Wednesday, July 17, 2019
Volume 2, Issue No. 13

3 Questions with Dansko CEO Jim Fox

When Jim Fox stepped into the CEO position at Dansko on the first of the year, he knew he was filling big shoes. The longtime CFO for the West Grove, PA-based comfort brand is the first person to serve in the top spot after taking over from founder (and current chairman of the board) Mandy Cabot, but Fox said a long transition period — and the support of a tightly-knit team — has meant the brand hasn’t skipped a beat. Here, the exec sounds off on topics such as running an employee-owned company, marketing and the brick-and-mortar biz. Check out the full interview with Fox in the upcoming July/August issue of Footwear Insight magazine.

1) Dansko has been employee-owned since 2012. What makes running an employee-owned firm different from a conventional company?

JF: “The biggest thing is that you’re face-to-face with your shareholders — your employee owners — every single day. It’s not like at other places where it’s a far-away investor who checks in on a quarterly basis or some faceless shareholder; it’s the people you work with day in and day out, so that’s definitely a factor when you’re making decisions. I like to think that gives us a longer-term perspective. Because an ESOP [employee stock ownership plan] is a retirement plan for employees, so you look at it from that perspective. We’re trying to build up accounts for the 150-plus people here.”

2)  What marketing strategies have resonated with consumers?

JF: “We’ve always been a word-of-mouth brand: We’re built on word-of-mouth and we have a lot of super-fans who are fanatical, loyal consumers. [And] word-of-mouth is more important than ever because people are skeptical of traditional advertising. What we’re trying to do is make sure our marketing makes that word-of-mouth go viral, whether that’s through our video assets or social media.”

3) Are you bullish on the growth potential for brick-and-mortar?

JF: “The good news is there’s a lot of things that brick-and-mortar does so, so well. [Stores] —especially our retail customers — do a great job, whether that has to do with curation and presenting the right product, or having the trust of the consumer. The nice thing is the ones who are really good at it have an opportunity for growth, because people have a desire for that [experience]; there’s a real niche there.”