May 26, 2010

Fetzer's Footwear: Vision

Lauen Fetzer awaits me at the bottom of Mt. Youngstown. Today, we are going to hike up the mountain, this is the view that awaits us at the top of the 1,100 foot mountain ---->

As usual, Ms. Fetzer is listening to her iPod Touch via earbuds.

Kevin: "What are you listening to?"

Lauren: "Will Smith, 'Getting Jiggy With It'. You want the proper motivation to climb a mountain, don't you?"

Kevin: "Alright."

Lauren: "Let's go, dude."

Kevin: "What are we talking about today, Lauren?"

Lauren: "Have you ever tried to get a team to work together?"

Kevin: "Absolutely."

Lauren: "It's not an easy thing to do. I find that I spend close to sixty percent of my time trying to get people to work together in an effective manner. And the ratio doesn't ever change. I was awful at managing people a decade ago, so I spent a ton of time putting out fires. Five years ago, I spent a ton of time trying to develop people, to get them to achieve their potential. Today, I spend a ton of time trying to get people to climb on board and follow my vision. No matter the agenda, I spend sixty percent of my time motivating or challenging or encouraging people. I keep repeating the same messages over and over and over again, and it seems like nobody is ever listening to me."

Kevin: "I don't think that is uncommon."

Lauren: "The big problem now is getting people to follow my vision."

Kevin: "What is your vision?"

Lauren: "I think e-commerce is moving 'into the cloud'. In other words, the future of e-commerce has nothing to do with websites and shopping carts and landing pages and all of that pap. The future of e-commerce happens off of the website. It happens on your mobile device. It happens on whatever replaces Facebook. It happens where the customer wants it to happen, in other words, the customer doesn't go to a destination website, but instead, Fetzer's Footwear finds the customer. And quite honestly, Fetzer's Footwear in 2017 looks a lot more like CNN than like Zappos. Every company will be a media company."

Kevin: "How do you articulate that vision to your employees?"

Lauren: "My Executive Team hates it when I talk about this, they say I am being way too theoretical. They want for me to break my vision down into distinct projects that they can work on. I don't think it works that way."

Kevin: "Why not?"

Lauren: "The minute you break a vision down into projects, you lose the momentum of the vision. If I tell my employees to create apps for Facebook, they will inevitably lead us down the Facebook campaign rat hole. They understand campaigns, campaigns tie the past to the present. I don't want a campaign, a campaign does nothing for me. I want one of our customers to think Fetzer's Footwear when she has a need, and if she's spending the majority of her time on Facebook, then our business should be available for her when she needs us."

Kevin: "How do your programmers act upon this vision? They need detailed specs in order to be able to write code that meets your needs, right?"

Lauren: "Certainly. They get really angry with me when I 'get visionary' on them."

Kevin: "People can't possibly read you mind, you know that, right?"

Lauren: "I don't expect them to read my mind. I expect them to build a roadmap to the future."

Kevin: "What if their vision of the future is different than your vision of the future?"

Lauren: "My vision of the future is the one that matters, right?"

Kevin: "To an extent. Every employee will combine your vision with her vision, and that can create brilliance, and that can create chaos."

Lauren: "Exactly! So how do I stop the chaos?"

Kevin: "I don't think you get to stop the chaos. If you stop the chaos, you limit brilliance."

Lauren: "Would you be willing to spend some time with our Executive team? Would you be willing to sit in on upcoming Executive team meetings, and assess how we work together, assess how we push ourselves to the future, assess how we get ourselves stuck in the past?"

Kevin: "Certainly."

Lauren: "Good. We'll have you start meeting with us next Wednesday."

Kevin: "Who will I be meeting with?"

Lauren: "We have five members of our Executive team. Penny Parker is our VP of Marketing. I think she's a problem. She breaks everything down to a campaign. She wants to know what the objectives of a campaign are, then she wants to buy media, then she wants to measure how effective the campaign was. It's this cycle that causes her to completely lack vision. I'm tired of this 'conceive - execute - measure - conceive - execute - measure' cycle."

Kevin: "Ok."

Lauren: "Bill Bledsoe is our VP of Logistics. He is responsible for IT, for moving product between stores and the website and our suppliers. He's like the arteries and veins of our company. Without Bill, we're sunk."

Kevin: "How about merchandising?"

Lauren: "Ashley Zimmerman. Pure genius. She is our product, she is Fetzer's Footwear."

Kevin: "Stores?"

Lauren: "Bart Cox. Couldn't care less about e-commerce. He finds e-commerce and social media in particular to be completely phony. Everytime Ashley talks about creating lasting relationships on Facebook, he talks about lasting relationships with real customers in-person in stores. He's the person who holds our e-commerce efforts back, and that's probably a good thing, because his view of in-person relationships cause us to think long and hard about what the future of e-commerce looks like."

Kevin: "Who else?"

Lauren: "Connie Simpson. She runs Finance. She's a wet blanket. She views the world like a series of mutual funds. She doesn't like to invest in anything new and risky, and I'm here to tell you that I cannot achieve a vision of the future when somebody won't invest in anything new and risky. That being said, we need Connie, we need somebody with her discipline."

Kevin: "So I'll attend your Executive meeting next Wednesday, assuming that the authorities are able to retrieve my exhausted body from the top of this mountain?"

Lauren: "I have med-flight insurance, we'll be able to get a helicopter up here to bring you down."

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