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Hey guys,

I'm a college student...marketing major, professor hit us with this project on research on American Apparel. I personally have not heard that much about it since its rather new. However, I have created a survey based on what they are about. Hope you guys can answer a few questions..its a short survey, your responses are greatly appreciated. And you guys can also post here what you think and what kinda t-shirts you prefer. Im not doing it for any money, just a good grade

Here's the link:

http://www.questionpro.com/akira/TakeSurvey?id=301445


Katie
 

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Done.

One important fact about AA is that, as nice as they are, they are sneaky when it comes to marketing.

"Sweatshop-free" is essentially a meaningless label in any Western country: to be legally running, you *will* be "sweatshop-free". This doesn't mean that the workers there aren't on $6/hour, and shipped in from poor neighbourhoods 3 hours away on buses though.

Of course it's sweatshop-free...it's working in a Western state. Does that mean it has good work conditions in line with Western standards? I don't know. The label only means something in the Second World, where the difference between legal working practices and those which contravene UN directives is enormous.

Being sweatshop-free does not mean its workers aren't below the poverty line. It just means it pays on or above minimum wage....which it has to....and has legal working hours.....which it has to.....this is not something to be proud about.
 

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Screamiv said:
I'm a college student...marketing major, professor hit us with this project on research on American Apparel. I personally have not heard that much about it since its rather new.
They're really not that new...

Sure, they're no Rockefeller, but they've had long enough to thoroughly establish themselves and become well known.

Screamiv said:
However, I have created a survey based on what they are about.
Not so much.

For starters, the survey should ideally be a little more covert. By titling it "American Apparrel" you're prompting answers. Questions like "Do you wear any of the brands listed below?" are good. If you want to know if people have bought AA you could simply ask "Have you bought any of the brands listed?" and discard the answers you don't care about. You're more likely to get honest responses if you don't subconsciously prime people. You should also consider making brand lists alphabetical (or reverse alphabetical).

"How often do you wear clothing with no logos or graphics on them?" could probably use some more clarity. Do you care about all clothing? Or only the kind of clothing AA sells? I wear a lot of dress shirts with no logos (which is what this question asks about), but surely that isn't relevant?

Do you care about branding (logos), or do you care about plain clothing? If it's the 2nd then fair enough (I know that plainness if part of AA's marketing), but if it's the first... I don't wear t-shirts without graphics, but I also don't wear t-shirts with branding. They're not the same thing.

"Have you heard of or shop at American Apparel?" - do you really not draw a distinction between having seen a print ad or read an article, and actually giving them money? If there is no distinction you don't need "shop at" as I dare say people who shop there have heard of them.

The main three agree/disagree questions are interesting. They make me uneasy because they talk about attributes AA claims to have, but those attributes are subjective and not necessarily present. Now, this survey is from a marketing point of view so the reality of the product probably doesn't actually matter. People say they want quality, AA claim to have quality - this is all that matters.

The problem is when I say "I like clothing that fits me well" I am also saying "I will never wear AA". If you're just trying to work out how AA should market itself I guess this doesn't actually matter, but if you're trying to work out people's interest in the actual product it would.

Anyway, this is a bit ranty. Sorry, you've just hit two of my buttons - I hate AA, and I hate badly written surveys even more. You can't meaningfully analyse bad data.
 

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You can't hate AA! I think their fit is flawed, but they have nice materials.....

...although their premium price is based on sneaky quasi-true marketing, of course.
 

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monkeylantern said:
One important fact about AA is that, as nice as they are, they are sneaky when it comes to marketing.
Very. A lot more than people realise actually, which is a shame. This is what I find weird: everyone knows the good stuff about AA, but surprisingly few know the bad. It's been in the news a lot - I can understand people not having heard of the company at all, but I would have hoped if people knew the good they'd know the bad.

I've been coming up against a lot of people lately who just have no idea though.

monkeylantern said:
"Sweatshop-free" is essentially a meaningless label in any Western country: to be legally running, you *will* be "sweatshop-free".
Yes and no.

Obviously, as you say, to be legally running you have to be sweatshop free.

