Inside track: Isaac Jackman of Isaac Jackman Shoe Repairs Dublin
Dedicated cobbler who owns the C&D repair shops prides himself on working with designer footwear
Isaac Jackman:” In the early days of my career, my father said: ‘Be the navigator of your own ship with passion and determination.’ It has given me a sense of purpose.”
Isaac Jackman owns Isaac Jackman Shoe Repairs at Charlemont Bridge in Dublin. He inherited the business from his father Seán, who founded C&D Shoes almost 50 years ago – a major player in the shoe repair trade for many years which, at one stage, had 22 shops in Dublin. While Jackman still owns several of the C&D repair shops, his eponymous Isaac Jackman Shoe Repairs workshop is key to the future of the business and focuses on designer shoe repair in partnership with some of the State’s leading shoe shops and department stores.
What sets your business apart from the competition? Dedication to the excellence of my craft, high-quality repairs and being specialised in my field.
What was the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? In the early days of my career, my father said: “Be the navigator of your own ship with passion and determination.” It has given me a sense of purpose going forward with regard to steering the business in the direction in which I want to take it.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made in business? Luckily enough I haven’t made too many, but it would probably be not delegating enough and not getting the work-life balance under control. Also, not making my identity within the business a more prominent aspect earlier on.
What is your major success to date? Moving the business into new areas such as high fashion and designer shoe repairs and having a close affiliation with major department stores and designer brands. With encouragement from my wife, who was aware of designer brands and of my abilities, I was prompted to explore the high-end aspect of shoe repair. This has completely changed my image from being a run-of-the-mill shoe repair to a quality cobbler. My business card says ‘Protect your Investment’ – some of the shoes I work on are worth thousands.
Whom do you most admire in business and why? I don’t usually affiliate myself with anyone but I do admire Richard Branson. He likes to say Yes and I think I am very much a Yes person. No doesn’t really wash with me. He also said: “Respect the customer and your reputation will thank you” – something I agree with.
Based on your experience in the downturn, are banks in Ireland open for business? If you’re squeaky clean and low risk, then yes, but they look for any chink in your armour to say No. I came into an established business and didn’t need starting funding and I credit my father on that score. My father often said that the bank was great at giving you an umbrella on a sunny day but will take it away when it rains.
What one piece of advice would you give to the Government to stimulate the economy? I would say that they should remove the USC charge for all workers. It’s just a penal tax for working harder. It’s a bit of a bugbear for a lot of people. People in the recession were also expecting better value from retailers but the costs and rates didn’t go down. I had increases in rates and raw materials and VAT rates didn’t change. This recession was very different to previous ones. It was a real credit crunch. I had customers who had five or six pairs of designer shoes in for repair and then lost their jobs. In previous recessions, people knew how much money they had in their pockets. In the last recession people were so indebted that there was no money there. I saw it at the counter – the embarrassment of people who couldn’t afford to collect their repaired shoes.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to face in business? Losing my father six years ago and taking control of the business. It was a difficult time personally but also my mentor was gone – the person who gave me direction and advice simply wasn’t there any more. We worked very closely together for over 20 years. While it was a challenge, in some ways, strangely, it gave me an inner strength. It was time for me to fly the flag and to move the business forward not only for me but for him. My wife Gráinne was the rock behind me at that time. It is all-consuming going through that and if you have support behind you it makes all the difference.
What do you see as the short-term future for the business? Continuing to make my business relevant in these times of mass manufacturing. Making my identity more integral to the business with regards to my knowledge and skills. Scaling things back to a single straightforward destination for the customer that concentrates on a specialist service.
What is your business worth and would you sell it? The business is so much part of me that it would be hard to imagine it not being there under my stewardship. I hope someday I can pass it on to someone as passionate as I am. I’ve never sat down to put a worth on it. We have assets obviously and the goodwill of the business, but how much it’s worth? I have no idea. In conversation with Ruth O’Connor isaacjackman.ie