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We are working with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company in their search for a Director of Ecommerce Operations based in Shelburne, VT — just south of Burlington This is one of the coolest ecommerce director jobs around.

Vermont Teddy Bear was founded in 1981, when John Sortino was playing with his son Graham and his collection of teddy bears. Surprised to see that every one of Graham’s bears was foreign made, Sortino was inspired to bring this American tradition back to its roots. Sortino handcrafted his first bears in his wife’s sewing room and by 1983, he began to sell his bears from a peddler’s cart at an open-air market in Burlington, VT.

It took a year to sell through his first 200 bears.

One day, a tourist visiting Burlington asked for a bear to be mailed to her home. This gave Sortino the idea to package a teddy bear and add delivery service. The Bear-Gram® concept was born. Shortly before Valentine’s Day in 1990, the Company took this concept to NYC. Advertisements featuring well-known local radio personalities endorsing Bear-Gram gifts were placed on Z-100. Calls flooded the Company’s three telephone lines and within the first two days, the Company reached its sales goal for the entire year.

In 1992 Inc. Magazine recognized The Vermont Teddy Bear Co. as the 80th fastest growing private Company in the US. By 1993 the Company ranked 58th. In 1995, The Company moved into its new, 60,000 square foot home situated on 57 acres in Vermont’s picturesque Champlain Valley.

In 2014, more than 150,000 people a year visit the Vermont Teddy Bear Co. to find out how teddy bears are made. The Company now handcrafts more than 150,000 Bears for its Bear-Gram gift delivery service and employs 162 year round staff.

Check out Vermont Teddy Bear’s Valentine’s Day TV Commercial

Vermont Teddy Bear seeks a new Director of Ecommerce Operations.

The Director of Ecommerce Operations will lead, develop, and maintain VTB’s ecommerce store assets (VTB and sister companies) in support of the mission and goals of the organization. This includes leading the online content and design roles and working in collaboration with the organizational teams responsible for generating content, merchandising, selling, branding, and developing functionality that enhances the customers experience and maximizes conversion and profitable revenue.

Functional areas of oversight include (but are not limited to):

  • Online Store User Experience and Functionality
  • Online Store Management and Quality Control
  • Strategic and Operational Collaboration with internal & external clients
  • Ecommerce evangelism (educating and leading the organization)

HARRY’S COMMENTS: Because I spend so much time writing and consulting, I read a lot of books. Not too long ago someone whom I consider very brilliant referred me to 80/20 Sales and Marketing by Perry Marshall. Phenomenal book. The 80/20 rule seems fairly straightforward, but I didn’t realize that the 80/20 rule is really a power law, which is a functional relationship between two quantities, where one quantity varies as a power of another.

Consider Phoenix, AZ.

80% of the traffic in Phoenix traverses 20% of the roads. But it doesn’t end there. If you look at just the 20% of those roads, 80% of that traffic traverses 20% of those roads. Meaning, 64% of Phoenix residents traverse 4% of the roads. Taken to the next level, 52% of the travelers drive on just 0.8% (that’s “point eight percent”) of the roads.

The 80/20 effect is exponential – and it applies to almost anything you can measure in business:

  • Sources of incoming phone calls
  • Effectiveness of sales channels
  • Sales to specific customers
  • Physical point of origin for all incoming or outgoing products
  • Problem employees
  • Customer service problems
  • Activity patterns by day week or month
  • Sources of web traffic
  • Advertising waste
  • Reasons customers buy
  • … and infinitely more.

I like to say that most ecommerce operations jobs are all about “making the trains run on time.” Yet this one is about so much more than that. It’s about bringing a high-impact, 80/20 operations philosophy to every aspect of VTB’s business. You’ll be expected to FIRST identify the revenue growth opportunities and potential efficiency gains – and THEN do something about it.

That might involve …

  • Studying ways that the ecommerce organization can be improved by continuously reevaluating workflows, reporting relationships, roles and responsibilities
  • Reevaluating ecommerce staffing levels and capacity requirements to improve the team’s effectiveness
  • Identifying and implement best practices for recruiting and training the ecommerce team
  • Reviewing VTB’s methods for long and short range ecommerce planning; forecasting; budgeting; developing and launching new products
  • And more

Normally there’s a line between internal audit and “management by walking around.” But not here. What we need is someone who how to apply basic business operations concepts (unity of objective; efficiency; span of management; division of work; etc.) to GROWING the top and bottom lines in a hypothesis-driven, 80/20 way.

What does that mean, exactly?

For one thing, it means breaking down into their component parts the major ecommerce KPI’s of Revenue; Average Revenue per Visit; Orders; Average Order Value; and Order Conversion Rate – then going after the high-payoff changes in each of those things. For example, …

  • Revenue can be tweaked and improved through improvements in conversion rates, and revenue per order. Where will you begin?
  • Average Revenue per Visit can be improved through improvements in cross sells, upsells, usability, and more. What will you test first?
  • Orders can be juiced through improvements in conversion rates, and tweaks revenue per order.
  • Average Order Value can be improved through customer loyalty, big-ticket items, and better usability.
  • Order Conversion Rate can be improved by better usability. What’s your process for identifying the 20% of the improvements that will yield 80% of the results?