The problem is there are a lot of exploited workers, even in Western countries. I was reading a report on outworkers in Australia the other day. Basically, the industry estimates that for every textile worker in a proper factory job, there are 14 underpaid homeworkers. When I say underpaid, I'm talking on average a quarter of minimum wage.

I won't bore people with the details, but basically sweatshops in western countries are very real. Sure they're not as bad, but they're still terrible.

monkeylantern said:
This doesn't mean that the workers there aren't on $6/hour, and shipped in from poor neighbourhoods 3 hours away on buses though. Of course it's sweatshop-free...it's working in a Western state. Does that mean it has good work conditions in line with Western standards? I don't know.
AA do mostly employ the kind of demographic you'd expect. They claim to pay above minimum wage, and to offer free English classes, subsidised lunches, etc.

As for the conditions they work under, if the press is to be believed they're terrible. AA was accused of union busting, and while they claim it was the workers who chose to be anti-union (?!) I don't believe that for a second.

Dov Charney (owner/president/etc.) has had several sexual harrassment charges brought against him. He denies them, but again I don't believe him. He has admitted himself to things like masturbating in front of a news reporter on multiple occasions throughout interviews (it was consenual, but I think it says a lot for his state of mind). I've read enough quotes from him to know the guy really shouldn't be managing a company. He's repulsive (and I'm judging him by his own words, of which I've seen enough to know there is no proper context they could have been taken out of.

monkeylantern said:
The label only means something in the Second World, where the difference between legal working practices and those which contravene UN directives is enormous.
The difference between actual working conditions and UN directives is enormous in Australia too. There's nothing major wrong with the laws we have, but it's not stopping the problem.

monkeylantern said:
Being sweatshop-free does not mean its workers aren't below the poverty line. It just means it pays on or above minimum wage....which it has to....and has legal working hours.....which it has to.....this is not something to be proud about.
I admit it's nothing to be proud of, but it does actually set a company apart from its peers.
 

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monkeylantern said:
You can't hate AA! I think their fit is flawed, but they have nice materials.....
As I said, I hate the company on ethical grounds. I think the company is hypocritical and cashing in on a social trend - if they genuinely believed in caring for their workers, they'd actually care for their workers.

It's true that I also resent their sucess since they produce a product totally unsuited to me, but that genuinely is beside the point.

Regarding the materials... the one AA shirt I have the fabric does feel very nice, but I've heard a lot of poor things about their quality. Namely, the shirts falling apart, fabric wearing through easily, receiving shipments with needles still in garments, etc.

I dare say the same could be said of any t-shirt company (though I've never heard it - possibly just because they don't attract as much attention to themselves), but the point is AA are not above that either.
 

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Hey a lot of companies pay workers $6 an hour or less, walmart,cvs, mcdonalds etc. AA is no different. Over seas manufacturers pay dont pay thier workers enough to eat a good meal a day. There is a bid difference here. About the product itself, out of these that I have used- Gildan, hanes, AAA,murina, fruit of the loom,jerzees...american apparel is better, without question the quality is superior. Hanes and fruit being the worst.
 

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AA pays a starting salary of over $12.00/hour plus they do offer english classes as well as access to health insurance.

Anytime someone tries to buck the system they will get bad press...people who think there must be a dark secret somewhere. The owner may be a little wierd but you would have to be to run a textile business in the U.S.

People don't realize that when industries like the textile industry go overseas to find sweat shop labor the cost of goods to the consumer may go down a few cents but the companies reap millions. Plus those jobs never come back and are never replaced.

Maybe AA is not perfect, but if other American companies tried to do half of what they do maybe we wouldnt have 40 million (real number, look it up) living below the poverty line while company profits break records.

Jim/*
 

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crakbot said:
AA pays a starting salary of over $12.00/hour plus they do offer english classes as well as access to health insurance.
That is good.

crakbot said:
Anytime someone tries to buck the system they will get bad press...people who think there must be a dark secret somewhere. The owner may be a little wierd but you would have to be to run a textile business in the U.S.
Why are so many people willing to act as AA apologists? A company that trades one set of exploitations for another is no company to laud. Maybe people have thrown their weight behind the company and don't want to be seen to change their mind, but there's no shame in doing just that. This isn't a case of a good man being demonised because he challenged the status quo - there's a lot of substance to the allegations.

