Meet The Disruptors: Leslie Dotson Of Swiss Precision On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Desire. Always do something that you desire in the heart that makes you feel like you are giving back to humanity. That leaves a footprint of responsibility, duty, and honor to humanity. I only like to do things that will make me a better person or allow humanity to evolve. The desire drives me and fuels me to be the best of the best.
As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie Dotson.
Leslie Dotson is co-founder and CEO of Swiss Precision, an Eco HealthTech apparel brand for the medical scrub, uniform, and accessories market. He is a designer and innovator with almost 30 years of experience and an award-winning product designer. He has invented or developed over 500+ products and won the Good Design Award in 2007 and 2008 for the SwissGear Mouse design and the Editor’s Choice award for the ChillCase in 2010.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
I’m a father and a grandfather. My daughter is in the top 40 in the industry for marketing, which she does for Mattel, Inc., running the Disney toy line for Target. I couldn’t be more proud of her.
As for me, my backstory is all about developing products and services for humanity by understanding what people’s pain points are, then providing a solution. That allows them to have the best customer experience they possibly can. I believe that to be the best inventor, I have to be the best humanitarian so that I can understand people’s lives and help them become peaceful and tranquil. I always think of this in the design. How can this make somebody’s life better? How can this take the pain point away?
I found my career path in an interesting way. I used to work in the marketing department for Seiko watches, and one day I was to approve the golden samples from our artists. They were from Taiwan and were in an exclusive area of the factory that I had access to. I was 23, and it was the first time in my life that I had seen such complex artistry. I was fascinated by the discipline among these people making Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck watches by hand. It gave me the bug to understand how it all worked — how marketing worked, how production worked.
The company decided to move to the East Coast from California, and I didn’t want to live 3,000 miles away from my family. Luckily, they had an opportunity with a sister company, so I went for an interview. There were 600 other people in line for that job, with only 10 openings. I was one of the 10 who got it, and they told us that out of 600 people they interviewed, we had one unique trait: the ability to see a situation and find the solution. They said that less than one percent of the people in the world have that sort of vision. They wanted to take us into a new organization called Epson Direct and start this new entity, and that’s how I got into the IT and consumer electronics business. I saw the first laptop. I saw how networking was structured years before Compaq and Dell and Gateway had even formed. It was a fascinating journey, and if I hadn’t seen those Taiwanese artists making watches, I might never have found this career path.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
Swiss Precision was founded in 2010. At that time, I vowed to give back to humanity and only create sustainable products that allow people to be healthy in their minds, bodies, and souls. The work I’m doing now is disruptive because it’s affecting the $94 billion medical scrub and uniform industry, the $70 billion sports market, and the approximately $80 billion leisure market. Many in those industries use synthetic, man-made materials because they’re cheaper and easier to produce. That allows them to manufacture things quickly, but as we’re all starting to learn, those materials aren’t beneficial. That’s why you’re starting to see people return to cotton, bamboo linens, and other organic materials that are breathable, good for the environment, and good for the human body.
Swiss Precision’s formulation of copper, cotton, or any other organic material combine at the DNA level of the yarn strand. It’s not a spray-on or an infused process that goes on top of polyester or any other synthetic material — it’s formulated at the molecular structure of the yarn thread itself, so it can’t be washed off or degraded. It’s blended in with organic cotton and bamboo, certified organic materials. That’s disruptive because giving a protective bond to the apparel and the human body represents a significant break from how many of these other companies make their products.
Copper has been known for thousands of years as a metal that protects the human body from bacteria, fungus, viruses, and other harmful microorganisms. Copper is used in jewelry, and it’s already used in the pipes in our houses because it does not degrade like galvanized steel or zinc. It’s also used in electronics because its conduction is very clean. We even have copper inside of us as we’re born, so the copper compound that’s inside the human body is God-given.
Using these organic materials will disrupt the reliance on synthetic and toxic materials, which are unsuitable for the planet. It will also disrupt large consumer markets because people are more conscious of harmful toxins, bacteria, and viruses — especially nurses, doctors, dentists, medical assistants, and other frontline workers. No one has made apparel yet with the structure to fight disease. We’ve tested with the number one testing company in the world, SGS, and they found that when these deadly hospital-acquired bacteria are exposed to this material, they die in 24 to 48 hours, even after 40 washes. That is very disruptive to the synthetic market, which doesn’t have these properties. Bacteria and fungi use these synthetic materials as a living space, so eliminating them will help suppress the transmission of these pathogens from one place to another. We believe testing will show that the Covid-19 virus cannot live on copper apparel, so having it in the clothing will be highly disruptive to the market.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made came from not fully understanding the culture in the country where I was working. I was in Colombia because I wanted to offset some of the manufacturing from China and diversify the supply chain. I was like, “Great. Manufacturing in Latin America is going to be awesome.” It’s closer to the United States, the tariffs are very small or nonexistent, and the freight cost is much lower. I wanted to motivate the workers based on my perspective from working in China, and I made the worst mistake possible. I told these Colombian workers that I was proud of them and that one day, they could be better at production than the Chinese.