Imagine trying to find out from where a gas leak is coming from when you are the only person who can smell it. That’s the deal. And once you find the leak, you get to develop and sell your plan for fixing it a way that’s fast, reality-based, and involves very little wear and tear on the company.

My 90 minute kickoff call for this search involved 5 officers, including the CEO.

Rarely does that happen for a director level search. Yet that’s how important this role is. Sure, this role involves blocking and tackling, but the company seeks to double its revenues and profits, and that doesn’t happen through incremental improvements. In fact, one of the CEO’s requirements of this new hire is that s/he be scalable: “If I squint, can I see this person as an officer in five years?”

That means not only looking at the things that prevent VTB from growing its ecommerce channel, but also prevent it from growing its overall business. Understand that direct response is in VTB’s DNA. These people measure everything, and they recognize the value of testing small, failing fast and cheap, and doubling down on proven winners. 80/20 sales and marketing comes naturally to them.

Plus, VTB is a very seasonal business, which offers its own set of sales and operations challenges. For much of the year, the company is overcapacitized. At other times, it might be undercapacitized. You’ll need to be inventive in how you manage these issues.

Finally – and this one is tricky – you’ll need to think like a real marketer in this role. For example, if the next big idea in gift delivery doesn’t fit under VTB’s current umbrella, you shouldn’t be afraid to suggest launching a microsite and doing a small mass media test just to see if the concept has legs. As an operations executive, how many times has a multi-million dollar company given you a mandate to launch a product?

I’ve never seen it, and I’ve managed 500+ ecommerce searches.

As my regular readers might know, one of the things that attracts me to a search is a role that I know will be reputation enhancing for whomever takes it. A smart, business-oriented, strategically literate, financially educated, operations up-and-comer will find this position extremely rewarding now – and far into the future.

Essential Duties & Responsibilities

  • Responsible for the online store assets for product, content, and operations (quality, timeliness and accuracy)
  • Ensures online store supports the VTB operational needs and aligns with operational strategies for execution
  • Responsible for store management, including user experience, brand identity, and merchandising implementations within guidelines provided by brand and merchants
  • Designs and implements online store functionality, enhances existing functionality, exits obsolete, investigates new opportunities, continuously refines online store with testing
  • Act as project manager for web projects; continually manages list of needs and functionality for maintenance and advancement based on industry trends and alignment with VTB strategies
  • Accountable for defining and managing user experience goals and quality of experience of online store
  • Develop, refine, monitor, and develop goals to measure and improve online store metrics based on industry standards, relevant industry benchmarks, and VTB goals
  • Improves processes to support highly-effective web content management with supporting and partner teams
  • Leads as the organizational Online Store Evangelist, guiding and educating the organization on the needs for successful online stores, functionality, trends, governance, and projects
  • Evaluates and develops business cases for projects and requests for the online store, prioritizes requests based on VTB strategies and value
  • Develops and maintains a strong partnership and understanding of the IT environment to ensure that projects and efforts align or enhance the capabilities of the supporting systems and operations
  • Contributes to the strategy and tactics for online store advertising and marketing
  • Work with the organizational leadership to ensure a continually refined understanding of the VTB business, strategies, and tactical plans to ensure online store operations are aligned and supportive
  • Develop and manage the Ecommerce Budget based on VTB corporate and budgetary goals
  • Develop and maintain a highly effective team, geared for high quality and agile performance, focused on online store excellence
  • Provide 24 x 7 on-call support
  • Demonstrate VTBC’s customer service philosophy and effective communication skills while supporting client needs
  • Responsible for adherence and team leadership for VTBC’s departmental, corporate, and financial policies and procedures
  • Assist VP with the development, maintenance, dissemination and adherence to departmental Action Plans on a year-round basis
  • Responsible for S.O.S participation as required during Peak Periods
  • Will follow all ergonomic standards and safety requirements directed by VTBC and the department.
  • This position supervises web content and design staff.

Qualifications

This position requires a high level of attention to detail, quality, effective verbal and written communication skills along with excellent follow-through and project management capabilities. Must have the ability to effectively communicate and collaborate. Drive efficient and business case based decision-making for Ecommerce Operations project. Align store performance and project prioritization with VTB leaders and team members. Must have the ability to maintain and educate the organization based on the rapidly changing ecommerce industry and internal business needs. Requires self-direction and the ability to lead projects and teams. Must be flexible and react positively to change.

Education / Experience

Four year college degree in Computer Science, Usability or related discipline or equivalent work experience is required. Minimum ten years web design, web master, or ecommerce experience within a retail company. Fully versed in the industry, language, and metrics of retail ecommerce; Demonstrated leadership roles in leading staff and peers. Project management experience desired.

UPDATE: THIS SEARCH IS CLOSED.

PS – If you’re thinking about changing jobs this year (though us or anyone else), you might want to check out this post on why even TOP candidates get rejected.

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Harry Joiner

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