Q&A: Newly Minted COO Autumn O’Bryan Discusses Company’s Future
Last month Topco Sales announced the return of industry veteran Autumn O’Bryan as the company’s new COO. O’Bryan spent four years at Topco Sales before embarking on a comprehensive career handling integral roles within the adult biz. With 23 years of experience in several aspects of the adult industry, O’Bryan is setting out to reestablish Topco Sales as a leading manufacturer “focused on building trust, promoting quality and bringing a fresh approach to the next phase of the brands historic legacy.”
In this exclusive Q&A, O’Bryan discusses her goals for Topco Sales and reveals how she plans to achieve them.
XBIZ: Discuss this brand new chapter for Topco Sales. What can we expect from the company going forward?
Autumn O’Bryan: The Topco team is inspired with a fresh energy dedicated toward reinventing Topco Sales, to change the perception, to once again make it a leading manufacturer in the adult industry and beyond. Expect to see a lot more of us, whether it be on the road, at stores and trade shows, in the press, or on shelves and in displays — Topco will make its presence known in ways that the industry hasn’t seen in years. There are some incredibly exciting and positive projects brewing at the company with new leadership, a fresh perspective, and a candid disposition toward the company’s noted past.
As Socrates said: “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” And we are the new Topco.
XBIZ: What do you hope to achieve as Topco Sales’ new COO?
O’Bryan: I want Topco to succeed and I want to be the leader of the team that makes it happen. But in order to do so, there’s much reformation to be done. I must repair relationships and restore faith in the brand by being completely transparent about the past and present state of the company. This includes delivering on all realistic promises while adjusting agreements when results simply cannot be guaranteed; this candid rapport with our customers has been lacking over the years and it is essential that I do everything in my power to rebuild these business connections. I’ve listened to our customers, as well as the Topco team, and I am evaluating and executing plans to address each of the core issues currently affecting the company’s reputation.
Topco was once a true innovator in the manufacturing field, the first to market with the latest technologies, materials and designs. I want to help bring Topco back to top ranks, developing and releasing new products with the kind of quality Topco has previously been known for and utilizing the unique and robust manufacturing facilities that we own domestically and abroad. I want Topco to be known for its customer service, a true manufacturer with a team that our customers genuinely want to work with, each staff member trained to handle orders, queries and concerns in a timely and industry-appropriate manner.
But most importantly, I look forward to a time when our customers have experienced enough positive and reliable results to catapult the Topco brand out of the past and at the top of its game. Our team is using valuable lessons from our history to create and establish a future better than anyone could have imagined.
XBIZ: Discuss Topco’s legacy. How will the company honor it in its latest reinvention?
O’Bryan: I have been working in the industry since 1994 and was the executive director of product development at Topco Sales from 2005-2008. During a recent meeting with current Topco employees, I told them of the company’s history and found myself getting emotional; no one on staff had any idea of what Topco Sales once was. We were a true industry leader; Marty Tucker was the innovative and creative force behind some of the most recognizable products in the industry, such as Virtual Girl love dolls, multi-function toys, and ultra-realistic Cyberskin – a brand so recognizable, it’s used to describe any kind of soft, malleable and realistic sex toy material. In fact, some of the largest companies in the industry have been replicating our products, packaging and materials for years, yet it’s unknown that Topco was the original source.
Topco Sales was founded in 1972 and was one of the strongest and most successful of any manufacturer, boasting a team of employees who worked steadily and loyally with the company for up to 30-plus years. A lot of the smartest, most creative and successful people in the industry started their careers with Topco Sales. And though Topco Sales is under new ownership, we will continue to honor the legacy of Topco Sales and its previous owners, the Tucker family, by making it a viable, respectable successful leading manufacturer once again.
XBIZ: What makes Topco’s product offerings unique? Will any changes be made in terms of the company’s product development?
O’Bryan: Customers may notice that we will not be releasing many new products over the next 24 months. Rather than flood the market with more and more brands in need of support, our focus will be on releasing select quality products designed and packaged specifically to generate sales for our customers.
We are in a unique position thanks to our vertical manufacturing capabilities, which allows us to maintain exclusive Topco-owned manufacturing facilities in China and an FDA-compliant laboratory in the U.S. This gives us full control over the product development process and enables Topco customers to take full advantage of our enviable private label solution. Quite frankly, the company has not taken full advantage of this incredibly valuable capacity — but that is changing.
