Learn How Harry’s Tests and Launches a D2C Brand in Weeks
“Harry’s Inc. catapulted to fame by selling sleek, low-priced razors over the internet. A decade on, it’s now generating more than half of its sales from brick-and-mortar stores, its founders said.” – Bloomberg
It turns out Harry’s has a superpower. They can spin up a direct-to-consumer brand in just a matter of weeks. If the brand’s potential is validated , then they are able to roll into an omnichannel marketing strategy almost as quickly.
So check out this week’s episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast, brought to you by SAP, where Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr talk with Sandeep Chouksey, Harry’s Chief Technical Officer for an in-depth discussion into how Harry’s go-to-market strategy is changing the world of CPG.
What we discussed with Sandeep Chouksey of Harry’s Razors:
- From razors to cat food; leveraging digital capabilities (05:47)
- New speed in CPG; from DTC to omnichannel in a flash (07:19)
- “I am not territorial”; connecting technology and growth (18:24)
- Setting company-wide goals to “embrace the mammoth” (24:25)
- Why Harry’s philosophy emphasizes the employee experience (32:36)
- A $1.7 billion valuation and a huge opportunity for growth (40:11)
Before you jump in, learn more about SAP’s cloud solutions for mid-size enterprises at sap.com/sme. If you have ambitious goals, SAP is the technology partner you need to scale and drive innovation. Instead of relying on stitched-together solutions to manage business finances, operations, HR, suppliers, and customer relationships, leverage the flexibility of SAP’s cloud-based ERP solution to gain the insights that will help drive your breakout growth success.
Achieve breakout growth success now with SAP at sap.com/sme.
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How Technology and Omnichannel Marketing Powers CPG Growth at Harry’s
Announcer 00:00:08 Welcome to the Breakout Growth Podcast, where Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr interview leaders from the world’s fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what’s really driving their growth. And now here are your hosts, Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr.
Sean Ellis 00:00:26 All right. In this week’s episode of the Breakout Growth Podcast, Ethan Gar and I chat with Sandeep Chouksey, Chief Technical Officer at Harry’s. There’s a good chance that, you know, Harry’s, uh, they’ve disrupted the world of consumer package goods by offering quality razors for men that you could order and refill on a subscription basis over the internet. So when we booked Sandeep, we were hoping to learn more about kinda what a CD CTO does, and talk about technology’s role in Harry’s success, and maybe tie that a bit in with growth. But I’d say like, as, as we dug into it, this was really just the beginning, uh, that conversation quickly evolved into how great companies build disruption into their DNA and how they view the world. Uh, it was, it was awesome. So, Ethan, what do you think’s gonna surprise our listeners?
Ethan Garr 00:01:14 Uh, cat food. I think cat food is definitely gonna be the big surprise. Um, and I’ll explain, but coming into the conversation, you know, what didn’t surprise me is that Harry’s already had a brand for women called Flamingo. I mean, you know, why wouldn’t you extend your reach to a broader audience in a category where you’ve developed, you know, a playbook for finding product market fit, and where you already have that existing infrastructure and even the manufacturing capabilities. But when Sandeep told us how Harry’s had also just acquired a cat food brand, that’s when it hit me that they really are building this extensible growth engine for really rapidly deploying consumer package goods, uh, of all sorts. And, um, you know, they have this digital infrastructure that gives them that disruptive edge. And I’m guessing that the proctors and gambles of the world are probably already taking notice.
Sean Ellis 00:01:57 Yeah, absolutely. You know, Sandy mentioned that they were recently valued at 1.7, which on one point some billion dollars, which on one hand is a, is a really big number. Yeah. But on the other hand, you know, some of these CPG companies are, the real big ones are valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars. And, uh, and, and I, and I do think they’re taking notice, you know, Harry is just, Harry’s is just looking at the world so differently. Yeah. Sandeep tells us that, uh, Harry’s team can spin up not just the e-commerce site, but by starting direct to consumer, they can quickly validate and optimize their offerings before moving to an omnichannel approach. So, you know, if you, if you look at traditional companies, you know, once that product’s out there, they’re, they’re really separated from the customer from by, by like the major retailers that are selling their products. So Harry’s just has a whole different way of doing things and, and being able to experiment with offerings so quickly is, is really game changing. It’s, I I think it’s like disruption in action.
Ethan Garr 00:02:56 Yeah. And, and obviously the technology is a huge part of that. Sandeep’s responsible for the software engineering and the it, but what he says he’s really there to do is to figure out how to be omnichannel. And I know sometimes, like, you know, you hear these words like omnichannel, digital transformations, the metaverse and your head starts to spin because you’re trying to like, figure out, like, is this just like the flavor of the moment? Is it just jargon or is it reality? But with Harry, with Harry’s, you can actually see and touch it. I mean, you can go to a drug start drugstore or a Walmart or a Target, and you can go online and have these connected experiences with the brands, and you can start to really understand why and how this is gonna shape the future. So, you know, but doing it, you know, it becomes a challenge, right? It’s, we always say product market fit and the, and, and execution, that intersection is what matters. And here it’s really all about the people, right?
Sean Ellis 00:03:47 Yeah. Yeah. I love that part of the discussion. You know, he, he went into answering questions like, how does Harry’s align individuals and teams to the mission? How do the co-founders articulate that mission effectively? How do you get engineers to see the connection between the ticket they’re working on and the value that ticket actually means to the customer shopping at Walmart? You know, Sandeep was just great about sharing how everything from hiring processes to goal settings, uh, goal setting ties into this like embrace the mammoth mindset. Yeah. That is powering Harry’s growth.
Ethan Garr 00:04:22 Yeah. It’s totally awesome. And I, Sean, I’m not gonna say it, but this is normally where I would tell you that this is one of my favorite episodes.
