Four years ago, Niall was founded in the Crossroads District of Kansas City, MO. Kansas City is home to iconic brands like Garmin, Sprint, Hallmark, Cerner, Google Fiber, and H&R Block. These brands inspire emerging companies like Niall to dream big and show the world what Midwestern work ethic looks like.
Along the way, we’ve faced roadblocks, speed bumps, gatekeepers, and nay sayers. As any entrepreneur will tell you, if you listen to every person that told you “no, that’s impossible”, “stop it” or “you’re crazy," nothing great would ever be built. The world would not have Elon Musk’s electric cars, Steve Job’s iPhone, or even Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, if they decided to listen to the discouraging voices. At Niall, we don’t listen to the noise. We’ve chosen to do something that is not easy.
We're here to honor those that are All In. We're here to manufacture, gram-for-gram, the best watches in the world. We're here create the next great luxury brand. We’re here to build an industry - one that thrives in America. Our eyes and minds are never focused behind us. They are focused on the road ahead and how we can play a part in rebuilding an industry we are so deeply passionate about.
We're asked quite often “what advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?” Our response is always the same. “Build a company that exists for a reason.”
Niall exists for several reasons.
1. TO BUILD AN INDUSTRY
While acquiring the knowledge necessary to manufacture Swiss-quality timepieces in America, we discovered an opportunity far greater than simply building a single company. The opportunity is to influence the direction of an entire industry that, at the time, didn’t quite exist in the USA. While there were icons like Roland Murphy at RGM manufacturing custom timepieces and Michael Kobold at Kobold leading the way as an evolved, adventurous brand, the presence of an actual industry, with a supply network and a group of companies working together to build something beyond themselves did not exist.Niall believes deeply in the opportunity to rebuild a watchmaking industry that is sizable, competitive, and collaborative. An industry that, in Switzerland, employs over 25,000 watchmakers and contributes $20.2 billion in exports. An industry this country once had, lost, and is now trying to gain back. An industry that, if rebuilt, showcases the strength and power of American innovation. It showcases the quality and prestige of American manufacturing.
By 2026, we expect to see real economic impact from the growth of a new watchmaking industry in excess of $100 million. With the alignment of the right people with vision and companies with expertise, I think we all will be surprised at what we can achieve together in this country.
2. TO BUILD AN AMERICAN SUPPLY CHAIN
In the process of manufacturing Niall timepieces in America, Niall was fortunate to leverage an already established network of aerospace and defense manufacturing companies. Similar to how software companies had the privilege of being around Silicon Valley. Here in Kansas City we have companies producing some of the most complex micro-components for Boeing, Honeywell, Bombardier and others. These companies understand that when innovation and precision are pushed to their limits it’s both a science and an art.
Leveraging this network of companies, and with assistance of Niall, Kansas City is staking its claim as the largest watchmaking infrastructure in America. It’s positioning itself as the center for horological manufacturing in America. Working with Kansas City government officials, local manufacturing companies, and state universities, we are opening the doors to the global watchmaking industry.
Kansas City has an environment that is already experienced in manufacturing precision components. An environment that already has the equipment and talent necessary to manufacture components for the watchmaking industry. A city that has the capability to integrate itself into the global watchmaking industry.
By 2020, in collaboration with the city of Kansas City, our goal is to quadruple the volume of watch components being made in America. We seek to directly impact the number of companies purchasing horological components in America by 10x. We seek to provide every resource possible to make Kansas City the next La Chaux de Fonds
3. TO MANUFACTURE, GRAM FOR GRAM, THE BEST TIMEPIECES IN THE WORLD.
Without quality there isn’t a luxury watchmaking industry. Without standards that are near-impossible to achieve, there is no Swiss watchmaking industry. Without chasing quality that rivals the top 25 watchmakers in the world, we have no American watchmaking industry. For Niall and the American watchmaking industry, we must chase the goal of building, gram-for-gram, the best timepieces in the world.
This means obsessively chasing new standards, new methods, and new technologies. It means never having sacred cows and accepting that what was good last week is not good enough this week. Constant improvement and continual iteration is a key part of propelling us toward our goals.
With quality comes our philosophy on service. Timepieces are one of the most complex mechanical devices in the world and one of the only products we’ve found that are expected to last a lifetime. When it comes to service, the entire industry has become accustomed to a three to six month service time. At Niall, our stated service duration commitment is 14 days. We are currently averaging 8 days and are proud to put service first.
As long as I am CEO of Niall, I am committed to ensuring Niall never turns our service department into a large profit center. I don't believe in profiting from customers due to broken timepieces or engineering flaws. I do believe, as a responsible businessman, in covering costs, but profiting from service isn’t the focus of our business. Customers purchase our timepieces with the expectation they will last for generations and it’s up to us to engineer timepieces that exceed this extremely high standard. It would please us all at Niall if this philosophy was adopted by the rest of the American watchmaking industry. In our eyes, this point of view is uniquely American, and right now, uniquely Niall.
4. TO COLLABORATE WITH THE SWISS
The Swiss are not our adversaries. They created an enormous industry that should be respected and listened to. Every American watchmaker has plenty to learn from the Swiss. Niall seeks a seat at the watchmaking round-table.
The day Niall stopped thinking of the Swiss as “the enemy” and learned how to respect the tradition of Swiss watchmaking was the day our company was set on a new path of success. At Niall, we view our colleagues at Eterna as friends and business partners. We’ve spent many nights drinking whiskey, talking about life, business, and culture with the Swiss. We introduce ourselves in French and close our conversations in French. By respecting the Swiss watchmaking industry, and the culture of Switzerland, we’ve rapidly accelerated our growth opportunities.
