard it is. The iterative nature, the nuance and detail of not just having something that looks nice but that’s actually functional, and manufacturable is very difficult. . . This [Harry’s] was really my first time truly going through product development and it’s given me such an appreciation [of what’s involved]. Even if I look at a pen, to think about the amount of time and energy that went into even getting this thing from a concept to production, it’s pretty remarkable. There’s probably fifty components in that and everything has to work together.
2. Has developing your own products made you more aware of the products you use on a daily basis ?
“Yeah, that exactly. I do have more of an appreciation for it. I’m not a designer, as you know, but I think I appreciate good design and when I see it I recognize it. I’m probably also more critical of poor design too like, ‘Why did they make that that way, it makes no sense’. . . It’s a blessing and a curse. I will say that, as I think you know, Harry’s from the early days was very much based on a ‘less but better’ simplicity approach. Now I realize how hard it is to design simplicity into something. It’s so much harder [to design simplicity] than just having 27 bells and whistles. Things like my iPhone for example, where it’s just one button and a screen but you can just do everything with it are fantastic. I have much more of an appreciation for things that are really simply designed but functional. I think of simple design like the Mark Twain-ism ‘I would have wrote a shorter letter but I didn’t have the time’”.
3. What are your pain points when working with designers ?
“I think it’s very easy to jump into designing something and to sort of assume that everyone is aligned on the actual intent. Truly laying it out up front is crucial; here’s what we’re trying to accomplish, here’s what we like, here’s what we don’t like from a customer point of view, a brand point of view and a functional point of view. It’s important to invest in that discussion up front to drive a more efficient process. I think oftentimes, and this is not critical of the designer’s work, but if you’re not clear enough up front you wind up going down the wrong path or having to pivot. I see that all the time now, even when we’re designing our website, if we’re not really clear up front with what the brief is effectively then of course the design’s no good because the brief wasn’t good!
I’ve seen pain points elsewhere in the Design for Manufacturing process. You can make anything once, but it is often much harder to reach a point where the design anticipates scalability from a production perspective. I’ve seen it done well, I’ve seen it not done well, but I think that it’s particularly prominent when you're going to make a million as opposed to a hundred of something. It’s so important that that’s part of the upfront brief and process because it can imply very different solutions”.
4. What media do you read or follow to keep current on developments in your industry ?
“If you ask Brittania [Research & Development at Harry’s], she would say there actually are a lot of publications for men’s grooming etc. that our team reads. I like to keep up with design and lifestyle stuff, whether it’s GQ, or Dwell or something that our creative team flags as interesting. I read a lot of business and tech press and there’s increasing cross over there – Fast Company focuses a lot on design.”
5. If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would be your dream job ?
“Well there’s the little kid answer, which is professional basketball player. I think the more pragmatic answer is quite honestly, that I would be doing something in healthcare and healthcare services. Not necessarily non-profit but involved in innovation, because our system is messed up. . . it’s kind of always been an intellectual interest and passion of mine”.