(Note: This story appears in the April 2021 issue of SE Magazine)
Ken Herskovitz talks about why he’s honored to be the caretaker of a family business in Vibratex.
The car balanced precariously on a cable supporting a telephone pole with high-voltage lines swaying above and the governor’s motorcade inbound within the hour. Multiple agencies convened to control the scene and rescue the uninjured driver.
Ken Herskovitz remembers, because he was there.
As an EMT in the late ‘90s, Herskovitz acquired the conflict resolution skills he uses every day — including ones he utilizes as the newly minted Vibratex CEO.
“Take that car-on- a-wire incident,” says Herskovitz. “One simple action created a huge series of conflicts and complications. We needed to mitigate the urgency of the situation so we could think comprehensively. Once decisions were made, we needed to operate as a diverse team with a unified plan. Ultimately, that plan worked – but there were also many contingency plans in place had it not.”
SE Magazine spoke with Herskovitz about what his new title entails, podcasting, life as a consultant and legacy.
SE: About five years ago, you left a stable role as Director of Marketing at ECN to go into independent consulting. What was the impetus for making that move?
HERSKOVITZ: I’ve always been driven by entrepreneurial goals. From a young age I associated that drive with the need to invent or produce or sell products. Over the years, I tried many times to do that. I built architectural models for Realtors, developed and fabricated tools and interior trim pieces for the automotive market, and ran a popular e-commerce shop. This was always while working full-time jobs because, as things started growing, I never had the courage to take the big leap. Throughout that time, I built many relationships with businesspeople who sought my input, which I always chalked up to fun conversation. Finally, it dawned on me that input was actually my product. After that mental switch, opportunities presented themselves and I decided to take a chance making a living as a consultant.
SE: How did your product marketing experience translate to working in the world of podcasting?
HERSKOVITZ: I was extremely fortunate to connect with Emily Morse, host of the Sex with Emily podcast. Though I was totally unfamiliar with podcasting, a big portion of her particular business was the promotion of pleasure products. The combination of previous experiences marketing my own products and everything I’d learned working with adult companies helped the puzzle just come together. Having the chance to help great brands gain exposure on such a great mainstream platform was really fulfilling.
SE: How do you anticipate your consulting life will change now that you’re CEO of Vibratex?HERSKOVITZ: Focusing my attention on Vibratex and the Magic Wand brand has certainly shifted my priorities. Over the past year or so, my consultancy grew and a handful of trusted colleagues joined my team to help manage executable work for clients. Thankfully, this allows me to turn my attention primarily to Vibratex while enjoying the diversity of serving clients as a more passive advisor. I’m quite grateful to have earned everyone’s trust, especially the Vibratex team’s.
SE: You’ve been CEO for two months now, so in that time what’s been the most rewarding part of the job? The most challenging? Or, the biggest unexpected reality of the job?
HERSKOVITZ: The most rewarding part of the job is being trusted. While this has been consistent across my entire career, it’s especially so in this instance. I’m proud that my professional accomplishments and personal connections have built the foundation for being trusted to lead such a well-established company and beloved brand.
The most challenging part of the job is recognizing my limitations. I literally learn something new every day. Normal days may teach me one thing, great days teach me many. But, as a hardcore do-it-yourselfer, the most frustrating lesson is accepting the fact that I can’t do it all — and shouldn’t try to. And I’m sure anyone I’ve worked with who may be reading this right now is either smiling and nodding, or shaking their head and muttering under their breath!
The most unexpected reality of the job is the fact that the transition felt like an evolution, not a light switch. Even without expectations of either scenario, when asked, “How does it feel,” I don’t have a specific answer. Of course, it feels good and I’m very proud to be in the role. But it’s not like putting on a new pair of shoes where there is suddenly a palpable change to discern. It just feels right, not different.
“We’re working on a pretty wide array of initiatives, but it all falls under the umbrella of our top priority: ensuring our customers’ continued success. We are lucky to represent The Magic Wand, a brand that some would say sells itself. While there’s some truth to that, it’s not the safest business plan. So, as a team, we constantly take active steps to stay in front. If we do our job right, our success will continue to appear effortless. ” — Ken Herskovitz
SE: You studied architecture at Kent State and worked as a residential project manager/designer for nearly 15 years. At that point in time in your life, could you have imagined such a prosperous career in adult retail?
HERSKOVITZ: No. Not even in the most remote recesses of my imagination. The same goes for everyone who knew me before. Even after 10 years in the industry, most of my friends remain in complete disbelief.
SE: What kind of advice have Shay and Dan Martin given you?
HERSKOVITZ: Dan and Shay have given me more advice than they realize. In fact, I’d be willing to bet they’d deny giving me any advice, but they most certainly have. Since I began consulting for them a couple years ago, they’ve welcomed me into their business, their home, and their lives. They’re amazingly generous, caring human beings who truly lead by example. By allowing me to root, they’ve transferred a wealth of knowledge, both directly and indirectly. Most importantly, they’ve ensured that I instinctively understand their business philosophies that will allow me to properly act on their behalf.
SE: What’s at the top of your to-do list as CEO going further into 2021?
HERSKOVITZ: Remember that thing about not trying to do it all? We’re working on a pretty wide array of initiatives, but it all falls under the umbrella of our top priority: Ensuring our customers’ continued success. We are lucky to represent The Magic Wand, a brand that some would say sells itself. While there’s some truth to that, it’s not the safest business plan. So, as a team, we constantly take active steps to stay in front. If we do our job right, our success will continue to appear effortless.
SE: Have you already given thought to what kind of legacy you want to have at Vibratex?HERSKOVITZ: Vibratex is truly a family business. Shay’s parents started it, and together with Dan, they’ve built it using the same familial care. Likewise, the Magic Wand brand is a beloved icon and has been since before I was born. The legacy is well established, and I’m honored to now be its custodian. Therefore, my intent is to protect what exists rather than establish my own.