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We are working with Strata Shops in its search for a Director of Ecommerce based in Elkhart, IN.

HARRY’S COMMENTS: If you haven’t seen the TV show The Profit, you really should check it out. The Profit is a reality show on CNBC about a billionaire entrepreneur named Marcus Lemonis who will buy a controlling interest (usually 51%) in a struggling small business and turn it into something great. It’s sort of like the Apprentice, but with real businesses and real money on the line.

I thought I knew a lot about business until I started watching the show very carefully. Turns out, I’m book smart — but that’s not nearly enough in the gritty day-to-day world of small business. You have to have a BIG demand-driven idea, and you need to be able execute around that. Marcus’ template for turning around businesses revolves around 3 major areas: People, Product, and Processes.

Last week Marcus took over the Key West Key Lime Pie Company.

Wasn’t that interesting?

In my recruiting career I’ve been blessed to interview dozens of IR-500 entrepreneurs and it seems that the “5/95 Rule” applies to that population: 5% of IR-500 entrepreneurs have 95% of the success in the marketplace. Anecdotally speaking, the traits that separate the stars (like Marcus Lamonis, the former CEO of CampingWorld.com) from the dogs include accurate thinking (Principle #10), ethics / integrity; leadership skills; the ability to attract top talent; vision; industry knowledge; operational ability; some business education; and a pinch of charisma.

John Webber of StrataShops has all of these traits in spades and double.

John began his ecommerce career at age 15 selling hacky-sacks online with a company he christened Dragonfly Footbags. In his early 20s, John did web design for local manufacturing companies in his hometown of Elkhart, Indiana, and 6 years ago he founded StrataShops, a high-end furniture company with nine sites, including TheLivingQuarters.com and WickerCentral.com (which does 80% of the firm’s business). Today, John is only 28 years old. Amazing.

There’s a lot to like about the furniture business (like high AOVs).

The US furniture retailing industry includes about 24,000 establishments (single-location companies and units of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $50 billion. Household furniture sales are closely linked to home sales. Small players can co-exist with large ones by carrying special goods that appeal to a particular type of customer. The US industry is fragmented, with the 50 largest companies generating 35% of revenue.

StrataShops’ brands have an unbelievable reputation for knowledgeable and highly accountable customer service, and the firm has lean operations and low overhead. All of its product is drop-shipped. The firm inventories nothing. Growth opportunities include targeted sales to the trade, hotels, resorts, and country clubs. Sales can increase much faster than operating cost. The firm’s weaknesses might include a lack of proprietary products, which leaves them susceptible to the threat of competitors offering the same products.

But here’s the thing: We are looking for someone to help John run this business. That’s right. It will be your job to not only market the business, but you will have a significant influence on any and all issues relating to StrataShops’ customer experience, including …

  1. Sales and marketing
  2. Purchasing
  3. Logistics and supply chain
  4. Budgeting and reporting
  5. Operations

Basically, if something impacts the customer experience, you’ll have something to say about it — because building strong word-of-mouth among Affluents (WickerCentral’s target demo) is ALL about making good on the promises that Marketing makes to them on the front end of the sale. To succeed in this role, you’ll need DEEP expertise in the following areas:

  • Affiliate Marketing
  • Agency Management
  • Content Management Systems
  • Customer Relationship Management
  • Ecommerce Platforms
  • Gift Cards / Certificates / Loyalty programs
  • Online Customer Support / Demos / Chat
  • Order Management Systems
  • Site Search

As you can imagine, we’ve collected a massive amount of information on this client, and we’re happy to share that with highly qualified candidates. By “highly qualified,” I mean candidates who genuinely care about creating long-term customers who love StrataShops and can’t wait to tell their friends about the amazing experiences they’ve had with the firm.

Some of the customer service stories John shared with me about Wicker Central were amazing – like the one about the customer who ordered a pricey, glass topped wicker coffee table you for a party on Saturday, only to find that the glass top had broken in transit. In less than 24 hours, John’s customer service team called around the customer’s local market and had a local glass company custom cut a replacement top in time for the party.

Seriously, how many companies do you know who’d do that?

Well, that’s what kind of company culture you get to preserve, and what type of company lore you get to pass down to each new employee. And let me tell you, that’s not the only story there is like that. There are plenty of others. Which is why John would much rather hire a candidate with a strong character and the willingness to learn before hiring a genius who is not a culture fit. According to John, …

“Skills can be learned. Character doesn’t usually change.”

Bottom line, this is a fantastic role for anyone who has strong experience in ecommerce with examples of previous hands-on responsibility for growth. Obviously, experience with the furniture industry or outdoor furniture is a plus. Additionally, we’d like the new GM to have experience with Magento and know something about using open source and accessible tools to build the company. Financial management experience would be a plus as well.

This is not a workout, a turnaround, or a “special situation.”

There’s nothing in the woodpile here. Yes, StrataShops should improve its ability to execute on a daily basis in terms of the changes that should be made to its website, marketing channels, product mix, and sales strategy. And yes, the company should be a bit more strategic in how it targets and acquires new customers. But honestly, these are the normal issues one might encounter in any new ecommerce general management role.

If this opportunity appeals to you, we’d love to hear from you.


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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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