This coming August, the North American Hardware and Paint Association (NHPA) will host the 2023 NHPA Independents Conference in Dallas. This year’s conference will be guided by the theme of “Putting Technology to Work for You.” During the two-day conference, attendees will discover the latest in retail technology and the solutions independent home improvement retailers are using to improve their efficiency, their customer service and their competitive advantage in the channel.
Hardware Retailing sat down with one of the event’s keynote speakers, John Rossman, who shared about his career journey, key takeaways from his time with Amazon and a sneak peek of what attendees will gain from his keynote address. Rossman is a business strategist, operator and expert on digital transformation, leadership and business reinvention. At Amazon, he was responsible for the launching and scaling of the merchant integration team and played a key role in launching and scaling the Amazon Marketplace business. He is an operator and builder whose love is diving into business problems and customer needs, designing solutions and business opportunities.
Hardware Retailing (HR): What are some of the highlights of your career and the biggest takeaways you’ve come away with?
John Rossman (JR): Like any career, it has had some highlights and lowlights along the way. Some of the highlights for me include being a partner at Arthur Andersen early in my career and joining Amazon in 2002. I led the launch of the Marketplace business at Amazon, which today comprises well over 50% of all units shipped and sold. I also led another business at Amazon called Enterprise Services that didn’t work so well; I’ve found that typically you learn more from the things that didn’t go great than you do from the things that did go great. After I left Amazon in late 2005, I was a partner for 12 years at a management consulting firm, Alvarez and Marsal, where I had some of the best clients in the world, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I was also an interim CIO for a retail client, and along the way, I wrote a book called “The Amazon Way” and in 2017, I founded Rossman Partners. Whether it’s through my books, keynotes or my advisory business, for me, the end goal is helping leaders evolve their strategy and leadership principles for today’s competitive needs. People talk about digital transformation and disruption, but the key is taking care of business. It’s about competing with new business models, new approaches and new expectations. I love to walk leadership teams through not necessarily rethinking everything, but adding additional capabilities to their already great businesses to enhance and future-proof it for what customers in the market expect today.
HR: Tell us how your experiences with Amazon helped to shape the consultant and speaker you are today.
JR: When I joined Amazon in March 2002, the company had just had its first billion dollar quarter, but it was still unclear whether we were going to succeed. During that time, the leadership principles weren’t codified but we were practicing them every day. We were really hammering out and asking questions like “What do we prioritize?” and “How do we make decisions and hold each other accountable?” and “What is our culture defined as?” It was a really interesting time at Amazon because it became clear that we were not just a retailer, we were a platform company that built capabilities others use. The way Amazon goes about getting its work done, how it thinks about leadership and how it tries to hold everyone in the organization accountable, those things are exactly the same, both philosophically and from a practical standpoint. That’s part of the lesson—these operation goals scale and they’re durable, and I’ve had a ton of experience in taking some of these aspects and putting them into other businesses for the right effect. That’s been the playbook that I’ve used in my client work over the past 20 years, and I’ve seen the impact and the power. But it really does start with leadership and the willingness to add some new perspectives and try some new methods in order to get different results.
HR: Give us a sneak peek into what you’ll be sharing with attendees of the 2023 NHPA Independents Conference in August.
JR: We’re going to take a quick dance across some of the Amazon leadership principles and give examples both from Amazon and around the industry. I’m going to give a little bit of a playbook on some things companies can do. What most companies and most leaders are really good at is their operating playbook, but what I’m going to share about is a little bit of an innovation playbook to complement that operating playbook. Some of the things you do in your operating playbook sound like some of the things you do in your innovation playbook, but they actually have a distinctively different orientation and prioritization. For example, in your operating playbook, you’re typically trying to prioritize or optimize for aspects like customer satisfaction and unit economics. But when you’re innovating, you’re trying to optimize for deep learning about a new customer need or satisfaction. People don’t understand that the scientific process starts from failure, and you earn your way up to success. Most of us have this expectation that we’re going to start from success and then just refine it but you have to be ready to have repeated failure.
Putting Technology to Work for You
August 2-3, 2023 in Dallas, Texas
Join us at the 2023 NHPA Independents Conference to discover real-world answers to your technology questions.
Find more information and register at YourNHPA.org/conference.