Clint Betts

Laura, thank you so much for joining the show. You are newly the CEO of Radial, is that correct?

Laura Ritchey

That is correct.

Clint Betts

How long have you been in this position?

Laura Ritchey

Almost two months.

Clint Betts

How are you feeling?

Laura Ritchey

I'm feeling good. And first, thank you for having me. I'm super excited to talk about thefun that I'm having in my new role, and to obviously hear your thoughts about it. I'm joining at the busiest time of the year for us, so we are heading into our holiday peak season, so definitely an abrupt change. But thankfully, I've been with Radial for almost two and a half years, so I have the context on our people and our clients, which helps a lot.

Clint Betts

So, it might be useful for those who don't know — obviously Radial is pretty well-known — what Radial is. What excited you about becoming the CEO of this company and where do you see yourself and the team taking it now in the future as its CEO? You must be having a lot of these thoughts now sitting in that chair.

Laura Ritchey

Yeah, absolutely. If I think about Radial's history, Michael Rubin founded the company GSI Commerce in 1998 with the thought of people weren't really doing a lot to sell online at that time, and so how could we offer a solution that was really seamless from click to delivery in terms of the customer experience? And that's really what we do today. So, from the moment that customer clicks to buy something online, we are routing that order through our systems, handling the payments that are needed, making sure that it gets to the right warehouse location to get put into packaging and sent to that customer's point of delivery. So, it really remains that focus. Now you would say 1998 was a long time ago, so clearly, what I'm thinking about is how have we evolved over the years and how do we need to keep evolving with the changes that have happened since then?

Clint Betts

How has your day changed and your focus changed going from COO to CEO over the past two months?

Laura Ritchey

It's a great question, and I've actually reached out to others who've gone through that experience, because when you're in operations, it's 24/7. You hear about, "This went great. This is broken." Of course, that always happens on Friday nights or through to Sunday nights, and that changes, right? Because my team of very capable operators has stepped up to fill those roles. And so, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about next year. Focused on peak, but what's next year look like? What does the week after look like? But you really have to be disciplined about that, because of course, as a former COO, it's going to be very easy for me to jump back into those operating details.

Clint Betts

Yeah, I'm sure. What do you think about leadership and leading the team and setting a culture at Radial now?

Laura Ritchey

I don't know that that has changed, really. So, I know I saw one of your broadcasts where the person talked about self-leadership, and I really think as a leader, a lot of what we do is that shadow of a leader that comes from Senn Delaney in terms of you want to behave in a way that others see as a role model of leadership. You want to demonstrate caring because you do care as a leader, and you want to understand that whole person. So, it probably hasn't changed other than I'm thinking even more strategically about that today than maybe I was a few weeks ago.

Clint Betts

Yeah, that's interesting. Yeah, I mean, what does a typical day look like for you? We've talked about this a lot on the show, as you mentioned, particularly because in an interview with Reed Hastings and Netflix, he said, "If you can't lead yourself, how could you possibly lead others?" And that's just stuck out to me ever since he said that. And I wonder how you lead yourself and what does a typical day look like for you?

Laura Ritchey

It's, again, funny and a great question because I've read so much about leadership and what you shouldn't do and what you should do. And so, they say, don't look at your phone until you're ready for the day. I found that doesn't work for me because I feel angst — particularly because we have a European parent company — about what's happened overnight. So, I do wake up, I do look at my phone and see what the emergency of the moment might be. And then, putting that aside, I do go about getting ready. I've tried meditation, again, something that people say is really important and I find my mind is very active, and so it's kind of easier to let that run and just jot down some thoughts.

I'm also a big preparer. So, the night before when I'm finishing up, I will already kind of know what my day will look like, and so that helps me kind of step into the day. Now, of course, everyone knows that the day never goes as planned. So, 25% is unexpected to deal with, but really, it's trying to set aside that time where I'm focusing on the strategic, I'm connected with the people. For me, the best time is being with our people. So, because we have physical locations, I get the opportunity to do that with our sites and our site leadership, and I gain so much energy from being able to be on the floor with our teams. I'll be doing that for the next couple of weeks as we're going through peak particularly.

Clint Betts

How do you decide to spend your time? That's an interesting question, like the night before. And as CEO now, how do you decide, "Here's what I'm going to focus on today"? Because I'm sure you could get lost in a lot of details.

Laura Ritchey

Yes. I really say, "Where do we need to go for 30 days? Where do we need to go for 90 days? And where do we need to go for a year?" So, as I'm thinking about my day, I tried to get away from tomorrow, the next day and the next week, but really setting those time buckets. Because you're right, again, it'll be super easy to go back to the role that I had just a short time ago. And by allowing myself to say, "It's still important what's going to happen in the next 30 days, but I also need to be setting those longer time horizons," and those buckets help me. I'm also very deliberate about creating things that I really want to accomplish and then focusing until they're done. So, I'm not the kind of person that might do 12% of everything and then go back through the list. I would rather, to the extent possible, spend that time focused and full mindshare on the things that I need to get done.

Clint Betts

How do you think of AI now as everyone's thinking about AI, every single company, and I wonder how it affects Radial? That's actually a really interesting question. I'm sure you guys are thinking about that. What do you think about AI? What do you think of the future of AI? How do you think it disrupts Radial and even beyond?

Laura Ritchey

That's another great question. We have a lot of use cases. Obviously, we're a customer service-focused organization, so we'll be able to use AI to make sure that the solutions that we're offering are pointed to our clients in the right way, that we understand their needs. But I think even more importantly, we'll be able to use it, I think to enrich the experience of our people. And I've spoken about this before, that we have a multilingual population that comes from all types of geography and socioeconomic circumstances. And so, using AI to train people differently, to onboard them differently, to be able to adjust.

