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How shoe tycoon Steve Madden has recovered Reuters

© Reuters.File Photo: Steve Madden arrives at the 59th Grammy Awards in Los Angeles

Cheryl Lou Lien Tan

New York (Reuters)-Steve Madden, founder and design chief of a multi-billion dollar shoe brand, knows something about being optimistic in difficult situations.

In 2002, Madden was convicted of stock manipulation, money laundering and securities fraud. He was sentenced to 41 months in prison.Madden had to resign as CEO Stephen Madden (NASDAQ :) Ltd, a company he founded in 1990, has only $ 1,100 in banks. He remains the creative and design chief of the company.

“The first thing I learned in jail was not to whine about my situation. It didn’t help,” Madden said. “You can easily get into’woe is me’-everyone does, but you should look positive.”

Last fall, Madden released a memoir, “The Cobbler: How I Disrupted a Industry, Fell From Grace & Came Back Stronger Than Ever,” about the company’s experience, beliefs, prison time, and recovery from drug addiction.

Madden, 62, told Reuters all the lessons he learned in the process and how he got over this pandemic. The edited excerpt is as follows.

Q. What was the hardest job you’ve ever done?

A. I work at a shoe store. I started at the age of 20 in Jill Doll, Cedarhurst, NY. It’s comparable to a prison as the longest two years in my life.

As a shoe salesman, you need to be obedient, work hard and learn how to pay attention. But the biggest thing I learned was how to sell and what women want. That was a big deal.

Q. What put you in jail?

A. I did a lot of things and read a lot of novels. I was always a reader, but when I read a book I was able to fly to another place. It was really great. I read a lot of novels from the 70’s and 80’s, such as Herman Wouk’s “War and Remembrance” and “The Winds of War”. I read all the books of Mario Puzo and Dominique Dunne. A real ring.

Q. What is your biggest challenge right now?

A. Spending a lot of time alone is not the best place for recovery addicts. Alcoholism alone is behind the enemy line. So I was talking online with other alcoholics and addicts.

I have found that a little fear can help you stay calm. I know that once I open the trap door, it won’t come back. That’s very scary.

Q. What big lessons did you learn in 2020?

A. I always thought it would do me with bad shoes or something-I didn’t think it would be a bug. You are never ready for something like this, but I think you should be ready to lose some things.

Anything can happen. Stay a little humble and know that some gifts can be robbed in our lives.

Q. What is the best advice you have received?

A. The little things are very important. That’s what I learned from this fellow who worked at a shoe store. He goes crazy when one of the shoes displayed in the window is messed up. What is the general message you are sending about your business?

From my favorite poem by WH Auden, there is a passage that says, “The crevice in the bowl opens / the road to the land of the dead.” I don’t even know what Oden means, but I know what it means to me. That is my business philosophy.

Q. Do you have any advice for those who have just started?

A. There are always new ideas, good ideas, and hard work time. I don’t remember the feeling that I don’t want to be a newcomer from now on. I don’t buy it. There is always room for something new.

Q. What do you think your work clothes will look like after a pandemic?

A. I often wear pajamas now. I’m making a zoom call and trying to wear a nice T-shirt, but I’m wearing my pajamas. I can’t see it because I can only see it from the chest to the top.

After working from home, I think it will be more casual. Sneakers will be more important. I think dress shoes will be the victims of the war.

How shoe tycoon Steve Madden has recovered Reuters How shoe tycoon Steve Madden has recovered Reuters

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