BOSTON —“It’s this combination of patient watchfulness and explosive speed that lets companies grow fast and go the distance,” said Reid Hoffman, host of the influential business-themed podcast “Masters of Scale,” to the studio audience that attended the program’s first-ever live taping of a podcast episode. Each episode presents and verifies one of Hoffman’s unique theories of how business ventures scale and achieve sustainable profitability. A business has successfully scaled when it can deliver its products and services to a significantly larger customer base while maintaining or improving operational efficiency and quality control.
As an episode opens Hoffman, a LinkedIn cofounder, introduces a theory of how a business might scale. He then sets out to prove his theory during an interview with the founder or leader of a powerhouse company or under-the-radar gem. Guest entrepreneurs share enlightening tales that describe their business journey and provide insight into how their company achieved scale and became an industry leader. In this live taping, Hoffman evaluated his theory of scale with the help of guest Tory Burch, cofounder, executive chair and chief creative director at Tory Burch LLC, the women’s wear retailer, in the presence of more than 1,100 “Masters of Scale” fans in Boston on July 23.
Burch opened her eponymous company in 2004 and launched her line of women’s clothing and accessories, described as Preppy-Bohemian luxe, with the intention of maintaining control. For the company’s debut collection, she took the unusual step of rejecting the customary practice of inviting buyers from fashion-forward boutiques and department stores to select items to carry in their stores. Burch, who gained previous experience in luxury retail while working at Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang, explained, “I didn’t put my merchandise into the big stores.”
Instead, the Tory Burch collection was available only in the small lower Manhattan boutique that was wholly owned by her company. “When you go direct-to-consumer, you control your own destiny,” she said. Burch also established her own manufacturing and distribution supply chain as part of the strategy to nurture the value of her brand, maintain her artistic vision and follow business best practices as she understood them.
“I’ve always been a risk-taker,” Burch confessed as she detailed her next strategic decision that in 2005 saw her launch an e-commerce website to make her merchandise available online, a practice that was nearly unimaginable in high-end retail at the time. Along the way, she “did trunk shows in different cities across the country and got a feel for where it would make sense to open more boutiques.”
The time to move forward appeared in spring 2005 when the barely year-old company caught the attention of renowned talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who surprised Burch with an invitation to appear on her show and endorse her spring 2005 collection. The new website was up and running by then and it received millions of hits as a result of Oprah’s blessing. The company moved forward with explosive speed. Scale was achieved.
Hoffman turned to the audience as he said of Burch, “You may have noticed as she spoke that she has clarity. You have to know what you’re building and what you’re waiting for.” Today, Tory Burch LLC is a privately held global enterprise with more than 250 boutiques on five continents. As well, the collection is now carried in more than 3,000 department stores and specialty shops around the world.
Furthermore, Burch was an early proponent of corporate social responsibility and the philosophy was baked into her business plan from the start. “From the very beginning, when I was talking to potential investors, I told them about the foundation I wanted to start that would help women,” Burch said. In 2009, she launched the Tory Burch Foundation to advance women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the U.S. by providing access to capital, education and digital resources and a fellowship program.
To date, the foundation has distributed $50 million in loans to nearly 3,000 women entrepreneurs through its Foundation Capital Program, powered by Bank of America.
Hoffman brings great depth to his role as the “Masters of Scale” host, by way of participation in leadership roles at prominent companies that disrupted the marketplace in the early 2000s. At PayPal, the electronic secure payment system, he was Chief Operating Officer and responsible for all external relationships, including forging agreements with credit card processing behemoths MasterCard and Visa and business development, which brought him into high-stakes negotiations with the likes of eBay and Intuit, developer of the accounting software QuickBooks.
Former boss PayPal CEO Peter Thiel, called Hoffman, “the firefighter-in-chief at PayPal.” When the company was acquired by eBay in 2002, Hoffman had ascended to Executive Vice President. He left the company after the eBay buy-out and in 2003, co-founded LinkedIn. Presently, Hoffman is an investing partner at the San Francisco based venture capital firm Greylock Partners.
Created and owned by WaitWhat, a content incubator that develops and nurtures original media properties, “Masters of Scale” broadcast its first episode in May 2017. WaitWhat was co-founded by June Cohen and Devon Triff, who previously led the TED Talks media organization and scaled that audience to 1 billion views/ listens a year.