“5 things I wish someone told me before I became a President” with Meganne Wecker

An Interview with Phil La Duke

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Overly sensitive people should avoid being an executive. You need to be able to take criticism and find value in it.

As a part of our series about powerful women, I had the pleasure of interviewing fourth generation furniture maven Meganne Wecker. Meganne is the President and CCO for Skyline Furniture and founder of Cloth & Company. Meganne’s success was born from her ability to pick trends and move her company’s strategy accordingly. In the early 2000’s when Meganne was in her 20’s, she pivoted her business to e-commerce, applying Skyline’s successful drop-ship manufacturing model to the newly emerging online world. She also invested heavily in affordable fashion-forward prints filling a hole in the market for young consumers and growing her business from a modest family company to a multi-million dollar powerhouse. In October 2016, Meganne expanded her capabilities by investing in the only upholstery grade digital printer in the country and launched Cloth & Company, Skyline’s sister brand.

Thank you so much for joining us Meganne! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

We invested in the country’s first digital printer in 2016 and revolutionized the supply chain. In the existing model, a collection would need to be printed by fabric houses that required significant minimum yardage, then shipped to a manufacturer to create samples. The process was time-consuming and risky since the company had to invest in a substantial amount of inventory.

While we have been a made-to-order manufacturer since 2001 when we pivoted to eCommerce, the digital printer made us a one-stop-shop. Our retail partners can digitally design textiles that can be available to consumers in a few weeks without ever making a sample. Since our in-house printer doesn’t require a minimum run, we can print a single order and have it shipped to the consumer in days, something that would traditionally take 8–12 weeks.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once sent an email intended for a friend to a customer with the same name. I was in my early 20’s, and it was about my then-boyfriend. It wasn’t anything too scandalous, but it still was VERY embarrassing. It’s one of those classic mistakes you only make once.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. What is it about the position of CEO that most attracted you to it?

Since it is a family company, an executive role was a natural progression. However, I genuinely value this position every day. Skyline Furniture is over 70 years old, and many families have worked to build us into the company we are today. I truly feel a great responsibility to my extended Skyline family. I try to make decisions that protect their future and take pride when I see both individual employees and our company succeed.

Most of our readers — in fact, most people — think they have a pretty good idea of what a CEO or executive does. But in just a few words can you explain what an executive does that is different from the responsibilities of the other leaders?

Great leaders inspire people with their vision, but I believe executives are also tasked with creating the strategy to best achieve the vision.

What is the one thing that you enjoy most about being an executive?

Every day is something new. We are constantly challenged, but I try to embrace the struggle. It has value since it often propels change and promotes creative thinking.

What are the downsides of being an executive?

The risk you take is not just yours. You are responsible for many people’s lives and families, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a CEO or executive? Can you explain what you mean?

The biggest myth is that a strong CEO is the main factor in a companies success. While a CEO has a vision for a brand, it will never be realized without the help of a diligent team. Success with everything in life takes a village.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women executives that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

Women are often underestimated right out of the gates.

What is the most striking difference between your actual job and how you thought the job would be?

I’m more invested in my work life that I expected I would be. It is far more personal than I anticipated, given my investment in the families that work for me and my long standing relationships with customers.

Certainly, not everyone is cut out to be an executive. In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful executive, and what type of person should avoid aspiring to be an executive?

Overly sensitive people should avoid being an executive. You need to be able to take criticism and find value in it.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

I would recommend lifting up and encouraging other females. Being supportive of other women goes a long way.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father has been my mentor and my biggest supporter. He believed that I could break all the rules and be a successful woman in manufacturing. He gave me space to take risks and pave my way, while at the same time guiding me with his years of experience.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Skyline employs over 300 people. It is very important to us that the employees and their families benefit from the success of our company. We offer full health coverage for all factory workers, English classes, GED and college class reimbursement, and other benefits.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

  1. Trust your gut
  2. Don’t be afraid to fail and learn from the failure
  3. There’s no finish line for success
  4. Dream big!
  5. Enjoy the ride

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to be part of any movement that helps people to attain happiness. Our generation seems to conflate business or financial success with happiness, which is such a common misconception.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never stop learning.” This quote has guided me in several ways throughout the years. Reading and learning about how fashion companies were using technology to bring fast fashion to market inspired us to implement digital printing in our manufacturing process

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them

Michelle Obama because she is an inspiration to us all!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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