It has been some time since The Bugg Report had the chance to speak to Marty Malysz, the President of Dependable Solutions, Inc. It is always great to chat with Marty because his passion for the business and people always shines through and his always-positive outlook on life is refreshing. We spoke to Marty in early November to hear about how things are doing at Dependable Solutions.
Marty is the President of Dependable Solutions, Inc. helping brand licensing operations automate their financial, contractual and product approval processes. Marty manages a 40 person team at Dependable Solutions, Inc. providing licensing software systems that automate the complex tasks related to royalties, approvals and contracts while improving business intelligence and business revenues. Dependable Solutions has clients in the USA, Australia, Spain, Sweden, Canada, France, United Kingdom, Finland and Netherlands. Marty has 30+ years of experience automating over 400 entertainment, sports, corporate brand and trademark licensing companies around the world.
Hey Marty! It has certainly been a while since we have spoken, so as a general update how are things going?
Good. It’s actually been surprisingly well. My heart goes out to everybody who’s affected by COVID. A lot of our employees have been directly affected by COVID by having it or indirectly affected by their family contracting it and suffering loss including life. So, it’s been a trying time. Five million people have passed away and many more people have been affected by COVID. One of the things that we’ve noticed is that everybody knows somebody who’s been directly affected by COVID including about 10 of our employees that have had either breakthrough COVID or got it before the vaccines were available. While things are going well in our business, I don’t want to take anything away from the tragedy of what’s happened over the last 20 months.
Being a service based business, I would imagine that you’ve been working quite closely with your partners over the past 18 months to assist them through a challenging period of time?
We’ve been able to restructure our business. Over this time, the company itself has expanded. We’ve added at least 15 people, although we haven’t met any of them in person because of COVID. Some exciting times are coming up and we’ll actually get to meet some of our new people. For our clients, it’s been both great and bittersweet. We’ve done a lot of restructuring for some of our clients especially the consumer packaged goods (CPG) clients, the game clients, the sports clients, and the concert business clients (even though stadiums weren’t full), helping them get ready for the business. And now everything is getting active once again. But during the past 18 months, game companies and CPG companies have done very well. We’ve been doing a lot more work with them so our business has not suffered. Even though some clients have gone out of business, we found that we’ve added many new clients and re-engaged with a lot of our clients.
We’ve done a lot of restructuring for some of our clients especially the CPG clients, the game clients, the sports clients, and the concert business clients (even though stadiums weren’t full), helping them get ready for the business.Marty Malysz
Can you tell us a little bit about the Licensing Automation Summit?
We coined the term Licensing Automation Summit a dozen years ago. For the last 11 or so years, we’ve had a client summit that we hosted in Los Angeles and then branched out to include London. This is where Dependable Solutions customers present to other customers the best ways to conduct their businesses, obviously using our software. It’s been hugely popular. A lot of people would come out to the physical event but during COVID we couldn’t host it in-person. I still have a deposit at the Marina del Rey Hotel that has yet to be used from two years ago. What we found though was that clients really liked learning from other clients. It was open palms sharing, finding out how people dealt with partners (licensees, agents, brand owners) and also with the system and how it helps support their business. We also have a very robust system, but some people are much more advanced in using it. Some have used it for 10 or more years while others are brand new. So the exchange of information is great. We’re going to go back to doing an in-person summit next year here in Los Angeles but we’ll keep the hybrid aspect of it alive both here and in Europe. Europe will probably stay remote because it was hard for people to get from country to country. The Licensing Automation Summit is really a client-based summit that helps them run better business processes. Everybody at the summit is a customer of ours; there are no vendors. We do a little bit of education but we really let our customers teach themselves. And it’s been a huge success for the last 11 years.
We often see that with great challenges come opportunity and I’m curious to know if there are any great opportunities that have come to be as a result of a difficult time for everyone?
Yes, definitely. I think the biggest one we found was we were (and still are) a software vendor, but we’ve become more of a service company with software being one of our services. We’ve changed our mindset because we recognized that we can give you a piece of software but if you don’t want to use it it’s just a paperweight on your desk. So the ability for us to go in and help people cross the line, show them how to use the systems, show them how we can be of greater service to them whether helping them out when they’re buying new catalogs, selling out parts of their business, or even exiting the business. And that’s one of the things that we’ve appreciated during this time. Because people have needed extra help and it’s been hard to find people to fill even short-term work. We’re the company in this space that has the most amount of people on our client services team and consultants available to us. They’ve all been tapped. We’ve been extremely busy helping our clients keep up and running or acquiring or, in certain cases, wrapping up and exiting the business and getting that data out of the system. So it’s been a lot of client work. Our clients truly appreciated the work. We’ve learned to trust them more and they’ve learned to trust us more on what we can do for them. We went from being a vendor to a partner and that’s been great during this time. The other side is financing. There’s been a lot of financing around the world in each economy to help people stay in business. I know in Australia, there was a lot of money available to keep people in business. So people had to examine and reformulate their business to make them more efficient. We are part of that. We’ve actually expanded our business in Australia during this time. It was a great time to restructure our business because we had to. Now we’ve been working remote the whole time. We have 40 people working remotely. We have taken an office in London and we have one in Los Angeles. We rarely go to it. But, as you can tell, I’m working from home myself today during this interview, but it is something that we’ve all learned to be extremely proficient at home with multiple monitors, better access, multiple cameras, better microphones. And so that’s really something that’s changed during this time. And it’s made us a stronger partner. It’s made our customers stronger. I also think because people are working from home, it makes them more vulnerable–sharing, understanding what their business is, how many pets they have, the kids, the schools, everything that had to happen because of COVID has really built us closer to our clients and especially our employees.