Without collaboration and help from the Swiss, the American watchmaking industry will never see a true American made movement. It will be a long time before a 100%, source verified, American-made movement can be achieved that could pass COSC testing. We need their knowledge. This is the reason Niall seeks to bring more movement manufacturing to the United States, rather than investing the millions of dollars and decades of time required to reach true success with USA movement production.
By the end of 2016, it is estimated that nearly 10,000 watchmakers will be out of work in the Swiss watchmaking industry. This is why we continue to hire Swiss watchmakers from Switzerland. We believe by hiring Swiss watchmakers during a time when the labor pool is open to new opportunities, Niall and the American watchmaking industry will have the ability to accelerate our watchmaking know-how through decades of Swiss knowledge. Over the next ten years, we seek to bring as many Swiss watchmakers to America as possible, just as the Americans brought German engineers to America during WWII. If we do not align and seize this opportunity to bring skilled watchmakers to America, we will miss an enormous opportunity to further this industry.
5. TO BUILD A BRAND THAT MAKES AMERICA PROUD. TO BUILD A COMPANY THAT THE SWISS CAN RESPECT.
At the root of our industry is a cohort of thriving brands that, combined, sell tens of millions of timepieces per year. With a heritage that spans generations, Rolex, Omega, Panerai, Audemars Piguet and Patek Philippe, are all great examples of brands that make us proud to even whisper their name. These brands are loved in their country and respected by the industry. They’ve built their brands and what they stand for. Rolex symbolizes success. Omega represents sophistication (and James Bond). Panerai showcases manliness and Italian submarines. Audemars Piguet honors rule masters and rule breakers. Patek Philippe stands for longevity and legacy. Niall honors those who are All in and America.
Niall’s objective is to build a great brand that the world respects. A brand that mirrors the quality, standards, and precision of the Swiss that we’ve all come to expect of quality timepieces. A brand built on American manufacturing capabilities. A brand with a heart, an ethos, and a set of morals that govern how it conducts business. A brand that is respected by the Swiss as a “true” watchmaker.
By building our company this way, we believe we have the chance to create opportunities that don’t currently exist in America. Opportunities for manufacturers to enter a new business segment, for engineers to create something new, for designers and artists to have an outlet for the world to interact with their work.
Without a strong, well respected brand or group of brands in America, this industry will not prevail.
6. TO DEFINE A NEW ERA OF HOW COMPANIES OPERATE
At Niall, no employee is paid less than $15/hr. Anyone working over 40 hours per week receives 100% financial compensation for their health care coverage. This does not come out of their paycheck, rather it is an addition to their paycheck. Salaried employees are hired into a gender-neutral compensation model that has no gender bias. We pay 15% over the market rate for pre-defined career roles. We tie employee financial opportunities directly to the revenue at Niall.
We built a culture of respect, hard work, intelligence, and thoughtfulness. At Niall, everyone is part of the team and believes they are part of something greater than themselves. At Niall, everyone is All In.
This business model is what allows Niall to attract some of the best talent in the world. 90% of employees at Niall speak a second or third language. All employees are required to name each component of an Eterna 3903a movement, its function and purpose, by memory. Every employee is tested on their horological IQ and required to continue their learning to be a well-rounded global citizen.
Niall team members respect each other and focus on improving themselves. The ability to learn and acquire knowledge rapidly is a requirement at Niall and a necessity to survive in this industry. I quite often hear from customers how much more engaged and knowledgeable the entire Niall staff is than any boutique they have visited around the world. While I am proud of our products at Niall, I am the most proud of the intelligence and passion our team exudes. I am the most proud of creating a company that encourages and incentivizes employees to be the best versions of themselves.
7. TO CONTROL OUR DESTINY
A wise man once said to me, "Name a great brand that doesn't control their own destiny." At Niall, we note that great brands like Apple, Tesla, Louis Vuitton, and Hermes help control their destiny by owning their retail locations. By doing so, these iconic companies maximize the customer and brand experience and bring their culture to life.
That is why we opened our own retail store on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. We believe in building a strong bond between the customer and the brand. We believe in over-delivering an experience. We take care of our customers and a retail store is the outlet for delivering the unique experiences we seek to provide. Niall is one of the few places where you can purchase a timepiece and the head watchmaker will deliver it to your home. They take the time to talk with you about watches. Niall is one of the few places that truly cares what our customers think, feel, and desire. Listening to customers and incorporating their feedback into our products and business model is a core element of our success.
Our retail location is very successful. Nine months ago we had two employees. Today we have nine and will likely double that by June of 2017. The success and brand loyalty that owning a retail location has created is the reason why Niall seeks to roll out our own boutiques at the rate of one per year for the next several years. We started in Kansas City in 2016 and have Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, D.C and New York in our sights.
The future of Niall is, by no means, a small feat that comes with ease. Nor is it something that can be achieved quickly. It requires patience, persistence, and fortitude; characteristics that, I believe, our team possesses.
It's the support, assistance, and guidance of wise men and women that have led us to where we are today and will lead us to our ultimate vision. For that, we are thankful.
I will end this with a quote that inspired a nation and still inspires Niall today. A quote that, I believe, best reflects our level of resolve for building the future of American watchmaking.
"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too." - JFK
Michael Wilson, Founder & CEO