Kyle Vucko was just 21 when he and University of Victoria classmate Heikal Gani started Indochino. In the eight years since, the Vancouver-based menswear e-tailer has delivered product to more than a hundred thousand customers in 130 countries.
Once a pure-play e-commerce company, Indochino now has seven permanent bricks-and-mortar locations, including recently-opened showrooms in Boston and Toronto. The company has over 100 employees, and CEO Vucko was named one of Forbes 30 Under 30 in the retail category for 2015.
Can Indochino still call itself a startup? Vucko insists that the company retains its innovative approach to retail, but points out that expecting everything to remain the same would be naÃ¯ve. “We very much hold onto our entrepreneurial roots and build structure and stability around those roots,” says Vucko. “So we have a well-operating company in addition to a highly innovative one.”
As his company has evolved, Vucko has had to adapt accordingly. The precocious entrepreneur explains what he’s learned while growing Indochino.
Keep the continuity
Early employees can become obsolete as a business evolves, with skills and knowledge needed at startup becoming less important as scale is achieved. It’s not uncommon for a founder to get left behind as his or her company grows.
Rather than jealously guard control, Vucko and Gani have opted to bring in a capable executive team. Trusting your team to do their jobs isn’t a choice, it’s a necessity, argues Vucko. “You could figure it out on your own when you had 20 team members, but when you get beyond maybe 30, it just starts growing at an exponential scale in terms of number of people and complexity,” he says. “You just can’t physically keep up anymore, and so you have to rely on their judgement.”
But that doesn’t mean you step back completely. The knowledge gained from experiencing a company’s journey from the driver’s seat can be useful, notes Vucko. “What I have is a depth of continuity and experience that very few people have in the organization,” he says. “[I have] the intuition of where to poke and prod, and [can] also help them avoid pitfalls or things that we’ve tried before and didn’t work for any number of reasons.”
A little formality is a good thing
Structure doesn’t always seem necessary during the startup phase of a company. “In the earlier days you can get through it just through sheer force because you’ve got a small, highly engaged team that’s working around the clock, swapping notes, living on Skype and doing calls late at night,” says Vucko. “As you get bigger that gets harder to do. You have to get more formalized with communication, so you centralize functions.”
One reason Indochino has had to build structure is that a third of the company’s employees—including co-founder, president and Chief Creative Officer Gani—operate out of Shanghai. Beyond the time difference, there are cultural differences between different geographies and even different departments of a company. Indochino tackles this by locating functions of the business “one side of the pond or the other so that they can really deliver and own something,” says Vucko.
Go where you’re needed
The beauty of being the boss is you get to decide what you do. But remember to balance the needs of your company with what you can reasonably expect to achieve with your particular interests and skills. “You start developing expertise in a few areas or focusing on areas that need the most help,” says Vucko. “You’ve scaled marketing and grown sales, so now let’s go focus on [building] an operation that can sustain and build suits to that level of sale. So you move around a fair bit.”
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How has your role changed as your business has scaled up? Share your growth stories using the comments section below.