Dov Charney is not "a little weird". Things like posing nude for an ad in a gay men's magazine are only "a little weird", yes. But it's not that kind of behaviour the media particularly has a problem with. When he does things like that he just gets bemused fluff pieces written about him.

He does blur the lines sometimes, in that some of the things he says are exactly what he tries to represent himself as - sexually progressive statements that go against a PC attitude and the conservative media. But way too much of it is just... scary. Quite a few people have pointed out that if he wasn't rich he'd be just like the creepy guy at the back of the train with his hand in his pants, and I agree 100%.

The Jane article that sparked a lot of the controversy is now online (I don't know how permanent that would be, the url indicates it's not exactly part of the permanent archive - on the other hand it's probably the most famous thing they've ever done). Other than that, there are quite a few other articles worth reading. Google turns up a lot if you'd rather go that route.

Basically the man has ruined the reputation of what should have been a fine company. This isn't just a matter of people twisting his words, or him being a little bit different, or things that don't matter. The man at the top consistently behaves in a manner totally inappropriate for his position, and that is going to influence how the company as a whole behaves. It's not acceptable, and it's not made up for by his committment to paying his workers a living wage.

crakbot said:
Maybe AA is not perfect, but if other American companies tried to do half of what they do maybe we wouldnt have 40 million (real number, look it up) living below the poverty line while company profits break records.
It's well known enough that no-one should need to look it up. You also wouldn't have 40 million people living below the poverty line if you had a real welfare system, reasonable minimum wage laws, better use of tax funds, and any number of other things I'd best not go into. Offshore labour is the least of your worries. But there's no need to make this political (nor is it wise to talk politics in a t-shirt forum). We're talking about why AA (a t-shirt company) is a good company, or a bad company. Not why the US economy is a good economy or a bad economy.
 

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Ye gawds....Just read that article.

I always thought masturbating in front of reporters was on the "Not So Wise" list of activities.
 

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I should not have to explain this but that article in Jane is just marketing. Dov is just promoting an image to promote his shirts. His clothes have no brands on them so they have to be branded another way. He wants his clothes and his company to be sexually charged. He knows that and most people should get it pretty quickly. It's like when rapper 50 cent runs around rapping about guns and what not, its bull sh*t...he lives in nicer neighborhoods than any of us ever will. But that's the image he has to market. Just like when the owner of t-shirthell said someone attempted to kill him so he stoped making his worst t shirts then came back and said "I am going to stand up to my would be killer and sell more offensive shirts than ever" it was just a scam...but it got news coverage. Just like how Howard Stern always claims to be the little guy fighing the huge evil monsters called the FCC and his station bosses and people rally around him as a beacon of free speech...It's a joke but it works.

Real marketing sells association not a product and while you may not want to be associated with AA and it's sexually deviant CEO a lot of people do based on their growth.

Just remember, it's all a hustle....lighten up.

Jim
 

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crakbot said:
I should not have to explain this but that article in Jane is just marketing.
Thanks for explaining it to me in terms my childlike intellect can understand, otherwise I might have missed how the big bad marketing genius was just playing Pretend.
 

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Solmu said:
Thanks for explaining it to me in terms my childlike intellect can understand, otherwise I might have missed how the big bad marketing genius was just playing Pretend.
Put your claws back in, Sol.

But I agree....it's a stretch to call masturbating in front of reporters and staff an "image". Being know as a playboy is an image. Whacking one off in public is not.
 

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May not be a "positive" image but Dov gets a ton of word of mouth buzz because of his behavior. For example this thread alone has 88 views. That's 88 people that are talking about AA that would probably not otherwise do so if he wasnt such a nut.