Sean Ellis 00:04:30 You know, you just did it again, but <laugh> I’ll, I’ll admonish you later on that one. But, uh, before we jump in with Sandee, we wanna invite our listeners, check out the sponsor for this week’s episode. SAP is the world’s leading provider of enterprise application software, enabling hyper growth companies to scale quickly to achieve their growth ambitions with their agile cost effective, easy to implement cloud solutions. If you are working to power breakout growth success in your business, please check out sap.com/sme.
Ethan Garr 00:05:01 Very cool. And by the way, Sean, uh, did you tell me you have a new Go Practice course launching soon?
Sean Ellis 00:05:06 Yeah. Yeah, we, uh, we’re, we’re really excited about it. It’s, um, this one’s gonna be a simulation that’s focused on handling a growth stall, So yeah, keep an eye out for, for more information on that one.
Ethan Garr 00:05:17 Yeah, I think that a lot of companies go through those, so, uh, that’s gonna be very cool. All right, let’s get started.
Sean Ellis 00:05:22 Yeah, let’s do it. Hey, Sandeep, welcome to the Breakout Growth podcast.
Sandeep 00:05:35 Thank you. Thanks for having me here.
Sean Ellis 00:05:37 Yeah, we’re, we’re super excited to have you. I’m also joined by my co-host, Ethan Garr. Hey, Ethan.
Ethan Garr 00:05:42 Hey, Sean. Hey, San. Good to see you.
Sandeep 00:05:45 Nice to see you too, Ethan.
Sean Ellis 00:05:47 Yeah, so, uh, we, um, we were just talking as we got started, uh, Sandeep’s based in New York, and Ethan and I had our, uh, first face-to-face meeting in a long time last week in New York. So it was, it was cool to, uh, not stare at Ethan through a computer <laugh>. He’s, uh, he’s actually a good looking guy. The computer messes it up a bit, but <laugh>, just kidding. Um, I, but I’m not kidding that. You’re a good looking guy, but <laugh> anyway, um, so, uh, sand deep. You’re the, you’re the CTO of Harry’s. Um, it’s, it’s a not show traditional CPG company. Uh, I’m guessing that most of our listeners are gonna be pretty familiar with Harry’s. But, uh, for those who aren’t, can you give us a, a quick introduction maybe? What, what makes it unique?
Sandeep 00:06:28 Yeah, of course. We, we pride ourselves in being disruptive. Uh, so many of, many people probably know Harry’s as a razor company. They started about 11 years ago making razors. And the hypothesis was fairly simple, like, Hey, uh, in this world, uh, when you walk into a shopping aisle, razors are sort of hidden. You’ve gotta call someone to get a razor out. They’re extremely expensive, and why do they need to be so expensive? The reality is that there’s a quite a bit of a monopoly in this razor world. Uh, what if you try to disrupt that monopoly, uh, build, uh, razors at, uh, build better razors, uh, reduce the margins, sell products directly online, cut out the middle man, what does it mean, uh, to do that? And, uh, low and behold, very quickly, we took a pretty massive share, uh, of the razor market.
Sandeep 00:07:19 And then from there on Ha, Harry’s is sort of a model change from being a razor company to just create things people like more. And so that means expanding in a variety of new, uh, categories, variety of new products. Uh, we went from being an online company to an omnichannel business. So our goal is to be anywhere a customer might want us, that includes, uh, online, that includes offline and retail. Uh, and we use sort of what we did with Razors as our blueprint across a variety of new products. So we launch products online first. We learn very, very quickly what it means to, uh, build a good product. When you launch things online, you directly own that relationship, uh, with the customer. And so you get a ton of feedback directly from the customer understanding, uh, exactly what’s working, what’s not working. You’re able to quickly iterate. And so then by the time you launch it in retail, you have a much more refined product that just sort of flies off the shelves. And so we’ve, That’s super cool, and we’ve
Sean Ellis 00:08:16 Never made that connection.
Sandeep 00:08:18 No. And so we’ve rinsed and repeated that model across a variety of categories. Now, uh, we have, uh, we have four brands. We sell in, uh, maybe half a half a dozen countries. And, uh, uh, it sort of works every, every time.
Sean Ellis 00:08:32 So besides razors, what’s, what, what would be a, another really popular product you
Sandeep 00:08:36 Could test? Yeah, so, so, uh, if you, if, so we have four different brands. We have Harry’s, which is a men’s brand. We have Flamingo, which is a women’s brand. We have, uh, believe it or not, most people are shocked when I say this. We have a cat food brand called Cat Person <laugh>. Oh, wow. Yeah. And then we also have a body order brand, uh, named Lumi, uh, which was actually a recent acquisition. Uh,
Sean Ellis 00:08:58 You can write that down. Yeah.
Sandeep 00:09:00 <laugh>, <laugh>. Uh, and within, wow, within Harry’s, uh, we have, we have actually a body wash that is flying off the shelves right now. It’s doing really, really well. Uh, but even our Flamingo brand is pretty massive now. Uh, Cap person is only online. So that’s a perfect example of something we’ve launched online in the last few years. We’re mastering it, perfecting it. Eventually one day will hit, uh, hit retail. And Lumi too is only online right now.
Sean Ellis 00:09:28 I just, I love that, uh, the, the ability to, to really dial in the product with a direct relationship with a customer before you push it out to the channels. I used to, I used to have a, uh, qualitative insights business and, and, um, yeah, so I’m, I’m a big, I’m a big qualitative guy. Yeah. In addition to being sort of data driven with what I do. And, um, it’s, it’s really hard when you’re, when you have channel partners that sit between you and, and the, and the customer. So that’s, that’s, uh, a great dynamic to the business I would’ve never thought of.
Sandeep 00:09:59 Yeah. And Sean, as like, as, as you can imagine, like, uh, you know, to test something online, whether, let’s say a value prop, right? It’s like a five minute thing, an AB test that you can run that quickly tells you like what works and what doesn’t. Versus actually changing the value prop packaging is a whole, it’s a whole different beast. And so if you can get even like, as something as simple as your brand colors value prop, right? You learn things very quickly, and then you actually even get direct feedback on the product versus actually stalking people in a retail aisle trying to get, understand why they might have picked something versus the other.
