TDmonthly Magazine!
November 2006 | Vol. V - No. 11


Secrets of Successful Toy CEOs

How to Do Business When Business Is Play

“I’ve done every task there is to do, and I know how long it takes.” Grant Cleveland, DuneCraft Inc.
Large or small, when you’re the head honcho of a toy company, how you parcel out each moment can mean the difference between success and failure.  And it’s anything but magic; it’s hard work. 

TDmonthly Magazine talked with three CEOs and presidents: Joe Rooper, president of Hog Wild (ToyDirectory); Michel Alvarez, founder and CEO of WonderChess LLC (ToyDirectory); and Grant Cleveland, president of DuneCraft Inc. (ToyDirectory), to find out what they actually do in a day, and how it affects their company … and, therefore, the toy industry.

No Time for Laziness

Every one of these three starts his day before 7:00 a.m. and ends well after 6:00 p.m.  Most take their work home and work on weekends, too. 

As Michel Alvarez told TDmonthly, “There is no elevator to success; you need to take the stairs.” 

E-mail and Meetings

First thing when they hit the office:  Look at e-mail. Then, many meet with their main managers. 

Rooper usually has an 8:00 a.m. overview discussion of what’s important for the day and week with his “COO representing production/factories, CFO representing inventory management, AP/AR and myself.”

Cleveland meets daily with “shipping, production and sales.” They talk about new leads, advertising and “pretty much everything that needs consideration.”  Alvarez does it bi-weekly, but keeps in touch via daily e-mail.

E-mailing has changed how they do business.  Said Cleveland, “I have buyers I haven’t spoken to in years, who order hundreds of thousands of dollars at the press of an e-mail.”

Development and Creation

Much time is spent developing new products. 

“Roughly 40 percent of my time is geared to working with inventors on new ideas … and conjuring up new product ideas myself,” explained Rooper.

 “New products are a constant process,” agreed Cleveland. “A lot of our new product ideas come from our customers.”

Alvarez has an interactive form of product development:  Most of his inspiration for the toys he invents comes late in the day, when he plays with his children, he told TDmonthly.

Sales and Marketing

Sales and marketing take up about 30 percent of a president's or CEO’s day.

For Rooper, this means “communicating with reps and customers, and creating marketing materials and strategies to enhance our sales.”

Alvarez has “launched into international markets for the first time, so that has consumed time.” He’s also spending time developing cooperative projects with other local toy and game manufacturers.

Cleveland spends time on the company’s catalogs.  “Almost all of our products are pre-sold.  We live by our catalogs.”

Knowing It All

The rest of the day is rounded out with production and factory issues, administration and employee situations. 

For Rooper, when something needs attention, “that’s where my focus goes. That is our ability to compete and do things faster than a larger company.”

Being able to concentrate on any point of the company at any point of the day seems to define a top CEO/president. 

“I’ve done every task there is to do, and I know how long it takes,” summed up Cleveland.

Being a CEO/president of a toy company isn’t all games: It involves hard work, a keen knowledge of the industry, and a desire to succeed at all tasks on all days.

Here are a few of the products that these CEOs have brought to the top:

MSRP: $24.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Science & Nature

The Fairy Triad is one of four new additions to the Dome Terrarium line. Learn about the history and lore of fairies with the included fairy-inspired plants (Lobelia, Clover, Evening Star and Thyme), a decorative fairy, multi-colored gravel, fairy bells, stakes, decals and more. Informative instructions detail sprouting and growing methods as well as a plethora of information about fairies and fairy gardens.
Awards: 2012 Dr. Toy Best Classic Toys; 2007 Parent to Parent Adding Wisdom Award; 2007 Seal of Approval from The National Parenting Center
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9575      (added 10/4/2006)

MSRP: $17.99
Age Range: 4 and up
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Board Games

Kids love learning and playing checkers with these oversized, prize-fillable pieces. This set is especially beneficial to pre-chess youngsters for developing strategic-thinking skills.  The Tic-Tac-Toe board on the backside has three fields for regular, simultaneous or 3-dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe.  Included are two WonderReward cards, WonderFiller stickers, and game instructions to round out the fun.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9576      (added 10/4/2006)

MSRP: $7.95
Age Range: 8 to 12
Gender: Boys And Girls
Category: Novelties

The new Pirate Benders have dropped anchor and are shivering timbers everywhere. There are six different pirates: Hook, Patches, Bones, Peg, Swab and Red Beard. Each comes with a sword or accessory and is packed inside a treasure chest tin.
ToyDirectory Product ID#: 9577      (added 10/4/2006)

Writer's Bio: Mark Zaslove is an entertainment industry veteran in developing content (writing, directing and producing television and feature films) for the major studios, including Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. A two-time Emmy Award winner for writing and recipient of the Humanitas Prize (for writing uplifting human values in television and movies), Mark is also Head of Content Development for Nice Entertainment. Read more articles by this author


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