Field Reports1 Sep, 2005 By: Thomas Haire, Nicole Urso Reed, Doug Garnett Response
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Tukulj Speaks About Thane's Restructure and Swirling Sale Rumors
By Thomas Haire
Earlier this summer, longtime industry leader Thane announced a vast restructuring of its operations in order to transform the company "from a leading U.S. direct marketer to a worldwide organization," according to the its official announcement. As part of this new global positioning, Toronto-based Amir Tukulj became president of Thane Intl., while Mark Taylor was appointed president and COO of Thane USA.
Thane's founders, Bill Hay and Denise DuBarry-Hay, became the chairman and vice-chair of the company respectively. However, since the announcement, rumors have swirled that the new Thane — which has offices in Toronto, La Quinta, Calif., Malmo, Sweden, Frankfurt, London and Sydney — was on the selling block.
Recently, Response was able to sit down with Tukulj to discuss the changes and rumors. Prior to his ascendancy, he was president and CEO of Thane Direct Group, the company's international wing. He's been with Thane since 1997 and has worked in the international DR world for more than a decade.
Q. How has the restructuring affected Thane's office locations?
A. We now have headquarters in two locations — La Quinta and Toronto. La Quinta is home to the corporate functions, while Toronto is where the operational functions exist. It's really a joint headquarters.
Q. What do the changes mean for Thane as a company and you personally? Will you change your management style to befit your new role?
A. By making these changes, we recognize what we needed to do to match and fit the focus of the entire company to the industry's new realities. The best description I can think of is that Thane used to operate as a U.S. company with an international division; the goal now is to operate as a worldwide international company with a U.S. division. My primary focus will remain on the international business. We were very fortunate to be able to bring Mark (Taylor) back to handle the U.S. business. He's basically run that side of the business since Thane was founded. I won't change much in my management style — I will look at our U.S. business just the same as I do our U.K., Scandinavian, Australian and other businesses. The objective is to have capable people in place to run all operations. Yes, the U.S. is a significant market to us, but it's not worth more attention than the U.K. or other markets.
Q. How do you plan to run things in the immediate future? Do you have any specific long-range goals?
A. When we talk about changing from a U.S. to an international company, it means you approach certain things differently in practical terms. The main thing is our R&D budget — our product development dollars. In the past, Thane used to think first, "Will this product work in the U.S. market?" If it did, we would take it worldwide. Now, it's totally different. When our team looks at a product, what are the chances we will get good ROI from all of our worldwide markets, including the United States. The goal is to create shareholder value, grow the business, and improve the top and bottom line. We want to continuously introduce new products. The way to do that has three prongs: A) introduce new products; B) expand into new markets; and C) expand new distribution channels in our existing markets.