Sean Ellis 00:10:34 That’s great. I know Ethan’s probably chomping at the bit to ask a question, but I just wanna point out really fast the, uh, I have not worked with a CTO that, that, that speaks our language so much. So it’s so cool to hear you hear you talk about those things. But go ahead, Ethan. I, I let you in know.
Ethan Garr 00:10:50 Well, thanks. Yeah. I, um, I was curious, like, no, when you say like, you know, cat food brand ver and versus a men’s brand, a women’s brand, is there, what, what do you think gave the company the appetite to be that aggressive going, you know, so far a field of what you’re, you know, that comfort zone of like, Hey, we know men’s healthcare or men’s grooming and healthcare.
Sandeep 00:11:12 Well, we, what we’ve realized is what differentiates us from traditional CPG is our digital capabilities, right? So we know that, uh, we are extremely good at selling products online and quickly analyzing data. And we’ve built a pretty robust data platform where we can gather insights out of, right? And so we know what we’ve built is not specific to just personal care or razors. Uh, so what we, what we did was we actually have Harry’s lab, which is a division within Aries, which is constantly looking at what other categories, there’s white space for such disruption and cap person is, is, uh, is something like that that came out of incubation, out of Harry’s as an area where we could try something new, we could be disruptive, we could launch a better product than what was out there in the market. Uh, and so we, we’ve essentially figured out how to use our skills that already exist in the organization, and to just apply it to newer areas where there’s a ton of white space.
Ethan Garr 00:12:13 So, I, I wanna ask you about your background and what led you there. Um, but I, with that, um, in our, uh, initial conversations, you mentioned CPG 2.0, and I’m guessing that when you talk about disruption and, uh, your ability to use digital capabilities, I’m guessing that’s what, uh, CPG 2.0 is. But for us and for our listeners, can you give us what your, your, your definition of it and what that means, and
Sandeep 00:12:39 Yeah, For, for sure, for one, I mean, CPG 2.0, if you just look at it from a channel perspective, we are omnichannel. So our goal is to be anywhere a customer, I look for us, right? That’s, that’s just part one. Uh, the other ways we think about it is like, okay, how good are we at selling in those channels? If I use online as an example, um, uh, if, if, uh, if we are thinking about incubating a new brand, we are able to very, very quickly spin up an e-commerce site that is selling the product online within like days when something like an old school CPG company might take six months a year, right? So when you talk about the speed of execution, that also is what we call CPG two portal. For us, the cost of doing these quick, rapid experimentation is so low that we’re able to try out so many, so many different things.
Sandeep 00:13:31 So fast spin up sample ads to see whether people would click through on it. If you wanna acquire a customer online, Sean, you come from a growth background. Like if you wanna acquire a customer online, is this, would the unit economics of this business even make sense? What would be the customer acquisition cost? So we can do a lot of that so quickly without actually even investing millions of dollars in a supply chain or like, or like, begin to actually build a product. And so that is what makes a CPG to 0.0 is essentially we’re omnichannel, we’re really good at selling things online. We’ve mastered even retail now, but also the idea of like, how do you then figure out what to do next purely based on the capabilities you’ve built?
Ethan Garr 00:14:13 I’m scared how much, uh, of our language you’re speaking here, <laugh>. Um, so <laugh>, I mean, you sound less like a tech guy, more like a growth guy, uh, the way you’re describing, which is, uh, which is, I, I, and I think that’s part of what we’re gonna discover here, is that the lines are getting blurry and blurry every day. But, you know, tell, can you tell us your responsibility as a CTO and driving growth and explain sort of your relationship to, to growth, because sounds like it’s where your heart is.
Sandeep 00:14:38 Yeah. Uh, uh, Ethan, Sean, this is Harris is my fifth e-commerce subscription business that I’m joining. So it’s definitely not my first rodeo. And, uh, uh, uh, to answer your question a little bit today at CTO today as a CTO at Harry’s, by the way, I was the fir, I am the first ever CTO hired at Harry’s. Uh, and so, uh, my, I oversee two main parts of the organization. One is software engineering, basically the team that over that, that’s, that run all our online e-commerce storefronts, and then I oversee it, Uh, itto essentially oversees our enterprise systems. So if you think about E R P, right? We’ve got, we’ve got retail plumbing with almost all the large retailers in the United States. So all the enterprise systems that manage that plumbing, I oversee that as well. And the, and my role, the goal for me being hired was essentially to figure out how to truly be omnichannel from a technology perspective.
Sandeep 00:15:37 Bringing these two things together, selling products online and selling products in retail shouldn’t feel like two way disjointed parts of the organization should be, should be something that has more synergy. Uh, the reason, uh, uh, uh, the reason you hear me talk a lot about growth as if I were to CTO is because I’ve, over the time, realized that a key part of my role is not just to build technology as a means to ship a product, right? A lot of my, the beginning of my career, uh, I was selling software as a service, right? So I was telling whether it be an online video builder or digital assets or, or audiobook. So I have essentially learned what it means to sell these digital products online. And I’m just replicating a lot of that now, selling physical products, right? But the basic concepts remain the same.
Sandeep 00:16:27 So I look at technology as like, Hey, how can I use technology not just as a way to sell something online, but also truly have it be a differentiator such that your competitors can’t steal your products, but they can’t steal how fast you’re moving, or they can’t steal how quickly you’re launching something. And so that becomes your competitive advantage. That’s why like, a lot of my focus is on like, Hey, how can we improve unit economics for customers going through our funnel, uh, by launching maybe a brand new way of discovering the product or a quiz or something like that.
Sean Ellis 00:17:01 Yeah. Did you have a CPG background before, or just an e-commerce background?
Sandeep 00:17:05 Uh, I, I have done one other, uh, physical product company before this, which was, uh, a company called Kara, uh, that was acquired by Bear. But prior to that, only I, my, the beginning of my career was at the likes of Microsoft and Amazon. Uh, so most of my career has been selling software.
