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363: Philanthropy: Good for the Soul and the Business with Tom Nolan, CEO at Kendra Scott

363: Philanthropy: Good for the Soul and the Business with Tom Nolan, CEO at Kendra Scott

Tom Nolan serves as CEO of Kendra Scott, where he balances day-to-day functions and strategy. He was the first person in his family to graduate high school and attend college on sports scholarships. He worked the summers and never did an internship, so getting a job after graduation was difficult. Despite this, his work ethic landed him a cold-call sales job at a publishing company. His competitive spirit and work ethic caused him to rise quickly through the ranks, which helped him become successful in his career, earn multiple board seats, and achieve his goals. In addition to serving on the Board of Directors, Tom oversees Kendra Scott’s substantial omnichannel growth, global expansion, and evolving retail model. He has more than two decades of experience in brand building, management, and results-driven strategic planning from a diverse range of companies and is happy to be able to use his skills at a company that sees value in giving back.

In this episode, Alan and Tom discuss how determination led to his success, what he believes is the role of marketing, and the three pillars at Kendra Scott: family, fashion, and philanthropy. Tom tells us philanthropy is the pinnacle, and ESG has been a focus with Kendra Scott since the start. He gives specific examples of how Kendra Scott gives back to its community and employees, as well as a heartwarming event that convinced him he needed to be a part of this organization. Tom talks about the challenges of staying relevant in an attention-hungry marketing environment and warns that people can sniff out brands that are disingenuous. For Tom and Kendra Scott, what they do is not about a transaction; it’s about a connection. Ultimately, knowing, respecting, and loving their customers has propelled Kendra Scott to become a billion-dollar jewelry business.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How he became the first in his family to graduate high school and go to college
  • What Tom sees as the role of marketing
  • Why philanthropy is good for your soul and your business

Key Highlights

  • [02:00] Being a first-generation high school graduate
  • [03:15] From college ball to Kendra Scott
  • [06:30] “I wasn’t going to be the smartest person in most rooms, but I know that I would outwork anybody.”
  • [11:20] Board seats and side gigs
  • [13:20] CEO’s advice to CMOs
  • [15:40] Eyes on the scoreboard
  • [17:20] The importance of philanthropy: “Giving back is the truest form of success” 
  • [23:30] Philanthropy drives loyalty.
  • [25:00] Great marketing and hyperlocal campaigns
  • [27:10] Staying relevant in a noisy marketing environment
  • [28:45] What’s next for Kendra Scott?
  • [30:20] The impact of losing his sister and having his children
  • [32:40] Don’t waste time on things that aren’t important.
  • [33:20] Don’t lose your customers in the data.
  • [34:55] Brands to watch
  • [38:00] Knowing your customer isn’t enough. You have to love them.

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