We’ve changed our mindset because we recognized that we can give you a piece of software but if you don’t want to use it it’s just a paperweight on your desk.Marty Malysz
As things start to come back together, I noticed that you’ve recently attended the UK Licensing Awards. I imagine that it is great to get back out and about?
I think for everybody who knows us and our company, we love coming to see people and we love events. We’ve been a constant supporter of the Australian Toy Hobby and Licensing Fair in March in Australia, physically and also as a sponsor, as well as Bugg Marketing and all your efforts to keep the licensing industry alive and thriving during this time. Even Licensing Awards has turned out to be a blast. We are always in on these awards shows. During this time, we’ve landed new clients in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and throughout Sweden. So the focus marketing is something that’s here to stay. Thanks to a client in Australia, we’ve redone all of our language translations so that we are actually native both internally and externally with all our systems. We work in every language, on computers as well as striving to speak that language internally, wherever we can. Those kinds of things have changed us dramatically and you’ll see us doing a lot of marketing in country next year, including Australia. We’ve been blessed with four clients now and look forward to having some more as we have a couple active prospects that we’re currently talking to.
You also attended The Sports Merchandise and Licensing Show as well?
Yeah, that was good. We’ve been really fortunate working with the EPL teams for the last eight years. And this is a show that’s onsite at Stamford Bridge where Chelsea Football Club plays. It’s been well attended. It was a great chance for Rhys Fleming, one of our new and native team members in the UK, to get together and spend some quality time there. We also got to meet with a lot of licensees. As one of the few companies that works with licensees, brand owners, and agents, we connected with a lot of different football clubs, some agents, some licensees, and with different partners that we work with. It was a good show and actually the first show we did in-person. We did a little bit of an event in Las Vegas around the Magic Show, but that was more informal. It was great to get back out and stretch our legs on on-site. We’re going to the ISC International Sports Convention in the spring at Tottenham Stadium. We’ve got a lot of things planned for sports as sports is one of our major categories in Australia.
Thanks to a client in Australia, we’ve redone all of our language translations so that we are actually native both internally and externally with all our systems.Marty Malysz
With things still being confirmed, do you have any plans to come back to Australia any time soon?
As soon as they let us in. I’m a runner/biker. I keep seeing the Qantas planes parked here in LAX. So I’m ready to jump on one as soon as they allow us to, but they’ve got the tin on the windows. Once we’re able to come back, which I assume is going to be very soon, yes! We will be seeing you for sure for the Australian Toy Hobby and Licensing Fair. We’ve got a couple of new implementations, a lot of training, a lot of re-staffing, so you’ll see some of our people there in Australia. We service Australia out of Bangladesh, out of the U.S., and even out of the U.K. So as soon as you let us back in, you’ll be seeing us. Plus, it’s your summertime. It’s a great time to come. So yes, we will definitely be there as soon as we physically can.
And finally, how best can companies over here reach out to Dependable Solutions with inquiries relating to your services?
We’ll continue to be Zooming and using Microsoft Teams. A lot of companies in Australia, especially agents who already worked with our clients, are familiar with us. A lot of people in Australia are familiar with us because we do very well in the sports category. So we continue to prosper in Australia. The way we do it now, with remote teams, you can count on us. You need us to come into town, as long as we can get through customs and get through immigration, we’re there. Right now, it’s still hybrid but I believe we’ll be seeing some of the Australians at the Sports Tailgate Show in January in Vegas and, hopefully, at the Brand Licensing Europe next week in London. Any chance we can get to see you in person, we will. By March, we’ll be at the trade shows and events and anytime you like us there, there’s no lack of people wanting to come to Australia. We’ll physically be there but we’ll virtually be there at any time you want– your mornings are our afternoons on the west coast. So it’s actually very convenient for us to be in Australia in some of our time zones and we look forward to connecting with more, especially licensees in Australia. We’ve worked with a lot of brands, a lot of sports companies, and agents. Many of the agents just have custom software. With Dependable Solutions systems and services, we can do a bang up job on managing brands, dealing with VAT, GST, provincial tax, currency conversions, and all those kinds of things. So we look forward to coming back down there as soon as we can. It’s been two years but it does seem like twenty. We look forward to seeing the entire Australian market. We need to get there.