Sean Ellis 00:17:25 So when you, uh, when you say you were the first CTO there, um, what, what did the, the, what did the kind of the growth organization look like before? Was it, was it more of a traditional kind of marketing setup? Or is there ahead of growth? Is there,
Sandeep 00:17:40 There
Sean Ellis 00:17:41 Is, Yeah. How did there kinda fit
Sandeep 00:17:42 Here? There? Yeah, there is a, we have a whole growth marketing division that focuses purely on figuring out how we can, uh, uh, grow our online sales.
Sean Ellis 00:17:51 Okay. And so obviously, like with, with growth teams, most of the time there’s a bit of tension with the, uh, kind of technology side where, you know, we, we wanna run tests at, at, at the fastest speed we can. And, and on the technology side, it’s like, Guys, it’s gonna take us time to build this ride and we gotta put it through quality control. How, how do you reconcile those things? The fact that I’m hearing you talk about the need for speed and, and that being a, a big competitive advantage in the business. I’m, I’m assuming that you found some good ways to, uh, to, to find that balance.
Sandeep 00:18:24 Yes. We have, we have, honestly, an amazing head of growth that has built a pretty great growth function. And, uh, uh, they’ve essentially, for what it’s worth, like even before I started, they essentially built their own set of tools and infrastructure to work around many of my teams. And, and as you can imagine, a lot of engineers and technologies, the very territorial, uh, I don’t tend to be that. I, I think of it as like, Hey, they’ve built tools to work around engineering is because we’re not meeting some of their needs, right? And if you have that sense of empathy in the end, if you’re aligned at the goal levels, like, hey, they’re trying to grow the business, we’re trying to grow the business. If you’re getting it aligned on that, you build a lot of empathy for what they’re doing. And then if you can just figure out, like, Okay, what exactly are you trying to do? All right, You wanna build a landing page generator so that your team can crank out landing page after landing page after landing page. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, let my team help you do that. Let my Do
Sean Ellis 00:19:15 You have any tips for, for how, uh, how growth people should communicate with technology, uh, the technology side of the business to, to build that empathy?
Sandeep 00:19:26 Um, I w I have tips for how engineering should communicate with growth teams for sure. Uh, look, I, I think what you’ve caught on early on is that, uh, it helps when engineering understands how parts of the business work, right? So the fact that if an engineering leader understands what LTV and CAC is and what unit economics of a subs business should look like, they quickly start building empathy for what is a growth team trying to do. They’re not just trying to like bring on marketing partner after marketing partner because, uh, they get some unseen pleasure out of it. They’re essentially trying to figure out new and creative ways to attract customers, right? Uh, and then if you can play a role in that journey, it actually becomes more, you engineers themselves get to solve interesting problems. So my advice to the growth teams would be to actually bring engineers as, rather than assuming that engineers aren’t interested, bring them into the sausage making. Like, Hey, here’s what I’m trying to build. Here’s a problem looking to solve. If I can move this numerator by X or move this denominator by Y, here’s what I will, here’s a what we’ll get out of it and let engineers be a part of the ideation. I, the best growth engineering teams that I’ve seen are ones where, like, AB tests and ideas are coming from engineers, product managers, growth markers. Yeah. And we went together.
Sean Ellis 00:20:43 That was definitely the dynamic that we, we built at, at Dropbox in the early, early days where, um, you know, that it, it is really math at the end of the day, and engineers tend to be really good at math. And so when you, uh, when you see, when you see the impact on, on the, the output of growth with, with creative tests and identifying bottlenecks to growth, uh, I, I find engineers come up with often some of the most creative ideas to, uh, to drive growth. In fact, I, I would say by the time I left Dropbox, the majority of ideas came from the engineers in, in the business and not marketers.
Sandeep 00:21:19 Agreed. Yeah. Do,
Ethan Garr 00:21:20 Do you, um, do you kind of directly assign some of your engineers to the growth team? Like to, to sit on, uh, is it on a, either on a per project basis or over, you know, overall by teams? How do, like, how do you, how do you divide that up?
Sandeep 00:21:35 We actually do the grow. So what, what what exists at Harry’s today is we actually have, the growth team has its own dedicated engineer today that actually reports into the growth organization, doesn’t even report into me. And that person works directly with some of the engineering team that we have on my site. In previous organizations, we, at previous companies, we actually had dedicated engineers. There was a growth team with a grow with head that reported into the head of growth, but had engineers loaned out to them. So I’ve seen both models work. I always say like, uh, you know, for companies our size, uh, Harry’s is about if you, if you ignore our factory in Germany, we’re about like a few hundred employees. Work charts really, like really don’t mean much, right? Like, the fact that someone’s reporting, it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be working with the team here, right?
Sandeep 00:22:23 In fact, that’s what gives us the speed and agility that are larger company lacks. And so, from my point of view, at my previous jobs, we had engineers on the growth team that were dedicated, that were part of the engineer organization. Today we have one growth engineer that’s in growth, is not a part of the engineering organization, but works closely. And in both cases it works because at the top we have a head of growth and head of technology that are tightly aligned as to what they want to achieve as a business. If our incentives are aligned, it usually works regardless of the org chart.
Sean Ellis 00:22:53 Do you think that’s something that, that the CEO has, has helped to create there by, by really kind of emphasizing the unique strengths of the business and the mission and, and, and kind of getting everybody on the same page of that shared mission? Or has that been more on the kind of departmental level where that, that thinking’s baked in?
Sandeep 00:23:12 I, I would say both. I mean, disruption is in our dna. Like just yesterday we were talking about our mission and vision and how it should evolve as the company evolves. And one of the things the, that we talked at, at length about was how important was it to make sure our employees always knew that what made Harry’s Harry’s was the fact that we always thought outside the box, we were always looking to be disrupt. In fact, we attract a lot of talent from traditional CPG companies that wanna work at Harry’s because Harry’s is disruptive, right? And so I think that, that, that message or that charter from up top helps a lot in making sure everyone understands that whatever the status quo might be, we have to find ways to challenge it. So even in our values, we talk about, like, one of our values is embrace the mammoth, which is about, hey, like, have difficult conversations, challenge each other. So that is that it, that basically manifests itself in a variety of ways that encourages such behavior.
