In the first of two parts, Sarah Veit Wallis shares how her new COO title isn’t the traditional job title
By George Bozonelos and Jaclyn Crawford
We had the pleasure of speaking with Sarah Veit Wallis, COO of Indochino, at the IRCE 2013 in Chicago, IL. She gave us insight into her new role, learning the company culture, and honesty in policies. In this first part, she tells us more about internet retail and the consumer, as well as quickly adapting to the changes of a new workplace. Part two will be available Friday, September 27- right here on the Forefront Magazine Blog.
Forefront Mag: You’ve been COO at Indochino for a few months now. You’re new, green and traveling the world. Tell us about your role right now and what kind of led to that?
Sarah Veit Wallis : The typical COO parts of my role are supply chain, logistics, warehousing, maybe factoring all of those things as well as business operations, so HR. For right now, finance. That will be changing when we hire a CFO. Then, also just given my past experience which has been leading eCommerce businesses and leading digital marketing. I’m also responsible for sales and marketing in addition to those more traditional COO types of roles.
FM: Quite a few hats there.
SVW: Yeah, It’s fun. I actually really like shifting gears. I think that’s probably one of the things that I like about eCommerce a lot. This is going back to my previous role. In my previous role at Bare Essentuals, I launched the online boutique at my online store for Bare Essentuals. It was really amazingly fun to go from one meeting where we’re looking at creative design direction and then instantly heading in to another meeting where we’re talking about API integration and the technology side of things. Sometimes it’s a little bit of whiplash and hard to make that transition. I really love doing it. It kind of keeps me fresh, keeps me on my toes.
FM: You mix sort of old school thinking of clothing right now with the modern business of eCommerce. Why did you take the job? How did that happen?
SVW: What attracted me to the opportunity at Indochino is the founder, and what the company is doing. I’ve been at Bare Essentials for almost 7 years and had just started to be open to what else was out there. One of the things that I had observed as I was looking at the industry on behalf of Bare Essentuals and as I started talking to more people, was that there is another transformation that’s coming even within the eCommerce phase which had been transforming all the detail over all. It is the concept of personalization and customization. We have this great convergence of technology, enabling it those from a manufacturing perspective as well as from the customer data perspective. When you’re presenting a customer with a million options or a billion or an infinite number, you have to help them find often what’s right for them.
Then, the other thing that I really liked about Indochino, similar to my experience at Bare Essentuals, was that Indochino isn’t about tailored suits. Indochino is about dressing men better. We want to help the men of the world dress better. When they dress better, more easily, they’ll be more confident. They’ll do great things. It’s actually very similar. It’s about how he feels when he puts on a piece of clothing that is uniquely his. He has created it in exactly the way he wants it created. It was sown for him specifically.
FM: That’s fascinating. Does that mean that’s part of your guiding principles? On a personal perspective, you’re not just trying to make and sell things?
SVW: That’s exactly how I put it. I don’t like to sell stuff. I like to have a higher purpose to what I’m doing. I’ve always helped … You talked about what is one of your personal things. I always had the confidence in myself that I’m a smart, capable person. If I’m doing what I love, I’m going to be successful. Even though I’m smart and capable if I was doing something that I wasn’t passionate about, I could probably do okay. I need to feel that passion and motivation.
FM: You have this passion and this drive. What was your plan when you walked in the doors here? Are you the first COO of the company? Was there someone there? Did you have shoes to fill? Were you inheriting a team? Are you building a team? Explain that dynamic if you can.
SVW: Yes to all of that. I am the first COO in the role, I’m building a team and I’m inheriting a team. I’m not someone who travels with my own team. I prefer to come in and see what the business’s needs are, who we have, what their skills are, how we align them. From that perspective, there’s a lot of work. I’m thinking strategically about the long term of the business and what the long term business needs are and initially evaluating all of our internal resources. We have a lot amazing people. We want to make sure that as the business grows and evolves, we’re setting them up for success within the context of the evolution of the business. At the same time, we’re also growing very rapidly. We’re bringing new people in as well. There’s also a component of what I do, that is recruiting.
FM: You’ve been at Indochino for three and a half months, can you tell me about that and the playbook you’ve been trying to follow during this time?
Find out Wallis’ answer in part 2 tomorrow, on the Forefront Magazine blog where she describes her challenges of starting a new job and management.
Sarah Veit Wallis is the COO at Indochino. Read more about her here.
George Bozonelos is the CEO and Publisher of Forefront Magazine. Read his bio here.