As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meganne Wecker.
Fourth generation furniture maven Meganne Wecker 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 2000s 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 gaping 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 resumé to invest in the only upholstery grade digital printer in the country and launched Cloth & Company; Skyline’s sister brand. Boasting one of the industry’s most efficient inventory free business models, Cloth & Company uses digital design and 3D technology to bring collections to market in a matter of weeks without ever making a sample. The state-of-the-art digital printing technology enables the brand to produce single run, fully customized textiles, which when combined with Skyline’s 70-year-old handcrafted techniques, allows consumers to receive product in three weeks — a “click-to-ship” timeframe unmatched in the industry.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Skyline Furniture is my family’s business, which was started by my grandfather in 1946. In college, I studied International Business and Spanish. After graduation, I wanted a job that would allow me to use my degree and travel the world but didn’t consider my family business as a viable option. At the time, Skyline’s was importing furniture from around the globe. My father never put any pressure on me to commit long-term to the business but offered me a job that would allow me to travel. In the years to follow, I became interested in design, textiles, and the fashion element of the company. I believed there was an opportunity in the market to design fashion-forward furniture that my peers would like and could afford for our first apartment. At the same time, I saw an opportunity to apply our made-to-order catalog supply chain to the newly emerging world of e-commerce. At this point, I became invested in my family business and found a niche where I could use my skill set. In 2016, we took Skyline’s made-to-order capability to the next level, investing in a digital printer and creating Cloth & Company, a fashion-focused, customizable home decor brand that uses digital design and 3D rendering to bring collections to market in a matter of weeks and shipping product to the customer in 2 weeks.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! We are working on technology that will allow customers the ability to completely customize their piece of furniture.
Ok, let’s jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
People assume that the most important factor in securing an employee’s happiness is money. In reality, money is only one element. Personal growth and sense of accomplishment are also critical. I don’t think organizations invest the time necessary to understand an individual’s personal goals and how to help achieve them. If people feel they are cared for, often you’ll see them work hard to reciprocate that investment.
Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?
An unhappy employee can be toxic for an organization because their negativity can spread to impact entire teams. Productivity is affected as dissatisfied employees will do the bare minimum, and not be invested in achieving goals. Profitability is impacted when there is turnover, as the financial investment to train a new employee is significant.
Alternatively, an employee that is excited about their contribution to company goals and sees rewards from their hard work will feel a sense of self-worth and be an important team member
Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?
• Diversity in the workforce
o Having diversity in age, gender and race allows for new ideas and encourages employees to learn from each other. Given our company is multigenerational, we often find the elder generation is having to learn new techniques from the younger team members. While conversely, the younger staffers rely upon older team members to teach the handmade craft that has been passed down for over 70 years.
• Create an environment where feedback and ideas are welcomed and encouraged.
o Some of the best improvements our company has made have come from the people working on the factory floor. They are the ones working with the products day in and day out, and often see issues before anyone else. It’s important that everyone has a voice and is allowed to share their ideas on how to improve the company.
• Allow for flexibility
o We employ a lot of young people who are juggling a career and parenthood. Allowing for flexibility in the work schedule is very important in creating a positive work/ life balance. At the end of the day, great employees will get the work done, it doesn’t have to be between the hours of 9–5.
• Encourage and reward team efforts
o No department in our organization operates in a silo. It often takes two or three teams working together to execute initiatives. When everyone is working toward the same goal we accomplish it faster. To celebrate those wins together is very important.
• Stay core to the company’s values
o Given that Skyline is a family business, and that we employ generations of families, we have always operated under the belief Skyline is an extended family. We celebrate accomplishments together and face challenges together in business and in personal.
How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?
I lead through inspiration. I am passionate about design and innovation, and look to inspire our team through my vision of what is possible. For example, I saw an opportunity for us to create the “Nike” experience of customization for furniture. In sharing this vision, our teams became invested in the concept and began to think about how they could help to make it a reality.
None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful to who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My father. He has been my mentor and my biggest supporter. He believed that I could break all the rules by being 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 350 people. It is very important to us that the employees and their families benefit from the success of our company. We offer full health benefits for all factory workers, English classes, GED and college class reimbursement, and other benefits.
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 are using digital printing to bring fast fashion to market, is what gave us the idea to implement digital printing in our manufacturing process.
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you continued success! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
Investing in the digital printer and innovating the supply chain is one of the most interesting things that has happened to us from a business standpoint. It has been amazing to realize our potential and seeing technology interplay with the production methods that we have been perfecting over the past 70 years. With our made-to-order model and the introduction of 3-D rendering and digital design, we have been able to let our imagination wander and produce collections that would have once been deemed too risky from a design standpoint. I now meet with retailers and there is genuine excitement. We not only discuss things that we can do now but also dream about what we can do in the future to further leverage our capabilities.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?
I think the changes that we need to make are two-fold. Within our work culture, we need to celebrate diversity not only in ethnicity and gender but also in skill-set and age. I think as employers we need to also ensure our workplace allows people to grow both professionally and personally. Providing ample education, health benefits and holidays is crucial, as well as just being compassionate to our employees’ needs. Our nation’s work culture would be improved if people treated everyone with the respect that we would like to be given.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Where do I begin- I would love to be part of any movement that helps us save the planent, that addresses mental health issues, that redistributes wealth, that helps improve our education systems… How long do we have??