Sean Ellis 00:24:10 And is there any kind of like company wide metric that, that sort of helps to, to drive alignment? You know, a lot of times when you have these individual mm-hmm. <affirmative> goal metrics, it can, it can drive things in different directions, but, uh, are you guys using something like that?
Sandeep 00:24:25 We, I, we have company-wide goals that everyone is essentially ladders up to. Okay. So that usually helps like every year, and we are, we’re in goal setting season right now, Andy and Jeff, who are co-founders, co CEOs set, they share like, here are the top four priorities for the business, and here are the metrics that we’re gonna track, right? And they could be anything from, uh, the number of retailers you might look to launch in to, like the, how much they want the core business to grow by, right? And so it can be a mix of leading indicators and lagging indicators, and then we take those and figure out how are we gonna build our activities that ladder up to those metrics. And so, if I know Harry’s, let’s say Harry’s dot Comish, the core of Harry’s brand needs to grow by X, right? That is a goal I share with the head of growth as well, that is focused on the Harry’s brand. And so then collectively we figure out how do we grow that business?
Ethan Garr 00:25:19 You mentioned you attract, you know, disruptive people, right? People have disruptive, um, goals, you know, in mind, um, as on the engineering side, like, what do you look for as you’re hiring people to know if they’re gonna be good Harry’s material, and if they’re going to live that sort of, you know, disruptive edge?
Sandeep 00:25:38 Yeah. Look, many of our, like, of course there’s a technical skills, right? Many of our engineers could work at the likes of like a Google or an Amazon or a Facebook, but are choosing to come to essentially, uh, what I will say, a midsize company, uh, or a smaller company because they’re looking to have a broader impact, right? They don’t wanna just work on this one API or on this one page, on this website that has millions of pages and be, and not really know what customer impact they’re happening. They don’t wanna work on widgets. And so for us, like a lot of our engineers essentially have that sense of, like, think big mentality already of like, Hey, like, I wanna own the whole piece. I wanna understand what I’m doing, how it is impacting the broader picture. In fact, if I get disconnected from the broader picture, I’m not gonna be happy, right?
Sandeep 00:26:27 So they feel this craving to be connected with how are they impacting the broader impact? So we look for specific like technical skills where they should be, of course, agile, nimble, but also be able to build things to scale. Cause our business, our online business especially, uh, and our IT systems are scaling pretty rapidly as the business grows. But then we look for that be those behavioral attributes. One of our values is like, look left to find, right? Like, how can you be, how can you build things for scale, but also like find creative solutions to be able to move fast, right? Which you’ll always need if you’re, if you’re looking to like growth hack things together. So it’s a mix of like behavioral as well as like a lot of technical
Ethan Garr 00:27:04 Skills. So I was gonna ask you, you know, how do you prevent like your engineers from feeling like they’re just, you know, here to like, here’s the next ticket. You know, my job is to close the next ticket, clo closing those next ticket. It sounds like the way, the way you’re from, the way you’re talking, the way to do that is to make them connected to the mission, help them feel connected to the mission, let them know where, how what they’re doing is valuable to end users. Um, but is there, do you think there’s things that Harry’s does really well in terms of how you organize your teams, how you empower your teams, that helps them, uh, to really feel connected all the time?
Sandeep 00:27:41 Yeah. Our, our teams a standalone. So let me give you a flamingo example. Our, we have Flamingo, as you know, is our women’s razor brand shops flamingo.com, and it’s a handful of engineers, a product manager, a designer, basically all the skills that you need to be able to iterate on that product of, as a startup of its own. We don’t tell them what to build. We don’t tell them, uh, how they should do their job. They’re essentially an autonomous unit that does, that, has some guide guardrails. They have goals. They know what direction they need to move in, right? So that the guardrail might be like, Hey, we really, we’re, we’re, uh, we really need to go grow our subscriber brings, right? So, uh, Flamingo has a lot of like a carte purchasers, but we’re moving more towards subscription. How do we make it, how do we make, uh, the subscription experience more engaging, right? And so that’s their charter. We give them some guard rules, and then everything else comes from them. So they’re ideating, they’re the ones figuring out what are the right things to build, and then they’re the ones quickly, rapidly iterating, executing, measuring success and, and reporting back on it. So giving that team everything they need, and as a standalone unit helps quite a bit.
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Ethan Garr 00:29:49 So how do you share those learnings though, across the larger organization? Cause like I, the company, uh, TeleTech that I used to be a part of, uh, we were a portfolio company. We had multiple apps, and one of the things that we really tried as a growth team to focus on was like, Hey, it’s okay to make mistakes, but we wanna make sure that we share those mistakes across the whole, the entire team across the portfolio. So we only make them once. So how do you make sure that the learnings in Flamingo or the learnings in Harry or the learnings in the cat side of the business, uh, get shared so that you are, you know, you’re, you’re getting the best out of everybody.
Sandeep 00:30:21 Yeah, it’s definitely a lot easier when you’re smaller and gets more and more challenging as you get bigger. Uh, as of right now we have the heads of growth and the product managers on those teams meet, I believe they meet biweekly, and they actually share their experiment calendar and the findings that they’re having such that, uh, you can essentially replicate the learnings across all brands. The other thing that we actually do from a technology perspective is we’ve sort of built this like shared front end infrastructure where you, earlier I was mentioned like, we can spin up an e-commerce site with, like, you tell me like what the name of the brand is, what the colors are, what the, uh, what the typography is, and we can actually spin, spin up an online e-commerce site in production fairly quickly because we’ve built this, like shared a backend platform and a front end platform. So what we do is we also take like these learnings, like, okay, what is an ideal checkout page? And build it into our front end component library into our front end, uh, system such that if something works on one, it’s being contributed, it’s being contributed back to the front end platform. And then it’s just being replicated across all the other brands. So it’s both technology as well as just humans coming together.