It turned out that I had insulted the workers by saying this because they didn’t want to be like the Chinese. They wanted to be like Colombians. Colombian people love to talk, and they love to interact. They love to be on cell phones, texting and chatting while they’re on the production line. In China, that would never happen, but that’s not the culture of the Colombian worker. Colombian workers love to communicate and flow with each other, and for me to come in and say that they want to be like the Chinese was an insult.
I paid the price for that mistake. Some people left and said they were very disappointed by my words, so I had to apologize. I provided them with lunch and a bus from their homes to the factory and back, so they wouldn’t have to take public transportation. These are tiny things that you learn in a particular culture. To them, lunch and a bus ride were more important than an extra $10. They were grateful for the lunch and the bus, but they definitely, definitely didn’t like being compared to another culture. So what I learned from my funniest mistake was that you need to understand the culture when you’re going to another place, whether it’s business or pleasure. Not doing that will cause many problems that will take time, money, and goodwill to undo.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve had some great mentors over the years, but three stand out as the ones who caused a shift in my career. The first is Francine Farkas Sears, the second is Scott Bercu, and the third is Keith Braesch. Francine is a business veteran; her history shows she was always a real trailblazer. She was the only woman out of 26 people who were the first to go back to China in 1972, one of the first women on Wall Street, and a disruptor in the apparel retail business with Alexander’s department stores. She understood how to be a businesswoman in the 1980s and 1990s when it was a man’s world, and she still made the time to be a wonderful mother.
Scott Bercu is a forensic accountant who understands how to look at numbers and see what no one else can see. He also understands the projections and futures of a company, what makes it strong, what makes it weak, and how to identify the weakness and turn it into a strength. He was also very even-tempered and able to flow with the company owners and explain what was wrong, how to fix it and when, with absolute precision. I learned these methods of finance and structure from the best of the best.
Keith Braesch is an unbelievable business analyst. His calculations and business proposals are the best of the best. His guidance on structuring a business has been invaluable to me. He’s also just a very good friend. I can talk to him about any situation under the sun, and he always offers perfect input. I respect everything he says because he has the experience, knowledge, education, and family to back it up. In fact, I’ve known his wife since I was five years old. We were born to be partners, business associates, and friends, so I’m honored that he is one of my mentors.
Francine Farkas Sears has affected me to be a leader. I learned from her the value of showing results and standing up for what’s right for everyone. She showed me how to step back and see the whole picture before acting. It doesn’t matter if it’s 24, 48, or 72 hours — stall that decision until you have a complete perspective, then move into action, knowing that you have analyzed all the scenarios. The decisions I made from a calm, dispassionate place after weighing all the evidence have usually been correct.
My mentors greatly impacted me in terms of financial intelligence, business structure, and upper management dealings. Peace and tranquility have always been important as well as having a good work-life balance as I’ve gotten older. I thank these mentors for the experience and knowledge they passed on to me, and my ears were wide open to listen to their experiences and respect and honor them. This was the impact that they had on my life.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
I think being disruptive is a positive. It brings change, it brings newness of thinking, and it carries humanity to the next level. It allows us to be free and prosperous and expand our technologies and way of life. Being disruptive changes the mold of the times, and the times change based on new information or opportunities. So, we must push past the dug-in processes or the “This is the way we’ve always done it” mentality. That allows us to move into a “This is a better way to do it” mentality. We use that voice in a disruptive way to make change. In my over 30 years of working in the IT and consumer electronics industries, I’ve seen how diversity can change systems or structures for the better. The change in IT from the 1980s to the 2020s has been remarkable. The change in the structures, the change in the speed, the change in social media, the impact of the internet, and how people are now relying 100% on phones — those structures from the past had to change to allow us to be more advanced in our communication and share information instantaneously. Things from the past that we thought would stand the test of time have changed because of new technologies, new thinking, and human evolution.
When you’re positively disrupting an industry, you see that it’s best for humanity based on their health and on the structure they live in. It’s giving back in a positive way that helps people be more efficient, more effective, or more healthy. On the other hand, you can tell that you’re disrupting an industry negatively when you’re putting toxins back in, when you’re allowing people to be suppressed and unhealthy in the mind, body, or soul. It’s when you purposely disrupt the flow of a system and structure to control and manipulate others. This is the difference between positive disruption and negative disruption.
Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.
1. Patience. The advice that I’ve gotten over and over in my career is to have patience in the decisions you’re going to make because that decision can adversely affect the outcome of what you want to do. My mentors instilled a rule in me: don’t make critical decisions based on anger or expediency, but wait 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, and think about it the whole time. A week’s patience is the key. It’s the virtue of the outcome.
2. Innovate. God has given me a gift: my will to see a solution in my dreams and then wake up and execute it from the business plan to the ideation and manufacturing. “Always innovate to the next level” has been my advice to myself. Don’t settle for mediocre. Don’t settle for so-so. Look at the design, look at the innovation, and provide the best experience for the consumer.
