The most recent virtual event in the Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series featured Craig Stevenson (B.A. Communication ’88), CEO of Scholl’s Wellness Company, home to the nation’s leading foot care brand, Dr. Scholl’s. Stevenson shared with Broad undergraduate honor students his career growth and experiences before becoming CEO, along with insights about managing the newly independent iconic brand.
With over 30 years of consumer packaged goods experience at both Procter & Gamble and The Clorox Company — where he worked on virtually every brand in the company across multiple geographies — Stevenson has had a variety of unique professional experiences, telling students that he has never been afraid to seize all opportunities.
“Don’t be afraid of a winding path,” he shared. “Clorox was not a very international company with a small business, but I jumped on the international opportunities. I went off to Asia, I went to Latin America. A formative experience was working as head of sales in Latin America.”
Such experiences took him out of his comfort zone, where he had to think beyond traditional ways of looking at business, ultimately challenging his professional mindset and helping him grow.
In his last position, Stevenson managed a $500 million portfolio of brands, including Burt’s Bees personal care and the Renew Life Probiotics business. After leaving Clorox, he consulted with private equity until becoming CEO of Scholl’s Wellness Company in October 2019.
SWC was formed when Yellow Wood Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, acquired it from Bayer in November 2019, not too long before the pandemic. With this change, Stevenson saw massive potential for growth and areas of improvement in terms of efficiencies related to the marketing of the brand as well as cost savings opportunities in supply chain.
However, like countless other businesses, SWC faced obstacles that emerged during the peak of the pandemic, and to adapt the business model during emerging challenges, adjustments also needed to be made. With every decision, the company balanced the needs of employees, ownership and consumers.
“We focused on constancy of purpose. We continued to pursue our long-term growth and cost-saving objectives,” Stevenson explained. “In regard to the employees, we had promised employees raises in April, and we still gave those out because it was a commitment we made. We tried to protect this core group of people that were working so hard to drive the business. We made other cuts instead, including discretionary and marketing spending.”
The company shifted its marketing strategies to be more digital and accelerated e-commerce to make products easily accessible to consumers, especially during the pandemic. SWC also created advertisements tailored to celebrating frontline workers and donated products to those working long, hard hours.
“Our products feel sometimes mundane, but you know, these products make people feel better, and that allows them to do what they need to go do, and we felt like we had a responsibility to help,” Stevenson said.
Now that consumption has stabilized, the company is focusing on other aspects to efficiently adapt, such as cautious forecasting to accurately maintain inventory, paying attention to how e-commerce is evolving consumer trends and what consumer behavior at retail will be like in the post-pandemic future.
“A curated, fun, interesting retail experience — consumers still like that,” he said. “I don’t foresee a world where retail goes away, but retail better be darn interesting.”
More information on upcoming events in the 2020–2021 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available on the Full-Time MBA webpage.