Sean Ellis 00:31:35 It, so, so, you know, as you, as you’ve kind of talked through the business, I I, I have a new appreciation for the model and, and, and I feel like I also understand some of the other companies that are trying to do similar things. And, um, and it makes sense why, why the, the consumer package goods are, are kind of right for this disruption for, for all the, for all the benefits that you talk about that system of, of, you know, direct to consumer first, really dial it in, if omnichannel makes sense, great. If you wanna stay direct to consumer, great. Better margins that way. Anyway. Um, I’m, I’m curious, as more and more companies are, are kind of honing in on that as a, as a better way to do innovation, how do you, how do you stay ahead of the game? How do you, how do you, how do you ultimately, um, remain competitive if, if the cat’s out of the bag, that that’s a pretty good, pretty good way to, to introduce, uh, new disruptive, uh, products into the market?
Sandeep 00:32:36 I, I would say the cat’s already out of the bag because we do already see a lot of traditional, uh, retail companies have, uh, online stores and they’re trying to sell online. Uh, the, the difference between any two companies these days, uh, tends to be the people. And so we focus heavily, heavily on people. From the very first day at Harry’s, we’ve been a people first company. We truly believe that more than, more important than the products that we sell are the people that we’re doing our work with. And so, uh, everything from, uh, the employee experience engagement with them, I was talking about the top five priorities as a business, one of those always is like, what is the company engagement score going to be? What are we tracking towards? It is a top level company goal. And so for us, make, continue to hire and retain a certain type of person, high caliber individual that is willing to disrupt his aligned with us from a values perspective becomes extremely important.
Sean Ellis 00:33:32 And, and do you feel like you have a, a good way of, uh, of identifying those people before they come in the organization? Or is that a little bit of, uh, ab testing as well, that you, you think you have it and, and they either thrive or, uh, or, or find something that’s better suited for their, uh, approach to things?
Sandeep 00:33:49 I look, I’ve been, look, I’ve been here for about a year now. I’ve been at Harris for about a year, and I’m mostly involved with, uh, either exec hiring or tech hiring. Uh, and I can say we’ve mastered it pretty well. Uh, and so we’ve done a pretty good job at it. Uh, and I do think it’s, it’s something we’ve mastered because we’ve been, we have been around for about a decade, uh, and from the very first, very beginning we’ve, we’ve had a pretty strong head of people, uh, our chief people officer that has focused on that. Uh, both the founders also are heavily for every new hire at Harry’s goes to interview training regardless. So we teach people how to interview for the skills that we’re looking for. And so that is a part of just like they’re learning how to onboard onto our code base. They’re learning how to onboard on, uh, onto our hiring processes. It’s, it’s a, it’s a must. You cannot interview at Harry’s unless you’ve gone through that training. Right. Cool. And it’s the training that’s tailored to us.
Sean Ellis 00:34:44 Yeah. And are you, uh, are you guys, um, working on site together? Is it a, is it a hybrid? Is it, is it all remote? How’s that working?
Sandeep 00:34:52 It’s hybrid. So most of the company comes in, uh, two days a week. Uh, but some teams like engineering we’re a hundred percent remote. So we have a few of us that come in because they want to, but, uh, we’re mostly remote.
Sean Ellis 00:35:06 And, and were, were you guys organized that way pre pandemic or is that more of a transition?
Sandeep 00:35:11 It’s more of a transition as we’ve all learned new ways of working. Uh, and, and of course the market dynamics have changed, uh, which sort of moved into this hybrid model.
Sean Ellis 00:35:21 And do you feel like there there’s any challenges on that kind of employee engagement with, with that model or, or that, that you’re, you’re really finding a, a good stride with that model as well?
Sandeep 00:35:31 We’re seeing success, but it is not a slam dunk for sure. Uh, we’re all trying to figure out new and creative ways of keeping pl like keeping employees engaged. You know, what keeps people at companies are sometimes are like being in the trenches together or those, Right, yeah. Water cooler conversations. Exactly. And like, how do you mimic that in a remote world? I, it’s something I personally think about all the time. You start doing like, Okay, let’s do zoom pasta making, but even that gets old after a while, right? Like, it’s like it doesn’t, it doesn’t mimic those organic conversations. So engineering as an example, LA last week we brought all of engineering together in New York and they spent a ton of time together.
Sean Ellis 00:36:11 Yeah. So it’s up by doing kind of offsite together. Got kind some, some things where they do get that physical proximity, yes.
Sandeep 00:36:19 But definitely still a work in progress. It’s something we like, I’m guessing every company in this world is trying to figure out is right. Not just how to keep people engaged, but also help form that connected tissue that makes companies informs culture.
Sean Ellis 00:36:30 Exactly. And, and as CTO is there, is there any rule role that you have in terms of like, uh, finding tools that, that, you know, technology solutions to, to help that? Or is, is that something that someone else is thinking about those kind of off the shelf, uh, ways of, of potentially bridging the gap?
Sandeep 00:36:49 Yeah, the people team focuses heavily on that. They’re pretty creative. They’re all always looking at new ways to build engagement. And so they work heavily on that. I don’t get too involved in that unless,
Sean Ellis 00:37:00 Have you guys found as, as Harry’s that, that there’s any kind of new emerging tools that have been helpful in, in, uh, in bridging the gap? Or is it more kind of process and, and just what you actively do to keep people plugged in?
Sandeep 00:37:13 I can’t say I’ve found, uh, like, um, silver bullet tool yet that’s helping with that.
Sean Ellis 00:37:18 Okay. Yeah. Cool. I figured, I figured you might be the guy to ask, cuz it sounds like, it sounds like there’s so, so much that’s going well there that, uh, that, that there may have been, uh, partly tools that are part of that, but, uh, doesn’t, doesn’t sound like it yet. <laugh>.
