Starting Anew ‘La Nova’, a Leader in the Low-Priced Hair Market!
An interview with the new president Lee Dong-Gi
It was from the end of last year. Unconfirmed rumors spread that ‘La Nova was closing.’ The rumor raised many people’s doubts. La Nova has long been a solid company that has dominated the mid- to low-price hair market in the U.S. Midwest and Western regions. Turns out, it was a misunderstanding that happened because of the short lapse caused by changing the owner of the company.
The owner, who had been running La Nova, recently stepped down from the company’s management. And new management took over the baton. Lee Dong-Gi, who had long worked as vice president of La Nova, took over the company and took over as president. New La Nova was anchored on May 1st. Meet Lee Dong-Gi, captain of La Nova, a “Man of Loyalty.”
First of all, congratulations on taking over the company and taking office. Please briefly introduce yourself.
Thank you. I’ve been working in the sales department at LG Chemical’s household goods for 17 years, and since 2003, I’ve been working in the hair industry for 17 years, so that means over 30 years in the sales department. I’ve worked at La Nova for 14 years, and I took over the company as of May 1st and became president.
Tell us about La Nova.
Our company was founded in 2001. It is a company that mainly deals with low and medium-priced products. We have all sorts of products, including human weaving hair, human wig, synthetic wig, and braids. Among our products, many customers look for low and medium-priced weaving. The advantage is that the price is lower than the quality. The more difficult the economy is, the more people look for our products. Curly products are especially popular.
Is there any special reason why the price is low even though the quality is good?
Our original owner ran a production plant together, so we were able to receive the product at a relatively low price. We have strategically targeted the mid- to low-priced market from the start, considering that the economy is struggling, and consumers’ wallets have become thinner.
What possibilities did you see and decide to take over?
The staff here have been working together for a long time, so I believed in the company’s solid teamwork. We are mainly composed of employees who have worked for more than 5 or 10 years.
Most small companies have a lot of employees coming and going, so is there any secret to working together for a long time?
I think it’s because we communicate well due to the trust and respect, we have for one another. We talk openly about personal issues. We work in a family-like atmosphere because the company is small. We’re like brothers to each other. And we eat out often. We sometimes go to karaoke together after meals.
The fact that employees don’t hate company dinners must mean that you make them feel comfortable around you!?
I prefer free and non-authoritative atmospheres. The atmosphere of the company itself seems to be comfortable, inside and out.
Life in America is lonely…I think you fill that in well. What’s your favorite song?
I like trot (laughs). Something like Cho Yong Pil’s song.
What’s your mid- to long-term plan for the company’s development?
The society is in chaos with COVID-19 and the protests going on. The hair market is also crowded with countless items and without a clear trend. In these times. it is hard to make mid- to long-term plans. We should try to be flexible and quick time by time.
You’ve worked for La Nova for 14 years and now you’re president. How do you feel?
I devoted most of my time to La Nova after I came to the United States. I feel like I could have done better about the things I missed by making a mistake. There was a time when I missed the opportunity due to my stubbornness and misjudgment. But I feel thankful that I was able to go through it all without any big problems. I don’t know how long it will be until my resignation, but I will do my best to make sure that all the employees who trust me and follow me do well.
You missed an opportunity because of your misjudgment?
Yes, it was a big misjudgment; I ignored an employees’ insistence on making braided products when braided hair was beginning to get popular. At that time I thought braids would only do good to UPS, not our company, because of the shipping costs. Since there was no braids, the salespeople had a hard time doing business. The company’s sales were also somewhat affected.
But didn’t the La Nova keep up without much trouble?
Yes, that’s right. Our La Nova has a very strong sales organization and individual sales capabilities. It also seems that the former owner’s capital strength has supported us and helped us develop to this point.
Isn’t the employees’ great sales ability due to the boss leading them well?
I think it’s more important to be passionate about doing it on your own than to teach and learn from someone. Since I’ve been working on sales for more than 30 years, facial expressions and conversational styles instantly determine if I have the right qualities for sales. That’s how I can pick a good person. Someone with a bright personality and a good sense of humor is also great at sales.
I heard that you are also in charge of a sales area yourself. Are your performance okay? It would be weird if your performance was worse than the other staff.
It’s not bad. (Laugh)
Lastly, what would you like to say to the readers?
Since last year, there have been many bad false rumors that the company has been shut down in the process of the handover. Occasionally, some customers thought the company was going to disappear and stopped doing business. I’m going to start the company anew, and I’ll work hard with good products and good services. Please continue to trust our company and give us your support and love, I would appreciate it a lot.
Thank you for your time with us.
‘Human Lee Dong-Gi’ seen by La Nova’s top salesman, Sara Choe.
How long have you been working with President Lee Dong-Gi?
Including working in another company, I think it’s been about 15 years.
Is there a special reason you could work together for a long time?
It’s not just me, but most of the employees have been together for more than 10 years. Sometimes I get scolded, but overall, I feel like I’m being protected. For example, despite the owner’s restructuring policy, he sacrificed himself to protect his employees. One day, an employee left the company for personal reasons, but he gave him a chance to work again after the situation was settled. He is loyal and affectionate. He takes care of not only the company but also employees’ personal affairs while having meals often. Finally, President Lee Dong-Gi seems to have excellent ability to bring in employees who have not been able to adapt to other companies and place them in the right spot to adapt.
What kind of person is Mr. Lee Dong-Gi?
I’ve worked for several hair companies. I don’t think there’s ever a president like Lee Dong-Gi, who is directly in charge of a sales area and sells products personally. Most company owners talk to their employees based on their past experiences from good times. Perhaps because he sells himself, President Lee Dong-Gi has a great advantage in knowing the exact and specific trends of the sales site and the market. He is very honest and always smiles, but he is very detailed in his work. He also trusts his employees. It makes you feel responsible.
What are the strengths of La Nova products?
The cost-effectiveness of the product is really good. Retailers often say, ‘You can’t get a product of this quality at this price anywhere else.’ The outside package is a bit old-fashioned (laughing), but the contents are very faithful. I think that will change into a sophisticated design since the boss is planning to change the package now. Anyway, everything is more about the inside than the outside. The size of our company is small, so it’s not very well known, so there aren’t many stores in the eastern part of the U.S. yet. However, the retail store that does business with us once comes again and becomes a regular.