At FN CEO Summit 2021, Deckers CEO Dave Powers on How Crisis Has Changed the Company — Both Inside and Out

Over the past year and a half, Americans have faced overlapping adversities in the form of the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic recession and widespread civil unrest. Despite the overwhelming challenges brought about by such crises, Deckers Brands has emerged in a better position today than at the start of 2020.

During the opening conversation at FN’s virtual CEO Summit, Dave Powers, the company’s president and CEO, spoke with FN digital director Charlie Carballo about the opportunities brought forth by the unprecedented situation; the importance of championing diversity and empowering employees; as well as the state of its business as it enters the so-called “new normal.”

“Crisis will really define what an organization is truly all about, and for us, I think this crisis has brought out the best of our culture,” Powers said. “We really took this opportunity to get to know each other better, to embrace each other’s differences, to be empathetic, to understand where [we’re] coming from and then include that as part of the daily conversation.”

He continued, “What we’ve found is that we got to know each other on a more personal level, which allows us to work better as teammates.”

Deckers has been intentional about making investments in its workforce: Recently, the Goleta, Calif.-based company installed a state-of-the-art broadcasting and recording studio in its headquarters for virtual events, sales presentations and more functions, plus upgraded its “rotunda” — an open space where it hosts its corporate meetings.

What’s more, in November, Deckers made the bold move of raising the minimum wage for all 700-plus employees in its retail stores across the U.S. to $15 an hour — a 20% premium from the industry average and more than double the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

FN CEO Summit, Deckers
“Crisis will really define what an organization is truly all about,” Dave Powers told FN Digital Director Charlie Carballo.

“When you look at the stats that show the major inequities in pay across the country by state, it was glaringly obvious to me that we needed to do something to help, so it was a quick, easy decision,” Powers said. “We wanted to send a message to other organizations that you can do the right thing and this is best for your employees.”

Another area to which it has given greater attention is diversity, equity and inclusion. With the country just two weeks ago marking the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, Powers recalled the prior year’s “all-hands meeting,” which he said was replaced with a discussion with global teams about how Deckers was an anti-racist organization. In June, it appointed its first director of EID. It has also committed to 25% representation of Black, Indigenous and people of color at director levels and above in the U.S. by 2027.

“Hitting metrics and holding ourselves accountable is one thing. But when you see the broader organization embrace this conversation with the right attitude and have open conversations with each other about how we can do better as a culture and a society, to me, that’s what’s really powerful,” Powers said. “We’re starting to see that continuing to happen across the organization globally. It starts with leadership, it starts with modeling, and it starts with consistency and accountability. And I think we’re doing a good job there.”

Ultimately, it all boils down to the company’s ethos: “Doing good and doing great.” As the chief executive explained, “We want to do great in business, and we want to do good in the world. Quite frankly, you can’t have one without the other … We’re a public company, we have shareholders, we have to perform — but, at the same time, because of that success, we can have a positive impact on the world and our community, so it turns into this kind of motivator for the organization where the employees feel like they now have a bit of a higher purpose.”

Register here to see more power players speak tomorrow, including Foot Locker chief Richard Johnson, Adidas exec Eric Wise, three top running brand executives and much more.

Summit sponsors include presenting sponsor PayPal and event sponsors Aetrex, Caleres, FDRA, K-Swiss, Riskified, SkyPad, Sperry, Two Ten and Zappos.

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