Mephisto Footwear Company of France has the reputation for making the finest walking shoes in the world. Started in 1965 the company’s products are available in 46 countries and hundreds of Mephisto Stores worldwide. The company designed the first true “air” shoes by developing what the company calls “soft air technology”. The flexible soft air midsole reduces the shock of walking to a minimum, thus offering protection to the feet, relief to joints and proper care to the back. This philosophy of healthy living, along with the company’s commitment of environmental awareness, has made Mephisto a true luxury brand worldwide.
The company made the decision to move the United States operation from California to Tennessee. This move provided economic and logistical advantages to help the company grow their U.S. business. Existing employees were offered a position and relocation to Tennessee if they wanted to move with the company. Although some long time employees did move, many chose to stay in California. This created a challenge as to hiring and training new company personnel while at the same time increasing revenues.
Tony Knapp was hired to drive the training and education initiative for the company. There were two key initiatives in play at the same time:
- Make a smooth transition to Tennessee and orient new personnel into the Mephisto philosophy
- Develop a training strategy to support the objective of increasing revenues
To accomplish these objectives Tony first provided baseline skills training to the new personnel hired in the new Tennessee location. This training covered numerous disciplines including specific training for managers, administrators and customer service personnel. Tony also worked with the State of Tennessee to utilize state funding of support for new companies moving into the state. This enabled Mephisto to reduce start-up costs in the new facility, as well as, garner the support of the local government and community.
Tony then tackled the task of developing an unique strategy to support the company’s growth objectives. Tony created the training initiative of Mephisto University, an industry groundbreaking program. The concept was that Mephisto wholesales customers would attend a comprehensive three day training event at the company headquarters with no cost to the customers other than their transportation to Tennessee. This training was not just about selling Mephisto footwear, it was about personal development for the customers who attended. Tony presented advanced sales and service skills to enhance each and every customer’s ability to increase their business…thereby increasing Mephisto’s business. The results were remarkable. Existing wholesale customers who attended Tony’s unique training increased their Mephisto purchases by more than $1.2 million in the first nine months. They had truly learned the art of selling a luxury brand and, in turn, Mephisto benefitted from the customers good fortune. Tony’s program was termed “the best vendor training program in the industry” by the leading industry publication.