People Profile: Michael Connolly, Founder and CEO of Retail Monster
The global licensing community is powered by an incredible group of professionals whose diverse backgrounds and creative energy drive innovation and excellence. Each week we’re profiling one of these professionals in this ongoing series.
How did you get into licensing (or how did licensing find YOU)?
I had spent 11 years inside WMT but dreamed of a day when I could work with my favorite company as a child, The Walt Disney Company. When a role opened up in the backyard of WMT in Bentonville, I didn’t jump, I clawed and kicked for it.
What’s a “typical” day in your current position?
Working with our team, our clients, and advising on content. I spend a lot of my time talking with our clients on things outside Retail Monster’s remit.
What’s your biggest personal or professional accomplishment?
My single biggest accomplishment is fatherhood. I didn’t aspire to be a dad until I was in my mid-30s and while I am an old dad, I have two beautiful and wonderful boys who I get to see every morning and every night since founding Retail Monster. It makes opening a company the best decision of my life because I get to be a hands-on father and watch my kids grow up.
What are the most significant trends or changes that you’ve seen in the business in recent years?
Brands are born from everywhere and anywhere. When I was at the studios it was always Big Studio vs Big Studio in terms of who got what at retail. Fast forward to today, and brands are being born from Instagram, Video Games, Tik Tok, smaller studios… I mean from everywhere.
What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest challenge these days?
Knowing when to expand and when to retract. We have always prided ourselves on fewer, bigger, better bets, and that will remain true but once in a while that bright shiny penny comes rolling by that we just have to JUMP ON.
In your opinion, what is the top skill every licensing executive should have in order to succeed?
Partnership—It’s not “How much we can get from this licensee?” it’s “How can we build a successful business together?” I believe earnout by licensees is the barometer of a successful licensor or agent. If your base is not earning their money back, that’s unhealthy for everyone at the table and something is wrong.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, or what’s your favorite quote?
Treat everyone with respect. I learned this very early on in life, and it has been part of my DNA ever since.
What is your favorite licensing deal of all time? (It doesn’t have to be one that was signed by you.)
I would have to say the Trolls master toy deal we all worked on at DreamWorks. I believe to this day that our efforts on Trolls fueled the ultimate sale of DreamWorks, as it showed we could create a strong, commercially viable brand that would pay dividends for years to come.
If you weren’t in licensing, what would you be doing now?
I would be helping develop shows and movies for kids and families.
The last licensed product I bought was…
Afro Unicorn Party Suppliers, of course!