Sandeep 00:37:32 Yeah, no, it’s de there’s definitely a lot of trial and error.
Ethan Garr 00:37:35 I’m, I’m fascinated by that too, cuz one, um, one of, um, our early guests, uh, Hugo Perera just today announced that he’s, uh, he’s launching a business that’s a, uh, company engagement tool. So I’m, so I’m curious, uh, I’m, I’m curious about sort of how people are using those tools, what’s working, what’s not. So it’ll be interesting. Um, but yeah, so Sandee as you, um, as you were talking about the, just the importance of getting the right people on, on board, um, you mentioned, you know, really, really tight and, and well run hiring processes. I’m curious if there’s, you know, a particular question that you, you like to ask as in the hiring process, uh, that you feel is really valuable, or if there’s something that you do, whether it’s a project that you, you ask people to do that you feel has really worked well for Harry’s.
Sandeep 00:38:23 Yeah. Uh, it, it, look, it really changes based on level, right? What I am typically looking for, uh, are engineers, uh, well, if I, if I’m hiring for engineering as an example, I’m looking for engineers that are not necessarily like cash motivated, right? Like, yes, compensation’s important, I don’t wanna ignore that, but I, I’m really looking for engineers that are coming in because they truly be believe they will build, let’s say, the next Amazon, right? I, I i i, I say this a lot and maybe I’ve over said it, but I truly think that, uh, you know, uh, Harrys is to razor Harrys what books or toys were at Amazon, right? It’s like, it’s like proving out a model and then replicating that. So our goal is not to sell as many razors as possible. Our goal is to essentially like disrupt cpg, right? And so that is a long term project.
Sandeep 00:39:16 People that are usually extremely cash motivated, co uh, uh, are, are, are, are not interested in equity, are usually very, very short term minded people. They’re coming in for like, uh, as mercenaries looking to make a quick looking to work for a year, two years, and then leave. And so I try to figure out creative ways in which I can figure, I can like understand what are their, like long term incentives, what do they want, Are they coming for growth than Harris is a place, are they coming to make an impact in Harrys is a place, do they truly believe that ES can disrupt and they want, they want more equity than Harriss is a place. And I think that’s what I usually push for.
Sean Ellis 00:39:51 Awesome. Um, so, uh, it’s a good kind of transition into, into the future and, and, and what’s next? Obviously some of the things you just talked about probably were, were part of what excited you a year ago about joining Harry’s. Um, what, what excites you going forward? What do you, what do you think some of the interesting challenges around the corner are gonna be?
Sandeep 00:40:11 Yeah, I mean, to be honest, this is just the beginning of the journey, right? So I talk about four brands in six countries, and what that essentially means is there’s a long way to go. We are, uh, our last valuation was I believe at a $1.7 billion value, uh, billion dollar valuation are competitors that we compete with have hundreds of billion dollars in market cap, right? And so if you talk about the delta between us and them, it’s a huge thing. So it’s, today it’s about our, our our focus is about building a platform that’s efficient, that helps us build a sustainable and profitable business, right? And so that is what we’re focusing on, focusing on, like something that everything else can be plugged on top of. And after that it’s about plugging everything on top of and really blowing this thing up. And, and so I think we haven’t gotten to the point where we go from, uh, we, we’ll maybe we’ll go from four brands to seven brands in the next few years, or eight brands in the next few years, but after that you go from eight to 16, it sort of gets exponential.
Sandeep 00:41:14 And so that is a part I’m also looking forward to. Mm-hmm.
Sean Ellis 00:41:18 <affirmative>, do you wanna ask the wrap up question? Ethan? I have one, one question, or you got something before ok <laugh>? Yeah,
Ethan Garr 00:41:23 I’m just, I’m just, I’m just curious when you say that, you know, you mentioned, you know, your competitors have hundreds of billions, which means, you know, there are other, there are other startups that are doing, doing similar things to what, what you’re doing. Um, it doesn’t sound like that’s who you think of as your competitors. It sounds like you’re thinking of your competitors as a much larger world. I’m just, is that, is that top of mind for you? And who, like when you, when, when I say who are your competitors, who do you immediately think of?
Sandeep 00:41:50 Uh, I owe Proc and Gamble Unilever. If you look, if you look around your household, 90% of the companies are being sold by 90% of the pack products you have at home are sold by Procter and Gamble, Unilever, Johnson Johnson, right? And so these are the companies I think of, but also like I do think of the next hairies that’s gonna just disrupt us, no doubt. Like you, like there, there will be companies I hope there are, that keep us on our toes, that ma that make sure that we don’t get complacent, we don’t get stagnant. We’ve been very fortunate that we’ve enjoyed a lot of growth over the years. Uh, but, and it’s easy to get comfortable, but, uh, like that would be like the death of disruption for us. So for us, I do think of like, Hey, it’s always good when you have others trying to do what we did, and it keeps us on our toes and makes us mo keeps us moving forward.
Sean Ellis 00:42:37 Yeah, The old only the paranoid survive, uh, <laugh> Yes. Is a, is is a good, good mindset to have. Um, so yeah, we, we do like to have one question. I’ve got, I’ve got a bunch of takeaways I wanna share after this, but we, we have one question that we, we like to, uh, wrap up on and, and that’s, uh, what do you feel like you understand about growth now that, that maybe you didn’t understand before you got to Harry’s or, you know, just in the last couple of years with some new learning for you?
