Drew Green | Crain's Nashville

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Drew Green

Background:  

Indochino has revolutionized men's fashion since its founding in 2007. The Vancouver-based firm promises perfectly fitted suits with a twist: The customer measures themselves, chooses the fabric and design and their custom suit is shipped to them within three weeks. Currently, Indochino has opened 19 showrooms in Canada and the U.S. and is rolling out its first showroom of the year later this month in Nashville. 

The Mistake:

For me, I learned very early on in my business career that you really build the most value for your shareholders and your company by working with great people. A mistake that I have made early on as a CEO, without getting too specific, was hiring the wrong people.

That doesn't mean they were bad people, or that they didn't have amazing skill-sets. They just were the wrong people for the job, and perhaps had responsibilities that were not in line with what they could deliver. I think that is probably one of the biggest mistakes that I have made. I have hired people and put them in roles that they just weren't ready for.

It can have a negative impact on the performance of a business and that person, because they don't feel great about not doing a good job. It can also create cultural issues, because when people see others struggling, it's tough on a culture.

E-commerce is a new form of retail. It's still only 12 to 13 percent of overall retail, and some predict it will be 40 or 50 percent within the next five to eight years. I think that hiring someone in an operational role in an e-commerce-focused business that didn't have the background was probably one of my biggest mistakes.

Early on in my career, especially as a CEO, there was a tendency for me to try to do things myself. I wasn't asking for advice or for enough involvement in the hiring process.

As a CEO, no matter what happens in the business, it's your fault.

The Lesson:

I have really taken a lot of care in the last few years to make sure that we hire the right people, and that we really do all we can to make them successful. One of my philosophies in hiring is that you're making a commitment to their life. You're not just hiring a person to do a job, but you're making a commitment to their family and their well-being, and you have to take it seriously.

The challenge there is that there aren't a lot of people with experience, especially early on in e-commerce. You're in an industry where past experience doesn't necessarily guarantee future success. I probably could have been more careful to make sure that I chose the right person and put them in the right position to succeed.

One of the things that I have done differently now is I really involve my partners. I've got shareholders that are engaged and a board that loves the business as much as I do. One of the things that I consciously do to make sure that I don't make that mistake again is I really involve a broad set of people in the decision of hiring or promoting. I take a lot of care in finding out what others think.

As a CEO, no matter what happens in the business, it's your fault. You're ultimately responsible for everything, even though you don't make every decision or do every little thing in the business. When things don't go right, it's your responsibility. I think that's the right philosophy for any CEO, because it will breathe accountability throughout the organization.

If your direct reports and your team see that you're ultimately accountable, others will tend to flock to accountability and take it on.

Pictured: Drew Green | Photo courtesy of Indochino

Follow Indochino on Twitter at: @INDOCHINO

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