Made in Detroit: How Shinola’s Good Ole Fashioned Business Values Outperform the Status Quo

You don’t know shit from Shinola.

Ever heard that saying before? This World War II era colloquialism caused a movement to revive the American watchmaking industry and with it bring to Detroit yet another chapter in its storied history in manufacturing.

This year at SXSWV2V, I was fortunate enough to interview Shinola president Jacques Panis live on the main stage. He’s not only the president of a thriving lifestyle company contributing to the resurgence of Detroit, he’s also incredibly genuine and humble. More so, Panis is building a business that’s focused on people, inside and out, and is equally passionate about bringing back the art of design and production to everyday products we take for granted today.

From a town made famous for decades of vehicle manufacturing, Shinola has reinvented the model of manufacturing watches, bikes, leather goods and more. In fact, Shinola is the first company to bring the art of watchmaking at scale back to the U.S. for the first time since the 1960s.

The story of how Shinola has grown and found success is one from which we can all learn. The company approaches business and manufacturing with an emphasis on people and design. Shinola sets out to gain customer trust through the delivery of ultra high quality products reinforced by exceptional experiences, engagement and transparency. Shinola also operates out of a unique workspace having forged an unheard of partnership with the College for Creative Studies in Detroit. Students too are part of the process.

The team at SXSW just released the full interview. They don’t usually do so and I’m thankful as I get to share with you one of the most refreshing and inspiring conversations I’ve had in a while.

Please make the time to watch this video and please, do take notes and do take action. It’s long, I know. But, this is one of those rare stories that offers precious lessons in how to do business in a digital world. Shinola started with a vision and then brought it to life through a culture of  people, purpose, and promise (the new 5th, 6th, and 7th additions to the outdated 4Ps of marketing).  Shinola reminds us of the importance of doing business in a bygone era where quality, commitment and core values counted for everything.

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Photo Credit: Geoff Livingston




Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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