Leadership lens: Drew Green

15 Dec 2016

Leadership lens: Drew Green


A high-growth management veteran, proud Canadian and Internet entrepreneur, INDOCHINO CEO Drew Green has spent his entire career connecting online audiences with retailers through advertising technology, e-commerce and marketplace platforms in the United States, UK and Canada. Green was the founding CEO and Chairman of SHOP.CA, Canada’s first multi-category marketplace and one of the country’s largest online retailers, and he also held leadership roles at DoubleClick, which was acquired by Google.

Today, Drew leads the largest custom menswear company in the world.

You have purposely chosen to take the entrepreneurial path in your career. What has driven that and does it have any challenges that you still struggle with?Drew Green

I have always chosen the biggest challenges that I can find, and have remained inspired and motivated to do so when faced with career decisions and opportunities. This is rooted in my belief that in order to progress, grow and achieve my goals, I need to constantly challenge myself and embrace the risks that come with developing early stage categories, starting companies and growing brands.

The biggest struggle I’ve had with my entrepreneurial path is balancing the extreme demands and relentless sacrifices it takes to run a high growth business, versus the time it takes to be a great father and husband. This important balance did not come naturally given my nature and ambition, and embracing it has proven to be a priceless learning experience.

Online commerce is growing every year and doesn’t see any slowing down. However, ‘bricks and mortar’ physical stores aren’t going away any time soon. How can the two co-exist and will they in the future?

A lot of traditional bricks-and-mortar companies are struggling with ever-increasing competition from ecommerce, but many others are rethinking their retail strategy, both online and offline, and innovating in refreshing and exciting ways. We’re going to see the landscape transform in the near future as traditional retailers adapt in order to survive and new ones introduce innovative approaches to blending physical and online retail to attract connected consumers.

Amazon has now become a verb (“you’ve been Amazon-ed”) in the retail sector. They are, in many ways, the ultimate disruptor. What are your thoughts on Amazon? Should every retailer be terrified of them?

They are a company I deeply admire and have competed against most of my career in one form or another. In my opinion, it’s important not to fear Amazon but, instead, to study their success and look for ways to truly differentiate. That includes everything from culture, cash flow management and supply chain through to strategy, investment approach and service.

I believe partnership strategies within the retail ecosystem are the key to competition in Amazon dominated categories, as is big thinking and precise execution. In my opinion, it’s critical for retailers not to waste time in fear, but to embrace the same partner approach Amazon has leveraged the past twenty years to rival Walmart as the world’s largest retailer.

INDOCHINO has been an amazing e-commerce story and success so far with the future looking very bright. Explain the company’s business model and why you see an even brighter future ahead for the company.

INDOCHINO was the first company to deliver mass-customized apparel when we began selling made-to-measure suits and shirts directly to our customers online in 2007. We extended the brand to include bricks-and-mortar retail in 2014, with the vision to expand both awareness and access to customers in major markets who want customized apparel, and who want the high-touch service of a physical retail experience.

In 2016, we invested heavily in direct integrations with our manufacturing and supply chain partners. This has enabled us to drive our costs down and our production velocity up. We pass these benefits on to our customers in the form of low prices and the fastest custom garment manufacturing on the planet.

In contrast to most retail brands, we don’t carry inventory in our stores. Our model requires significantly less retail square footage to achieve similar sales volumes, and our appointment-based selling model ensures that every customer gets the attention and expertise they deserve. We are now a true omnichannel retailer, with ten showrooms in North America, and a goal to open over 100 showrooms by 2020.

How would you describe your leadership style overall and who has influenced it over the years?

My leadership style has certainly changed throughout the years. In my early days, I was so driven and pushed both myself and others too hard. Now I try to ‘pull’ and manage with both heart and mind. I really try to continuously learn and improve and can guarantee that I am most critical of myself.

I am fortunate to have had many mentors in my life, from business partners and past employers to basketball coaches. All of these people have taught me what to focus on, what not to focus on and that time is often more valuable than money.

Without a doubt, my family has had the most profound effect on my leadership style. My father taught me that ANYTHING could be accomplished with hard work and belief in yourself. My grandfather, a gifted deal maker, taught me the art of sales. My mother taught me the importance of making money and to disavow bullying in both life and business. My grandmother showed me the value of listening and empathy.

Finally, my wife Andrea has certainly been the biggest influence in my life as an adult and I am grateful for her unconditional friendship, support and love.

One of your first acts as INDOCHINO CEO was to give every employee a copy of your favorite book, The Alchemist, by Paolo Coelho. The book has two key messages: dream big and embrace the journey. Why does this book resonate so much with you?

I have given this book out to thousands of people, including everyone that I have employed throughout the years. The book holds a special meaning for me, as my father gave it to me when I started my first business in University, unknowingly (perhaps) empowering me to think long term. Embrace the Journey and Dream Big are certainly two important themes within the book, but there are dozens of others that every entrepreneur, every leader and every person could benefit from. The book becomes your own as you read it, and everyone can take away something unique from it. The Alchemist inspires me to embrace change, welcome challenges, and take calculated risks.

You are a huge basketball fan. Now based in Vancouver, you are a long way, geographically, from the Toronto Raptors. Do you think that Vancouver should get their NBA franchise back? Or, should Seattle get their team back first?

What a great question. Vancouver is an incredible city, a city like no other, in my opinion. Vancouver and the amazing people that live in the city and province deserve an NBA, MLB and NFL team.

Bringing an NBA team back to Vancouver will take resilient determination, hard work, salesmanship and a long term vision. I feel Canada has proven its love for basketball, with its ability to produce dozens of NBA prospects.

Seattle is another very special place in this world, and I have many friends who live there. I would love it if an NBA team could go to each of these cities at the same time, not one over the other.

Last question: What do people mostly get wrong about you?

The question about my legacy has been brought up to me quite a bit over the past few years, but I have absolutely no interest in legacy as it relates to business. I have never been of the opinion that someone’s legacy is defined by their career success or by public donations. It’s certainly never been the driving force of any of my business decisions. My legacy will be defined by the father I am, how both my boys are raised, and our relationship as both friends and family, which I cherish above all else.