Tony King: Founder & CEO, King & Partners

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Tony King is a pioneer of digital design and luxury eCommerce industry. A creative visionary, he developed and executed the first ever digital flagships for Gucci, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, YSL, and Bottega Veneta in 2000. Since then, Tony has been at the forefront of digital design and eCommerce, creating and managing the digital presence for exceptional fashion, luxury and lifestyle brands.

How did you get into Digital Design & Technology business?

My background is in graphic design, and then web design and digital contents back before it was mainstream or popular. The beautiful thing about graphic design is that it’s all about solving problems. As my career in design evolved, it became obvious that technology really started to become a disruptor and a big way to solve problems, so from around 1998 and onwards, my sweet spot became the balance of beautiful, eye-catching creative with good technology. Since then, I’ve loved being a part of the interplay of these two disciplines.

Tell us about King & Partners. How did it come to be and what is your vision for the company?

King & Partners is my second agency. In starting it, I had the benefit of knowing what does and doesn’t work from the successes and failure of my first agency, CreateTheGroup. King & Partners came about because, despite it being 2010, I still saw an opportunity for an agency focused on delivering exceptional creative and technology solutions for fashion, luxury and lifestyle brands.

Together with my partner and co-founder Inii Kim, we created an ideas-driven agency with a simple vision – to create desire and turn it into demand. To us, this meant using our ability to refresh a brand’s digital ethos in a way that would create seamless, interactive links between brands and consumers, driving consumer awareness, engagement and conversion. Our current clients include 3.1 Phillip Lim, Delpozo, Carolina Herrera, WGSN, Kenneth Cole, Faena and Edition Hotels, among others.

What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have contributed to King & Partners' success?

Two key things played a big role in our current success. In 2012, we developed and launched Sellect, a sophisticated eCommerce platform and content management system, that was a breath of fresh air for everyone involved – us as integrators, our clients, and their customers. Then in 2015, we entered into a strategic partnership with the Hearst Corporation, through which they would offer digital marketing services to our clients. Both of these have been instrumental in allowing us to make a real positive impact on our client businesses, and as a result, on our own.

What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?

We are seeing a shift in the industry where a growing segment of consumers are starting to purchase fewer products and more experiences. As a result, our portfolio has really grown in the world of real estate, hospitality and lifestyle. We are also seeing tectonic shifts from the traditional brick-and-mortar stores to more digital retail. This has, of course, been excellent for our eCommerce platform, but has also helped us ideate new strategies to get more foot traffic back into stores.

What's your life motto?

Reject the status quo.

Your greatest success as Founder/CEO of King & Partners? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?

On the talent side, I get a real kick out of hiring people with great passion, but little experience, and seeing them grow, learn and become really good at what they do. On the agency side, our great success has been that whilst we have grown, we have not compromised the quality of our work one bit. Often times, this is a serious problem as agencies grow and expand. For us, this ability to deliver exceptional work for our clients is something we take great pride in and we remain committed to, as one of our core business principles.

The most difficult moment was around three years ago, when some of our projects got cancelled due to a client going under, and I had to let some staff go. That was a difficult time, but I believe we handled in a good way as we helped each one of them transition. Over time, I am happy to say that we brought some of those employees back and I learned that your agency culture and your team are such an integral part of your success, so you have to think of them with every decision you make as a business.

Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?

Be completely and utterly relentless in overcoming every single obstacle in your way. Believe in yourself and be fearless – it’s the only way to go forward.  

Describe the ideal experience for a client who partners with King & Partners?

The most ideal client experience includes clients coming in with a clear brief of where they are and where they want to go. Then, it’s our team’s job to go beyond that brief and demonstrate ways to achieve those goals by providing solutions across branding, content, design, platform, integrations, digital marketing, and many other aspects of their business.  The key is for clients to understand that we’re a very involved partner – we can transform their businesses and help them improve, but we like to have a close and trusting relationship with them. To us, this means we are doing our job properly.

How do you motivate your employees?

My big priority is having transparency across the agency so everyone clearly understands our goals and is on board with the vision and the direction in which we are moving. I’ve been in agencies where this was not the case, and it was a mess. Lack of transparency and all-around employee buy-in is not an inspiring environment, not conducive to great work. Making sure my team knows they are my priority is key because this level of mutual trust also helps us make King & Partners a more fun place to work.

What's next for King & Partners?

We are now entering the ‘Chapter Two’ of King & Partners and we have some big moves in the near future.  These include some new strong partners and some big deals, which we cannot wait to announce. And, of course, continue to produce really beautiful work that has a purpose and a function.