KARL MOORE – This is Karl Moore of the Desautels Faculty of Management at McGill University, talking management for The Globe and Mail. Today, I am delighted to speak to Yona Shtern, who is the CEO of Beyond the Rack.
Where do ideas come from, where does the new strategies for Beyond The Rack come from? Is it from you sitting around thinking deep thoughts, or how do you see new things emerging?
YONA SHTERN – I think a lot of the crucible for new ideas or new strategies comes from one of three places: either dialoguing with some of the stakeholders -- sometimes it’s an investor, sometimes it’s a board member, or sometimes it’s one of my senior executives. We might observe something in the marketplace and say, “How does that fit for us? How is this change going to represent either an opportunity or a threat to our business and how do we need to evolve?”
We do a lot of customer listening; customers are an amazing source of ingenuity and creativity with regards to the business. In many cases, dedicated customers know your business and your business processes way better than you do, because they actually interact with it and deal with the end result. So listening to customer feedback, when they tell you about a particular product, or idea, or a service that you should consider offering, is a really great resource.
The third area are your front-line employees: either customer service, retail or field employees. Those are people who really have a feel for the market and they are the people who early on are able to say, “There is a new trend,” or “We’ve heard about a new competitor,” or “There is something that our customers continue to ask us for.” I guess, for us, it is really a blend of those three.
KARL MOORE – Do you sit down and do an annual plan looking forward to the next year and think about the strategy going forward?
YONA SHTERN – Yes. Typically, what we will do is do that twice a year, so we will do a strategic review twice a year.
The beginning of our year is February, so we will typically start that in October/November. People will be tasked to go away and do some work and do some thinking about how the business can evolve around a bunch of different KPIs [key performance indicators]. What do we want to change, what do you want to improve, where do we need growth to come from?
We will all get together, typically on an off site, one or two days, and we will discuss those and we will start to blend those into a working plan for what the key priorities and what the pillars of the strategic plan are going to be for the next year.