Envista CEO Opines On Traditional Retailers vs. Amazon

But you’re not going to compete against Amazon, because that ship has sailed. But there are things that you can do where [you have an advantage]. Everybody thinks that the store is the Achilles’ heel of retail. Let’s take Spencer’s Gifts. Those stores, and that experience that you have at a store, is impactful on the digital side. Because again, you’re in the store, you’re going to purchase something. Your conversion rate in-store is much higher than your 1% conversion rate on your digital website. But it’s how to merge digital and physical together. And the reality is Amazon, frankly, are not going to put up 650 stores, right? The way that retailers can compete against Amazon is leveraging that personal relationship of store associate to you, right? There’s nothing personal at all about Amazon. I mean, I buy commodities off of Amazon, but I’m not going to go buy something that really requires me to touch and feel a product, right?

Leveraging stores to build relationships with the consumer, and to create brand loyalty is important beyond just having the items, the inventory, the systems, right? And I think that’s where people can identify, right? I mean, there’s a certain type of buyer for Spencer’s. There’s a certain type of buyer for Nordstrom’s. There’s a certain type of buyer, right, that goes into a Dick’s Sporting Goods. I mean, there’s a certain type of buyer that goes into REI. Amazon can’t compete with that personal relationships.

How have you evolved as a leader?

At the end of the day, I’m very passionate about what we do. I also know that it’s not about me, it’s about others. And so how do I enable others to be successful? Because their success creates, quite frankly, our success.

And so I think there’s a couple of key principles that I follow…it’s not about excuses, it’s about how we can be proactive, focusing on a common purpose and outcome, because I think when you have outcomes that have been designed by my leadership team and we have a common purpose, the purpose is definitely the motivating factor because [people] motivate themselves.

So a lot of this, quite frankly, has been done over time. A lot of coaching and a lot of mentorship with executive coaches I had, reading a lot of books. And quite frankly, I hate to say this, a lot of trial and error, right? I mean, so the reality is, and people say, “Well Jim, you can go to West Point, or go to the Naval Academy, that they will teach you leadership. You go to an MBA program; they will teach leadership.” They don’t really teach you leadership. People who come out of those programs quite frankly aren’t [necessarily] very good leaders. You know what I’m saying?

I think it comes down to having a core value and a moral compass, an integrity about doing the right thing all the time for our customers and associates, which doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right thing for you. You know what I’m saying?

So again, I don’t make decisions that are always about me, it’s about we. And as a leader, that has to always be in the forefront, right? Because the organization is much bigger than any CEO, and it’s this entity that exists that will survive without me, period. You know what I’m saying? And you as a CEO have to know that. But my goal is to set the vision and to ensure we have a common purpose and we know what our purpose is and what the outcomes are, both financially…but everybody else’s goals, really execute that, right? So that’s, yeah. I wish I had a playbook about leadership but I don’t. A lot of it is through trial and error.

I think people are respectful of who I am and what I do because I’m in the arena. I don’t mind getting my hands dirty, right? I enjoy getting my hands dirty. As a matter of fact, I want to get my hands dirty. And that’s the way I lead. I don’t lead from a glass box looking down at people. I’m actually in the arena making sure that our team’s successful.

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