For example, if I skydived off the Sears tower in Chicago wearing womens uderwear and had my internet site printed on the parachute I bet my traffic would skyrocket after every news channel and ebaumsworld, ect., ran the footage of the weirdo cross dresser skydiving. Not a good image for me at all but I bet my business would go up.

Anyway, I gotta go make my parachute now.
Jim
 

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crakbot said:
May not be a "positive" image but Dov gets a ton of word of mouth buzz because of his behavior. For example this thread alone has 88 views. That's 88 people that are talking about AA that would probably not otherwise do so if he wasnt such a nut.
The "there's no such thing as bad publicity" cliche is brought out to play so much no-one stops to actually think about it very often. It's accepted wisdom, and it's wrong. That's not to say bad publicity can't be good for a company, but the concept that it's always helpful is false.

I'll start with an extreme example: recently a very very large company selling confectionary in Australia received threats that some of it had been poisoned. They had to do a statewide recall and for some time (two or three weeks I think) their product was unavailable. They got a lot of publicity off that, but I don't think it would have done their sales any favours somehow. Yes, I am still talking about it now. But who cares? Every single person in Australia had heard of this company and the majority of them will have eaten one of their products. This event did not bring their name to any new potential customers, nor endear them to old ones.

Page views presumably reset after a while and don't translate to people viewing a thread. Page views certainly don't translate to 'number of people discussing something'. I guess the specific numbers don't really matter anyway. As for "not otherwise do so"... yes and no. AA does get discussed here for other reasons, and would somewhat anyway. Granted though I wouldn't be wasting as many words on the topic if circumstances were different.

Using this thread as an example of how Dov is generating useful publicity for himself is a classic example of why not all publicity is productive though. Literally almost everyone on these forums already know who AA are (I would say everyone, but people surprise me). We're here because we're interested in the t-shirt business, and AA are big enough that we mostly all know who they are (and the fact that they are sweatshop free) - there's even a link in the sidebar of these forums. So there are pretty much two potential reactions to this thread: 1) "This doesn't change my opinion of AA" or 2) "This changes my opinion of AA for the worse". Obviously it's theoretically possible it could change someone's opinion for the better, but that's not realistic. So for each viewer the bad publicity brings either 1) No outcome, or 2) A negative outcome. Obviously it's the non-present option 3 the company desires.

Everyone has a pre-existing opinion of AA before coming into this thread, so no-one is going to be learning about the company for the first time. The value of bad publicity is that it spreads the word about your company to people who weren't previously aware of your company. There's also a minority of people who will support you on principle if you receive bad press, but that number will almost always be smaller than the number who stop supporting you because of bad press. The key is to find new customers, and not all bad publicity can do that.

Most of the places writing negative articles about AA had previously written positive articles about them. The articles are aimed at people who know who AA are, to say "look! AA is bad now!". Yes, every time an article is published some new people will become customers - but less than the number they will lose.

That counts double (or 5k as it were) when you consider this: every wholesale purchaser in the country and plenty outside of it know who AA are. No wholesale purchaser can read an article and say "I've never heard of this company, and now I'm going to buy 5,000 units of their stock." But plenty can decide not to renew their contracts. Like their insurance company did for example. Their insurance company considered them too much of a risk to continue to insure them - I think it's fair to say the next company will charge them higher premiums, so thanks to the bad publicity their cost of doing business has gone up.

Bad publicity works best for small companies.

crakbot said:
For example, if I skydived off the Sears tower in Chicago wearing womens uderwear and had my internet site printed on the parachute I bet my traffic would skyrocket after every news channel and ebaumsworld, ect., ran the footage of the weirdo cross dresser skydiving. Not a good image for me at all but I bet my business would go up.
Yes, but that's if you did it, not Dov Charney - there's a world of difference (for one thing if he did it he'd be flapping in the wind). If I had the talent for it this could be graphed out as a simple mathematical equation, but sadly words will have to do.

Basically, you have a small customer base. A portion of that customer base would see the stunt and cease purchasing your products in disgust. But the number of people who saw this report, not having previously heard of your company, would obliterate the quantity in your customer base (by "you" I mean anyone here - this would possibly still apply to e.g. Threadless).