We broke ground last month on our new FDA-approved production facility and will be building a bigger and even more efficient space that will allow Topco to offer unique private-label products. We also are seeking strategic partnerships with companies that can benefit from our large-scale manufacturing capabilities in China. Quality production and execution will be a core focus and will make Topco the go-to source for companies looking to build their own brands. More news about these services will be revealed in the coming months.
XBIZ: What are some of the challenges you expect to confront in your new role? How will you overcome them?
O’Bryan: Topco has undergone several major changes over the past five years, changes that occurred during both the previous and current ownerships. As a result – and with good reason – customers lost faith in the brand. And the most noticeable symptom was a decrease in sales.
As a former Topco customer, I have a unique perspective and am dialed in to customers’ valid concerns and the important actions Topco must make in order to “fix” them. Our first priority is to strengthen our internal structure with a solid foundation of trust, support and capability. This involves everything from development to delivery, and these concerns must be addressed head-on before reaching out to customers with new promises. Honesty is key and our customers deserve it; we can and will not make promises that cannot be kept and Topco is no longer in the business of under-delivery. But with that honesty also will require an open ear and open mind, because Topco has experienced a great deal of strain from hearsay and misunderstanding, and though the company has been silent for many years, we are now ready and eager to address it.
It’s true that we moved our sex toy manufacturing to our exclusive China factory. But contrary to assumption, that move does not mean our product quality has changed. Nothing about the production process has been altered; the methods, protocols and quality control processes that were in place in the U.S. remain in the China facility and we will add more if needed.
It’s true that our fill rate must be increased, but we currently work at 85-90 percent — a rate that’s improving every month.
It’s true that, other than the Twerking Butt, we haven’t released many new and innovative products. We are fully capable and plan to do so — just not yet. We are prioritizing our next moves and being strategic about it, starting with new management and a stronger internal structure, and our customers will soon see the benefit.
It’s true that Topco has experienced a lot of employee turnover, and though it has not been ideal, the changes have been for a variety of reasons — and not because the company was a sinking ship. I will be restructuring staff if and when needed and my goal is to have an established team that shares the excitement I feel about the opportunities put in place for Topco. This team will grow alongside the new Topco and become part of a strong and successful industry family.
All of this is a challenge and it won’t happen overnight. The new Topco strives for progression, NOT perfection, and we will be persistent and patient with every move.
XBIZ: How will you utilize your previous experience with Topco and beyond in your current role?
O’Bryan: The first weeks as COO of Topco have been smooth thanks to my past experience as a Topco employee. Many of the operational processes and procedures still remain, so my start-up has moved faster than I even expected. Because I’ve been in the industry for 20-plus years, I have strong personal relationships with many of our customers, and these bonds have given Topco and me incredibly opportunities for growth. The outpouring of support has been amazing and I am so grateful. It also helps that I have a strong background in ecommerce, Omnichannel and strategic business development, all of which will be beneficial as the industry continues to evolve. With regard to product development, I learned from the best and was very successful with the products and brands that I developed for Topco — many of which remain at the top of the company’s sales lists: climax, Adam and Eve, Penthouse, Rascal and Hustler. I also worked closely with Mr. Wu and Lover’s Health, a valuable and trusted partner at the time and is now Topco’s parent company. In my new role, Mr. Wu and the Board of Directors have given me their full support and empowered me to make any and all decisions necessary to succeed.
XBIZ: Discuss the revamped Topco Sales team. What are the company’s core principles of customer service? What qualities are/were you looking for picking company representatives?
O’Bryan: Topco Sales has a lean sales team with a lot of young blood, and we are looking to grow by adding several key staff members. We will be hiring an official brand ambassador to represent Topco Sales on the road and at stores, as well as an international sales representative and a sales manager. We are focusing on promoting a positive and customer-centric environment that enhances the buyers’ experience, promotes sales, and works to ensure customer loyalty above all. I am looking to add a mix of new and experienced industry reps that believe in Topco and our new vision, a team of genuine closers with enthusiasm integrity and grit. These new employees will become a part of the Topco family and work together toward a common goal: to get the company where it needs to be. It won’t be easy, but it will be a rewarding challenge — and I plan to have fun doing it.