We use these RF devices. If they're navigating through and they're getting lost, automatically prompt them how to get back on track without waiting until a supervisor has to come over and do that physically. So, you're really enabling them to be more successful and to do that real time, and their ability to perform is enhanced because we're, hopefully, able to interact with them in their native language. We're also able to translate what we do into steps that are more simple to execute. I think we've made some things in warehousing so complicated that it just is tough to come into a new role and get up to speed right away.

Clint Betts

The other conversation that's kind of dominating most companies and most leaders right now is this whole work from home, virtual, hybrid, should people be in the office, should they not? Obviously, Radial is a little bit different because you've got the warehouse part of the business. But I wonder how you've thought about work from home and this whole debate that's happened post-COVID about the appropriate amount of time to be in the office.

Laura Ritchey

You hit the nail on the head when you talked about the warehouses. People are like, "We want to work from home." And I'm like, "Well, that doesn't really work for 25 of our locations, where we need people to come to work every day." So, what I think about it is we need to be together when we need to be together. So, if that's in the warehouses every day, because that's obviously how we process the goods out to our end customer, then that's where we need to be. If we're working on projects in those locations, we need to be there. As a leadership team at various levels throughout the organization, we need to be coming together and ensuring that we have that trust and clear direction that drives the team forward. So, we hire talent from everywhere, and then we create those moments for collaboration and really driving the business forward. So, I guess that's probably kind of a way of saying hybrid, but we speak about it in the way that I just did.

Clint Betts

How do you define culture inside of Radial? That must be interesting, the various wings of the business. How do you set a culture that everyone buys into?

Laura Ritchey

So, we really do it around three pillars. In a service business, people will say, "Well, it's clients first," or, "it's financials first," or, "it's people first." I don't actually think that. So, we of course have a Venn diagram that shows that it's really our people, our clients, and our performance. And our culture needs to have ways of working that appropriately prioritize those. Because at any given time, you might have to go more into one circle or the other. But at the end of the day, we want to do right by our people, we want to deliver on our client promises, and we obviously want to satisfy the needs of all of our stakeholders. So, it's a pretty basic message, but culturally, it can be quite powerful to just speak about it that way and let that be our guide for decision making.

Clint Betts

Oh, that's interesting. So, your company's values are what you just described. How did you come up with those? I mean, what are your company's values? How'd you come up with them?

Laura Ritchey

So, the values underneath that are curiosity, collaboration, respect, passion, and fun, and those are the ways of working. So, we want to work together in a collaborative manner with our teams and with our clients. We need to always be learning. As I said, our industry is a little different than 1998 now. And we want to do all of that with a passion, respect for others while we're having fun. And so, that is really these ways of working that I talk about that bring to life these three pillars of people, client, and performance.

Clint Betts

Is there a moment where you failed or didn't quite live up to your expectations that you look back on now as being instrumental in your growth as a leader?

Laura Ritchey

Absolutely. I worked in public accounting when I first came out of school and I made a mistake. I forgot to do a filing for a client with a regulatory body. And so, the first moment is when you figure out you made a mistake and you're really overwhelmed and kind of afraid. The second is when you realize it was a regulatory filing, so that's even more serious than making a mistake that is more easily corrected. But the third was going to a manager, who was appropriately stern about making the mistake, but also, a part of finding the solution.

I think that sometimes people want to get engaged in finger pointing when you make a mistake. And it really helped me learn that you need to acknowledge there was a mistake, figure out how we're not going to do it again, and then make sure that you fixed it. If you think about everything in that way, then it's a teaching moment, right? It's a teaching moment, and generally, it can be fixed. Now, that one was a little painful to fix, but we were able to do it.

Clint Betts

How do you look at the macroeconomic environment currently, the state of the world? How much of your time is focused on that? Because every leader has to focus on that to some degree nowadays, versus internal, let's all stay focused.

Laura Ritchey

I focus on it to the extent that I understand it, right? I think we all wish we could control it and we could make retail sales go up, we could create a different macroeconomic environment. In addition to being aware of it, it's what we can control internally. So, we think about how we position ourselves for when we've seen a rebound in the retail sector, which is largely what we serve. How do we position ourselves to make investments right now where maybe there are some external challenges, so that we're prepared to be thinking ahead for the future. So, the macroeconomic conditions for me are something to be aware of, something to think about, but also, really an opportunity to position ourselves for that continued growth.

Clint Betts

Finally, and again, thank you so much for your time. It's such an honor to have you, and I know this is a super busy season for you, so thank you so much. We end every interview the exact same way, and that's at CEO.com. We believe the chances one gives are just as important as the chances one takes. And I wonder when you hear that, who gave you a chance that got you to where you are today?

Laura Ritchey

I watched the prior podcast, so I knew this question was coming in. I have to tell you, it's a fabulous question and I really had to think hard about it. So, thank you for having me. It's been great to speak with you. When I was in law school, I had interviewed for a small firm to be an intern. And my grades were pretty good, but I really had no experience. I'm a student and they wouldn't typically hire a first-year law student to do this internship, but they took a chance on me. One of the partners took a chance on me. He took me under his wing and he really taught me to fly.

He had me going to the judge's chambers and getting court orders signed. I'm terrified, right? I'm a first-year law student. And so, it really gave me the courage to try to not be concerned, to know that most failure is a two-way door, and that you can walk back and you can do better. Very empowering. It still gives me goosebumps when I talk about it. But thank you for having me reflect on it, and it's really been a joy to speak with you.

Clint Betts

That's beautiful. Laura, thank you so much. Good luck this season and we'll see you down the road.

Laura Ritchey

Sounds great. Thank you.