So, of those who see that report a small portion will come to your site to buy something. That small portion is still going to be bigger than your previous customer base, so the net effect is that you gain a lot of sales and don't need to care about those you lost.

With a company like AA when they get negative press, more people have already heard of them than not. So their pre-existing customer base is a larger portion of the audience of the bad press than those who don't know who they are - they stand to lose more than they gain. There are more people available to be forever put off buying AA than there are to say "ooh, new company, and I like masturbating in front of reporters too... maybe I could buy a dirty mac coat there."

As you are fond of saying, I shouldn't need to explain this to you.
 

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Solmu-

You nailed the idea of good publicity vs. bad and how it relates to the size of a company, but there's no way you can compare the bad publicity of an edible product with an eccentric clothing maker. There's a HUGE difference between the two- one could make you physically ill, the other just makes you wonder how he legally got away with it (and I'd argue that this is good publicity, see Hollywood for further examples).

Modifying an old saying- if the shirt fits, then wear it. Dov is not getting bad publicity from his products, just himself, and I'd guess that a smart consumer would be able to differentiate between the two (strike that comment if Dov is found 'making a deposit' onto store-bought products). If someone likes what he's got they'll buy it regardless of his personal quirks or how it was made (see Wal-Mart et al).

Let's say he starts bad-mouthing certain ethnic groups and decides that he wants a line of shirts that just says "Dov Charney is right".. As far as Joe Average Consumer is concerned, your bad publicity model would be spot on.

Does it still hold up when those shirts are blank? I think you know the answer here.

From what I can tell, Dov isn't perfectly honest in his business practices but he's certainly quotable in articles. Must have been why the journalist stuck around to watch him "punch the clown" more than once.

C.
 

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Chris said:
You nailed the idea of good publicity vs. bad and how it relates to the size of a company, but there's no way you can compare the bad publicity of an edible product with an eccentric clothing maker.
I wasn't comparing them directly - just using it as an example to disprove the "no such thing as bad publicity" axiom. The idea being it's clearly false in the case I outlined, and therefore could potentially be false in other cases.

Perhaps I just muddied the water though.

Chris said:
Dov is not getting bad publicity from his products, just himself, and I'd guess that a smart consumer would be able to differentiate between the two (strike that comment if Dov is found 'making a deposit' onto store-bought products). If someone likes what he's got they'll buy it regardless of his personal quirks or how it was made (see Wal-Mart et al).
I think you're making a good point here, but there's a value judgment inherent in the "smart consumer" description. If anything I'd say the smart consumer doesn't differentiate, because ethics should enter into purchasing decisions.

(as an aside, I have also heard complaints about AA's quality, but those are by no means widely publicised - certainly not in articles in the New York Times...)

You're absolutely right that Dov's antics don't affect the quality of the merchandise itself and that therefore a lot of people won't care. In this specific case it is slightly different though - a lot of people support AA specifically because they're perceived as an ethical company, the sweatshop free thing is a big drawing point. If people decide they've been lied to (i.e. the company is not in fact ethical, thanks to Dov) that negates the reason they bought the products in the first place, and they may shop elsewhere.

On the other hand, plenty of people buy AA because they prefer AA's garments to other brands. As you said, these consumers (and there's every chance they make up a majority of the customers) may not care about any of the politics behind the company.

Most people I talk to who buy AA do so because of the sweatshop free nature of it, but I think it's fair to say there's a good chance that's because I talk to a non-typical kind of consumer.

Chris said:
Does it still hold up when those shirts are blank? I think you know the answer here.
It does still hold up somewhat, but you're certainly right that it does change things.

Chris said:
From what I can tell, Dov isn't perfectly honest in his business practices but he's certainly quotable in articles. Must have been why the journalist stuck around to watch him "punch the clown" more than once.
:D

He's one of those people that, upon meeting him in person, some people find charismatic and alluring, and others find creepy and repellant. I believe the reporter who wrote the Jane article has said she found him quite pleasant.

