Knitting Factory Entertainment
The Oken Company

"I needed an outside voice to come in and help me guide the company towards its future ... We started to see results immediately after the planning session. My team got very focused and very specific."

Morgan Margolis, CEO

Building a Profitable Portfolio Company: An Interview with the CEO of Knitting Factory Entertainment

Knitting Factory Entertainment is a portfolio company and leader in the music, entertainment and hospitality business – the first entertainment based licensing group to offer  a fully integrated brand, from venue and restaurant licensing and support, to touring, talent management and merchandising.

Key results: Comprehensive corporate strategy and vision, focused executive team.

Knitting Factory Entertainment
Offices in New York, Los Angeles, Spokane and Boise

This is Part 1 of our interview with Morgan Margolis, CEO of Knitting Factory Entertainment. He talks about the challenges of bringing together a shared strategic vision among his portfolio of companies and how annual strategic planning helps keep his team aligned and working together more effectively.


Hi, I’m Morgan Margolis. I am the CEO of Knitting Factory Entertainment. We are a 360 entertainment and portfolio company.

What was your reason for contacting CEO Coach Brian Oken?

Knitting Factory started as a small venue in New York City in 1987. Over the last 30 years we’ve really expanded. We got to a place as a company where we needed an outside force to come in and work on our strategies in order to sort of synthesize all of the entities together and figure out what direction we wanted for our future and that is what pushed me towards contacting The Oken Company.

We had gone from being really, a hospitality entertainment company to a portfolio company, and getting us specific in our vision as well as incorporating all the other leaders in those business units to all work together and to all come together with one plan towards an overall vision was what we were after.

What was your planning session like? How did the unit presidents of your portfolio companies react to working with an outside consultant?

Our initial meeting with Brian and The Oken Company was interesting. I think it’s hard, not so hard for me because I had met Brian before, previously, but you’re bringing in all your senior executives and their first reaction is, “Honestly, what is this guy going to bring to the table that we don’t already know?”

It forced all of us, because we’re all over the country at this point to sit in one room together for two days, voice all of our ideas, our creative vision, our opinions, get it all white boarded out and really formulate what each individual’s plan was and for all of the different executives to hear what that plan was because our business is so different than a lot of businesses where we have tentacles in so many areas, whether it be label or management or touring or hospitality, not all of those heads of those units understand what the other unit is doing.

What are they trying to achieve financially as well? Over the two-day period that was a massive help for our company to understand what the overall was of each one of those units.

How did working with Brian add value to you and your team?

I would say it’s interesting for business leaders to have somebody from the outside come in and what their perception is going to be and how they’re going to react to that person. You think when you first walk in it’s just going to be business oriented but I believe that your personal life crosses into business, at least that’s how I run my company. It always crosses over.

It’s how you separate out, and I think Brian did a really good job of incorporating all of that and putting the human face to each one of our executives. It was a pretty passionate meeting. I know for me it got emotional at times, because there’s a lot of weight on your shoulders and it probably opened up me to my team around me and got us all closer and to understand that we all had the same vision.

A lot of discussion was also on brand. What is the brand of the company? What are we trying to achieve? Where are we trying to get to? Where do we want to be in one, three, five, ten years? What’s working, what’s not working, and extrapolating all of that out. Like I said, my company’s much different. We’re not just punching out widgets. It’s a very creative unit, so we have a very impassioned creative team. I think some of them come in very stern. “This is my passion, this is the way it’s going to be and this is how I’m going to move it forward.”

I think within the first day they were opening up to Brian because he has a way with pulling stuff out of a team that you usually wouldn’t necessarily spout out. I think he did a great job of getting us all organized.

What would you say to someone who has never worked with a CEO Coach before?

For those who would have never considered bringing in an outside consultant, I can say without a doubt you need to rethink that position. It’s probably the best thing that I ever did for our company and I say that whole-heartedly. I have been in this business for 25 years now and I probably should have done it a long time ago.

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