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Channel Mastery Podcast

Channel Mastery Podcast, Presented by Verde Strategy:
Episode #29 Host: Kristin Carpenter-Ogden Guest: Ben Johns
DATE: Jan 23 2018
Download the Transcript here
GUEST PROFILE: Ben Johns is the DVP, general merchandising manager at REI. A 28-year veteran of the iconic co-operative, he’s a seasoned retailer who embraces challenge and change. The philosophy that has guided his career is grounded in listening, genuinely caring about people, taking smart risks, and working hard. Ben is a proponent and practitioner of servant leadership, which shows in his willingness to adapt and inspire change.

EPISODE PREVIEW: REI is nothing short of miraculous that as a one-stop shop for just about every form of outdoor adventure, and somehow with this wide repertoire, the Co-op retains the cachet and the authenticity of the local “corner” outdoor store. So how has the outdoor industry’s biggest specialty chain store managed to maintain its authenticity? Even more, how is this legacy operation retaining its leadership position as the retail world rapidly changes?

Ben gives us a peek behind the curtain of one our greatest models for success. He walks us through how REI continually integrates entrepreneurial leadership practices into its operations to keep it far from being ‘legacy.’

Topics covered: helping legacy organizations evolve, shifting leadership mindset, REI, organizational management and transformation, key indicators of change, pace of implementing change, analyzing data qualitatively and quantitatively, humility in leadership, brutal truths, speed, welcoming feedback at all levels, teaming across divisions, offense vs defense operations


“[REI is] oriented so much more now around the idea of curiosity. We’ve always been proud of putting our members at the center of what we do. But much more so, now, we’re organizing how we work and what we do around them.”

“We’re building a framework in which all of the organization can work [toward] developing this cycle around: learn, hypothesize, experiment, measure, and then repeat.”

“You’ve [still] got to have formal reporting, but our heads are much more oriented to ‘teaming.’ How do we bring small teams of people across divisional lines to work on unique problems and to try to advance the business?”

“You’ve got to be bold with your ideas, and sometimes stretch [them] beyond what seems rational. Somewhere in there it’s going to inspire something that may be pretty crazy, but actually quite rational to try!”

“I think being a leader today is, it’s a tricky business. You really have to take a humble pill and listen a lot.”

“For us to do well as an organization and for the ecosystem to thrive, we’re all going to be better off if more of us are out there pushing, competing, thinking, creating, trying, and just moving forward.”

“[CEO Jerry Stritzke] wrapped up five different ideas or words that we’ve all been playing with and insisting that we apply. They are: speed, accountability, transparency, stewardship, and learning agenda.”

“When you take these things together – brutal truths plus [the five] ideas, offense is the natural outcome.”

“Data is great. But putting it into context and having person-to-person conversations around why it matters — that’s where the money is.”



Connect with Ben on LinkedIn:


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