3. Desire. Always do something that you desire in the heart that makes you feel like you are giving back to humanity. That leaves a footprint of responsibility, duty, and honor to humanity. I only like to do things that will make me a better person or allow humanity to evolve. The desire drives me and fuels me to be the best of the best.
4. Communicate. Communication is the key to everything in tantra. The third chakra is the throat chakra, the voice. It allows you to open up and speak about the existence of the idea, the technology, or the solution that will enable humanity to be better. Clear communication in all aspects of life is essential through voice, intimacy, touch, seeing, and hearing. The movement of communication has been controversial because today, you have 15 seconds to communicate to the consumer. It’s essential to be able to communicate precisely what you want. So, get to the point and let people understand what you want.
5. Love. We are all as one, we are all part of one existence of energy, and the energy of what we were born into is love. If you are a business person, leader, or CEO, people look up to you based on your words, presence, and leadership skills. If you’re doing it right, you’ll hear them say, “I love that CEO. I love the way he thinks, and I love the way he takes care of his people. I love the way he invented something that cured someone.” It’s always about love. So as a CEO, businessperson, and leader, always control your company with love, and you will be successful.
We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?
We’ll start with the medical scrub and uniform industry, a $94 billion market. Next, we’ll go after the sports market, because today it uses many synthetic, man-made materials. The clothes have great marketing tags all over them, but if you look at the molecular structure of the synthetic materials, they’re toxic. Consumers are not necessarily aware of that because the marketing messaging overshadows the effect on the body. Next, we’ll make a side-by-side comparison with data and testing to show what synthetic material does to the human body, as opposed to organic material, based on microorganisms that can affect it or how it interacts with the body’s function through different activities. I cannot wait to have a marketing campaign depicting a yoga class in a beautiful studio, with everyone sitting in yoga positions with plastic bags on their bodies. Next to that page would be our material, which has flowers and trees and beautiful plants around it, to highlight the organic materials that came from the earth. This will shake up this multi-billion-dollar industry that we’re seeing today.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?
The best book I’ve ever read was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. It profoundly impacted my thinking, and it’s an outstanding blueprint for any businessperson who wants to be in leadership. It talks about more than 100 of the most successful people in the world from the past and how they all had these 13 to 17 different principles that allowed them to be successful. It goes chapter by chapter to enable you to think deeply about how people should interact with their inventions, how they should interact with the people they do business with, and how they should collaborate and gain information and data to make the best decision for the product or service. Interestingly, the DNA characteristics of these successful entrepreneurs are all the same. You can learn from them how to make decisions based on experience, knowledge, data, and your gut telling you what’s right and wrong. It teaches the reader to have no fear and cross the finish line no matter what obstacles might be there. Some of these inventors were considered crazy, and some people wanted to haul them away from their families in straitjackets. It was a good thing that didn’t happen because these inventors went on to create the light bulb and the automobile, among other things. Without those breakthroughs, we would not have the things we have today. We would still be in the dark. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill profoundly affected my thinking and gave me a blueprint to follow for my thoughts and desires and examples of why that blueprint works. Every person who wants to do business needs to read it.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Don’t celebrate early. Wait until the task is truly finished. This is a life lesson quote that I live by. It’s a mantra for me. I have always found that early celebration can be disruptive to the outcome of a goal because it distracts people from seeing what is truly there. Those unknowns, those gotchas, those “Uh oh, what just happened?” moments usually show up in the last 10% of completing a task, the home stretch. It’s generally because you celebrated too early and took your eye off the prize. You thought you already had it, which is not the time to celebrate. The time to celebrate is when it’s boxed up with a nice bow at the top and shipped off, you’ve already done your war room analysis, you’ve had feedback from everyone involved in the situation, and you have data to show that it is successful. That’s the time to celebrate. So celebrating too early can make you lose sight of what is happening and how you need to fix it. It’s something that I learned the hard way by celebrating too early, but it’s also something that I learned to remain steadfast about. People ask me, “Les, why aren’t you happy about this outcome?” I usually tell them, “Because it’s not finished. Some things still need to happen, and it’s not the time to celebrate.” Give it some time, be patient, listen to the results, listen to the feedback, and then once we hear all of the input over a particular amount of time, then and only then are we going to celebrate.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I want humanity to get back to using organic products and services. It’s already started, but I think it needs to move faster. People are starting to go from farm to table. People are wearing or using organic products, services, or medicines, which will eventually get us back to nature, and allow us to be healthy and whole and peaceful. It will enable the earth to heal itself because we will not be polluting it with synthetic or toxic products. I’m hoping that I will be able to bring this as a movement for the good of humanity and allow our children’s children to be here in peace, joy, and health. I’ve always said that the movement of small ideas can trigger change. If you look around you, you’ll see that it’s not these super complex technologies that move or change people. It’s usually the very, very small inventions that make people say, “Wow, that’s so simple. I wish I would’ve thought of that.” There are many examples of this, like Q-Tips and Post-it Notes, little ideas that helped people and changed how they use things or communicate. It’s exciting that an idea can trigger a movement like that.
How can our readers follow you online?
I can be reached on my LinkedIn page at https://www.linkedin.com/in/les-dotson-7083543/.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!