Eighteen months after joining customize apparel company Spreadshirt, Phil Rooke took over the top spot at the company. Rooke admits the company, which allows users to design and create customized apparel, was at a bit of a crossroads when he took over, but by focusing on areas of need the company has continued to grow. BusinessNewsDaily spoke with Rooke about his start in business and how he was able to overcome the biggest challenges facing Spreadshirt when he took over.
BusinessNewsDaily: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did business interest you as a young child?
Phil Rooke: My childhood dream was to be an explorer and a scientist. I wanted to explore jungles and find cures for diseases. I became interested in business when I realized that the dynamics of business and people are just as interesting as ecosystems and genetics.
BND: What did your parents do for a living? Did this frame your career preferences at all?
PR: My mother was a geneticist and became a farmer. My father was a nuclear physicist and rocket scientist who became a systems business analyst. Both were scientific explorers who took their passion into a commercial world.
BND: Can you explain a little about your current role as CEO and how you got your start?
PR: I did not start as CEO of Spreadshirt. I began in sales, marketing and product management and was promoted to CEO after 18 months in recognition of rapid growth in my sales areas. I am fortunate that in my role as CEO of Spreadshirt, I have a brilliant team and an outstanding business concept. My primary role is to keep everyone’s concentration on customer needs and continually solving customer problems.
BND: What's the best part of directing a global corporation?
PR: It is fascinating that customer attitudes vary between countries. Essentially, all customers really demand simplicity, quality, and value regardless of country origin. The concentration on making a better service and rewarding customers by focusing on the little things has a multiplier effect when you are a global company. It is really rewarding to see the improvement and enhancement efforts pay off at tenfold the rate of input.
BND: What's the biggest mistake you've made as a CEO (at Spreadshirt or elsewhere)?
PR: Not fully predicting the value of mobile commerce in 2012. Nearly 18 months ago at Spreadshirt it was insignificant traffic, but now it is greater than 20 percent of our traffic and we predict that it will rise dramatically for the rest of this year. The real spike began in Christmas 2012 and in 2013, we are playing catch up to release the dynamic mobile and tablet versions of our platform.
BND: What previous experiences helped you navigate to the top role at Spreadshirt?
PR: As a business leader in Internet related companies for over 16 years, I have seen almost every problem that can happen to an Internet company and have found that virtually every issue can be solved by focusing on customer needs. My experience while working at Tesco.com was particularly customer centric and this has equipped me to drive Spreadshirt forward by always placing a high value on the customer experience.
BND: As CEO of Spreadshirt, What was the biggest challenge you encountered and how did you overcome it?
PR: Sourcing new high quality talent to join the Spreadshirt team is our biggest challenge. Our human resources team includes a "Feel Good manager" to make working with us more fun and align our Spreader culture with all employees. As Spreadshirt achieves more and grows, we attract new talent but we also highly value the development of our internal talent.
BND: What is the best bit of advice you have for other business leaders and CEOs?
PR: I cannot over emphasize the value of listening and responding to customers. The customer tells you what is good and bad about your product. They actually appreciate that you solve things and their input drives innovation and new products. Customers are the most valuable asset in making any business decision. Too many business visionaries and CEOs attempt to get inside the minds of the customer to gauge what they want or will think about a product. However, this is a lot harder and more time consuming than just actually meeting and talking directly with customers. The simple, direct conversation always yields the best and most trustworthy results.