Dov Charney said:
“I’m an atheist, but I swear on the Torah, my bubbe and my zayde, that I had one fantasy about these women,” Charney said. “Want to hear it? I wanted to fire them all. I thought they were all lousy employees from the beginning.”
Aw, isn't he adorable? ;)
 

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Solmu said:
I wasn't comparing them directly - just using it as an example to disprove the "no such thing as bad publicity" axiom. The idea being it's clearly false in the case I outlined, and therefore could potentially be false in other cases.

Perhaps I just muddied the water though.
Bingo.. there's no hard and fast rule here. It could be a slippery slope or a leg-up depending on circumstance, which was my point.

If anything I'd say the smart consumer doesn't differentiate, because ethics should enter into purchasing decisions.
A smart consumer doesn't let ethics hit their bottom line but Dov has fooled them into doing so. Why else would someone pay more for a shirt produced locally than one imported from halfway around the world? (at least for me)
(as an aside, I have also heard complaints about AA's quality, but those are by no means widely publicised - certainly not in articles in the New York Times...)
Looking into that.. I actually ended up at this site after ending up with an AA shirt and being impressed enough to research them further.
..a lot of people support AA specifically because they're perceived as an ethical company, the sweatshop free thing is a big drawing point. If people decide they've been lied to (i.e. the company is not in fact ethical, thanks to Dov) that negates the reason they bought the products in the first place, and they may shop elsewhere.
True, AA tries to give off an "ethical" vibe, but like any company I don't think they are immune to the old bait-and-switch. Even in one of the articles I read Dov tried to downplay it. But again, if a shirt feels great on my skin and fits my lanky 6'4" frame, will I pass on it because it's been made in a sweatshop? Yes if it's blank, no if it's screened with something that appeals to me.

He's one of those people that, upon meeting him in person, some people find charismatic and alluring, and others find creepy and repellant. I believe the reporter who wrote the Jane article has said she found him quite pleasant.
In all honesty, except for the creepy sexual stuff he seems like he's got a great handle on the business.

It's REALLY weird that he mentioned Ian Schrager in one of the articles I was reading, just as I was thinking that the mentality sounded familiar. I used to work for one of his hotels and the pretty people (me) were put out front, the genetically challenged were cut if upper management happened upon them. This is something that only a former employee would know however, so maybe there are some holes in his back story..
 

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Chris said:
A smart consumer doesn't let ethics hit their bottom line but Dov has fooled them into doing so. Why else would someone pay more for a shirt produced locally than one imported from halfway around the world? (at least for me)
Because they like people?

I'm an idealist, so personally I believe people should take into account how their actions affect others. Since we live in a capitalist society, the decisions we make that affect people the most are simple purchasing decisions.

I wouldn't pay more for local vs. imported - one of the things that makes me most angry about the sweatshop debate is how it's basically become a xenophobic "buy local" campaign. If people are so desperate that they'll (mostly) voluntarily work in the worst conditions imaginable, what makes people think it'd be a great idea to close down all those factories and move them to the first world? Those people need better conditions, not to be out of work entirely.

But I will pay more for something if I know the person who made it was treated like a human being, and not exploited for my benefit. I don't steal from people on the street, and I won't steal the food off their plate.

Chris said:
Looking into [the quality of AA].. I actually ended up at this site after ending up with an AA shirt and being impressed enough to research them further.
I've heard mixed things about the quality, but there are simply more people discussing the quality (or lack thereof in some cases) of AA than any other brand. I've seen people complain about the fit of other brands, but they rarely discuss the quality (though it does happen).

In short I don't know - I've definitely heard terrible things about AA quality control I've never heard about other companies, but I'm not convinced that's simply because I haven't been told about what goes on with the others.

Chris said:
In all honesty, except for the creepy sexual stuff he seems like he's got a great handle on the business.
It's more than just sexual, although that is mostly what it is.

But you're right that he must be unusually good at running a business in some ways. I get the impression that he built his massive company more or less from scratch and mostly by himself. When it comes to building a business, he's obviously no fool - it's a great achievement. But he should have hired a PR agent to tell him what to do in public, and paid attention.
 
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