CEOs who lead well tomorrow often know the right steps to take today. Business changes often. Technology changes rapidly. This makes it difficult for leaders to know what decision to make today that will propel their company to success.
One CEO who understands how to grow a company and a platform, amidst this kind of change, is Chris Lamontagne, the CEO of Teespring – an e-commerce platform to create and sell products. Teespring is a tech company focused on working with passionate people who want to grow social awareness through social commerce.
Leaders who wish to lead well can gather helpful leadership insights from Lamontagne and the decisions he makes as he builds Teespring.
He shares thoughts on the future of technology, social commerce, turn around strategies, and how to lead a team during difficult times.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.
Ken Gosnell: Since becoming the CEO of Teespring, you have been very focused on strategic partnerships as a pathway to growth. What does it mean to you to be the right partner with others, and what makes a great partnership?
Chris Lamontagne: Partnerships have become critical to our growth strategy, both from creating a point of differentiation but also creating a faster path to growth. In 2017, we restructured the way we did partnerships. This process begins with putting our partners first.
We embraced a passion for understanding precisely what our partners wanted to get out of the relationship with us. We also committed to working hard to over-deliver on our promises. Practically that meant beating deadlines, over-exceeding on performance, quick responses, and always bringing ideas to the table that would benefit.
Ken Gosnell: Tech companies start and fail at an alarming rate. What is key to staying ahead in a rapidly moving industry?
Chris Lamontagne: We have found it incredibly important to create the right ecosystem around us by understanding how other companies in related spaces are responding to change. This goal has meant regularly checking in on the broader landscape, trying to meet as many people as possible, attend events and a lot of subject matter reading. Additionally, we have found particular success in building an insights team whose job it is to look 6/9/12 months ahead at trends and innovations affecting the world, which could be prevalent to our business model.
Ken Gosnell: You have been strategically focused on growth as the CEO, and as the former Vice President of Commercial at Teespring. What are your thoughts on tech companies embracing growth as the key to success?
Chris Lamontagne: I have been lucky to lead growth at some incredible companies. Ultimately, growth is hard. One of the first things you learn is there is no silver bullet that just works. Instead, it’s the iteration and determination of continuing to push, which typically drives success.
I think this plays nicely into being a CEO, but certainly isn’t the only skill set that’s required. I am still very much learning the other parts of the job, and I am lucky to have a reliable leadership team and board that support me in doing that.
Ken Gosnell: You have stated that you are continually working to develop a better understanding of today’s connected customer. Can you explain why you are so passionate about staying connected to your customer?
Chris Lamontagne: Connectivity of the consumer is now common-place, and every business (big and small) needs to lean into better leverage the data that exists on their customer and audience at-large.
Beyond this, in a previous role, I was lucky enough to work closely with a leading ethnography specialist (Editor’s Note: Ethnography is the systematic study of people and cultures.) and top service designers and was able to truly understand the power of understanding the customer and how it can transform a business. It was this experience that has fueled my passion for tapping into the connected customer.
Ken Gosnell: I’ve observed that you are a learning leader. As one of your first acts as CEO, you began a listening tour of other tech companies to find out what they were thinking and doing. What inspired you to go on your listening tour?
Chris Lamontagne: In all honesty, it was more of an “I-want-to-work-with-you” tour in disguise! But ultimately, my motivation behind this was to study the success of others and understand how we could better leverage them into our businesses.
Ken Gosnell: Customer intimacy is essential for success. It can be difficult for a tech company to stay close to its customers. How do you stay close to your customers?
Chris Lamontagne: We have a vast customer base, that is growing every day. We could do much better staying close to our customers and plan to get better on this in the coming months. Making precise definitions of who our customer is and how they are essential to us is a chief priority. This process was step one, creating a very definite call out on who they are and how we can do better by them.
Ken Gosnell: Finding and developing the right team is critical for a company’s success. What factors or values do you consider when adding someone to a critical role in your organization?
Chris Lamontagne: I think a person’s energy is incredibly underestimated and ultimately can be the difference in an A+ player and a B+ player. We think of all roles in our organization as crucial, and with this, we look to see that employees care about what they are doing. This concept sounds like a platitude, but you can see the difference between someone who cares and someone who doesn’t, and we are always looking for examples of this when bringing people into the business.
Ken Gosnell: Teespring is an e-commerce platform that focuses on social commerce. Why is social commerce important, and what should creators know about your platform and why they should partner with you?
Chris Lamontagne: Social commerce is still a relatively new concept, despite having many iterations in the advent of the internet, and we believe there is still so much to be discovered.
We believe in a world where anyone with an idea can build a business, removing any complexity that once existed in building a traditional company. For content creators specifically, we see content and commerce starting to converge across the many platforms that we use in our lives (e.g., YouTube’s Merchandise Shelf, Instagram shopping, Facebook’s Newsfeed, Snap Commerce, etc.). We want to provide more opportunities for creators to sell unique products their communities will love.
Ken Gosnell is the CEO and Servant Leader of CXP (CEO Experience). He serves leaders by helping them to have great experiences that both transform them and their organizations that enable to go further faster. He has worked with hundreds of CEOs and leadership teams to enhance strategic, operational and people accomplishments. He is an author, coach, and strategic partner with CEOs. Ken is the creator and facilitator of the Christian CEO Linkedin Group and creator of the CEO Experience Impact Assessment. He is married to Shonda, and they have four children. Connect with @ken_gosnell on Twitter.
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