San Francisco Business Times

Executive Profile: Marty Allen

RÉSUMÉ

Name: Marty AllenMarty Allen
Title: Chief Executive Officer
Company: Party America
Background: Allen left Williams-Sonoma, Inc for Party America in 1996. He led the Alameda-based company into and out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy in six months. He has overseen two acquisitions of competitors. With annual sales of $225 million, Party America has 300 stores nationwide offering party supplies.
Education: Bachelor of Science degree in management from Nichols College in Massachusetts.
Residence: Oakland
Essential business philosophy: To win.
Best way to keep competitive edge: Never be happy in second place. Losing is for the other guy.
Guiding principle: Love your customers. Without them you have no business. We have a huge emphasis on customer service. I believe in the concept of 1 percenters. You can’t do anything 100 percent better than anyone else, but you can be 1 percent better in 100 different areas.
Yardstick of success: To have mentored one or two good people in your career.
Goal yet to be achieved: Running a $1 billion company. We’re 25 percent of the way there.

JUDGEMENT CALLS

Best business decision: I took a 100% commission sales job right out of college in a tough industry. The industry was comprised of independent representatives with very exclusive territories, so it was a one-on-one gladiator type of situation for getting business. No sales, no food on the table. Soon, I ate very well.
Worst business decision: I hired my best friend. I knew better. I had history working against me from hundreds of other people. If you look at all partners that have friendships, they all fall out.
Toughest business decision: I fired my best friend and lost a 25-year friendship.
Biggest missed opportunity: Becoming a Navy pilot when I was in college. I had my pilot’s license and loved it and had the opportunity to go into the Navy.
Mentor: Tom Peters. I read every book and listened to every tape and have been to most of his seminars. I think he gets the concept of customers.
Word that best describes you: High energy. Yes, it’s two words. That’s what you get with high energy.

TRUE CONFESSIONS

Like best about job: Talking to customers and working with my employees. That is what business is all about.
Least like about job: Failing a customer or losing a good employee.
Pet peeve: Toll booths. They create traffic jams.
Most important lesson learned: A secret beyond one is never a secret.
Person most interested in meeting: Larry Ellison. He plays to win and does – period.
Most respected competitor: If I use all retail as a competitor, which is not totally fair, I respect Williams-Sonoma. They execute well. Merchandising and store execution; they do it very well.
Three greatest passions: Sailing, photography and woodworking.
First choice for a new career: Navy fighter pilot. OK, I guess I am too old today, so maybe running a small five-star resort in New England. I would want to make it a six-star.

PREDILECTIONS

Favorite quote: “The only thing common about common sense is that it is not very common.” – Mark Twain
Most influential book: “Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps”, written by Barbara and Allan Pease.
Favorite cause: National Rifle Association. I believe in the freedom of people to bear arms.
Favorite status symbol: L.L. Bean.
Favorite movie: “Gladiator”, with Russell Crowe.
Favorite restaurant: Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco. It’s not a restaurant per se; you go there and cook your own dinner.
Favorite vacation spot: On the Colorado River at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. You’ve got to take a rubber raft and spend a couple of days to get there. Right when you’re in the center, there is no better place on earth.
Favorite way to spend free time: Driving my Austin Healey on a winding country road and ending at a bed and breakfast for the night.
Automobile: 1966 Austin Healey

 -Eric Young