John McCarvel, 56, is president and chief executive of Crocs, a global apparel and accessories company that began as a shoemaker. He joined Crocs in 2005 and ran its Asia/Pacific business before becoming CEO in 2010. The Colorado-based company, which has evolved from a “one-shoe wonder” into a thriving global lifestyle brand, has about 5,000 employees.
EL: Crocs has grown quickly in recent years. Why?
McCarvel: We’ve become an $850 million global business by putting our customers first. Everyone here knows that customers are the most important part of the business.
EL: Many companies say they’re customer-centric. How do you follow through?
McCarvel: We created a mission statement and a culture that revolves around the customer. The executive team shows how we live the culture in staff meetings.
EL: But how can you tell if employees buy into the mission?
McCarvel: In 2010, we put our mission in writing along with our creed, code and culture. One night, I got into a discussion with the president of our American business about our mission statement. He argued that people do care. But I wasn’t so sure. I’ve found many employees don’t live the organization’s mission. So he and I started asking employees, “Do you know our mission statement?” and “Do you live it?”
EL: What did you learn?
McCarvel: We found that about 50% knew it and, of those, about 50% live it. But when you’re the CEO, people don’t always tell you the truth. Maybe they claimed to live it but really didn’t. So we sought to have it develop into the backbone of how we operate.
EL: How did you do that?
McCarvel: We reinforced the creed—what we believe in—and the code—the rules we live by as an organization. We wrote it all down. Part of our creed is we believe in, having fun and bringing passion to the job. In terms of rules, one example is taking ownership. You’re accountable for what you do.
EL: How about culture?
McCarvel: We made sure our culture was driving our actions. For example, we wanted a culture of sustainability. So we put in a water filtration system and gave everybody a Crocs water bottle. When visitors come, we give them a Crocs water bottle to keep. Also, all of our employees get a plastic laminated card that lists our creed, code and culture.
EL: How did you come up with the 3 Cs?
McCarvel: I had gone through a similar process in my personal life during pre-marriage counseling. I found it extremely important. Formulating what we believe in, setting basic rules and talking about culture creates a foundation of values that are aligned. After 24 years of marriage and three kids, I’m extremely happy.
EL: You’ve lived and worked in Tokyo, Singapore and France. What did you learn overseas?
McCarvel: These experiences molded my. I learned to be more collaborative and to be more methodical. I also learned to place a very heavy emphasis on planning.
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