Sandeep 00:43:03 Yeah, Yeah. I, maybe, maybe I’ll rephrase it a little bit about what have I learned about my role in growth over, over the years And, uh, my first job fresh out of college, uh, was at Microsoft. I worked on a flowcharting software called Microsoft Visio. Uh, those of us that are older probably remember it, right? And, uh,
Ethan Garr 00:43:23 We’re that old <laugh> Yeah,
Sandeep 00:43:25 <laugh>. And, and, and it was about building features and functionality. And for me, the role of engineer was about building features and functionality, right? Uh, but as we move into this world where technology’s sort of everywhere, it’s not just about productivity software or it’s not about just, uh, uh, selling digital products on everywhere. How does the role of technology change? Uh, and I think this is what I have learned is that for technology to be successful or for you to be successful as a technologist at any other company, if you can’t understand what actually a business does, how it grows, you can actually understand the mechanics of what makes a business successful. Yes, the product makes it successful, but also what sells that product makes it successful. If you can’t figure that part, it’s, it’ll be very hard to become successful as a technologist. Uh, there’s very few companies out there today that are truly building, uh, what you can consider, like state of the art that next technology innovation, uh, but most companies, most technologists today are essentially building what everyone else is building. So then the differentiator really becomes, okay, how well can you partner with the non technologists and create that secret sauce to win? And so I think that becomes extremely important.
Sean Ellis 00:44:43 That’s cool. Yeah, that was one of my big takeaways when you were, when with everything that we went through, is like, bring, bring engineers into the sausage making process. Um, and don’t just, don’t just ask for an occasional task, but, but help them understand what you’re, what you’re trying to accomplish and how you’re going about it. And, and they’ll, they’ll probably have a lot more meaning in what they’re doing, but they’ll also be able to contribute in ways that you may not have thought of. But when you take that and you attach it to the big picture, and then another one of my big takeaways is just the, the overall system that, that Harry’s is building, that that platform that you, that you call it is, uh, is, is really cool. That is the differentiator. The, the, the products tend not to be that differentiated, but the, but when you can, when you can dial them in a little bit better on product market fit, when you can build those channel advantages and, and help people, uh, buy the products the way they wanna buy them, where wherever that might end up being, uh, I, I think, I think that that points to a ton of success in the business and, and, and a ton more, uh, around the corner.
Sean Ellis 00:45:47 But I’ve, I’ve learned a ton from this interview. So thank you for, uh, for, for sharing the insights. Ethan, did you have any additional
Ethan Garr 00:45:54 Takeaways? Well, yeah, I, I just, I, I think it’s, it’s interesting that, you know, you’re saying really understanding what the business does and how, how, how it works. It becomes so important for, for me, what you’ve really done in this conversation is proven that the lines between technology and growth are, are, there is no line anymore. It’s just a, it’s just, it’s all interconnected. Sean and I always talk about the importance of diagramming your, your value delivery engine, and you just said like, that’s important on the technology side, that’s important on, uh, for the entire business. I think you, you said, what have you learned about your role in growth? Sean loves when I, I, I mentioned this, but like when I started at Tell Tech right before I, I was at his house and we were chatting and I was like, Hey, gimme one piece of advice in my, and he said, Figure out everyone’s role in growth.
Ethan Garr 00:46:40 And I think what you’ve just said is that like, you’ve gotta figure out your own role and growth, but you gotta figure out how that works as part of this larger connected system. And I, you know, I, I just love the, the idea that Harry is, you know, you keep talking about how just disruptive the think the mindset is, and like that, that concept of embracing the mammoth, um, I, I love that as a, as a, as a, just as a, as a phrase. But, um, we just recently spoke to, um, the president of, uh, the San Jose Sharks. And, you know, he was talking about, you know, pioneering, like pioneering sports and entertainment. That’s what he, he sees as, as the future. And I think if, you know, if you want to be bold and successful, you gotta be bold and, and take these, these big risks and not be afraid to try new things. So, um, I think it, it all ties together really nicely and, um, you’ve definitely, yeah, I think maybe a little bit of me was like, Oh, we’re talking to a CTO that’s different from what we normally do, and I’m wondering how that’ll, you know, pan out. Like, uh, it wasn’t like talking to a cto. Uh, or maybe it, it is, but, uh, it’s a lot like just talking about growth. So very cool stuff.
Sandeep 00:47:46 Awesome. And happy to be, And by the way, our products are awesome too. So it, it’s, they don’t, they, they, they sell themselves and then people are hooked on them. So if you haven’t tried I Raz, there’s a body wash, I would definitely recommend it. <laugh>, I’m a
Sean Ellis 00:47:59 How, how would one go about trying them? Yeah,
Sandeep 00:48:01 Well, harrys.com or, or I will send you free samples, whatever, whatever works. But, but yeah, I, I, I joke about this a lot. Uh, I, I am obsessed with our body wash <laugh>. It is. And it’s something we just launched two years ago, so,
Ethan Garr 00:48:16 Well, I can tell you smell better than I do from here.
Sandeep 00:48:20 <laugh> <laugh>,
Ethan Garr 00:48:21 Uh, Sean’s already
Sean Ellis 00:48:22 Pretty much everybody does <laugh>, but, uh, yeah, thank you so much, Cindy, for, for just giving us that perspective of, uh, of growth from the, from the CTO seat at Harry’s. Um, it’s, uh, it’s it’s eye opening for, for me, and I’m, uh, I’m gonna definitely be recommending this episode to a lot of the CTOs that I know, because I think it, um, it’s just, it, it, it shows the future of where, where things are headed and, um, and it’s fun. I think it’s, I think it’s something that, um, business is pretty, pretty cool. And when, when people can, can think about the big picture of the business and how they can contribute to that, I think it, it actually brings a lot more, more meaning and, and enjoyment to the, to the whole thing, um, for, for people in their day to day work.
Sean Ellis 00:49:06 So again, part of that move toward hybrid and, and, and even fully remote, um, when you, when you have that connection to the, to the bigger mission and, and, and, and you have appreciation for what you’re doing uniquely in the business, I think it’s a lot easier to, to find that, that energy, uh, and enthusiasm to, to, to, to put your heart and soul into the work on a day to day basis. So, um, thank you for sharing that, and uh, really excited to be watching what you guys are doing. And I am, I’m gonna be trying a lot of the products. Um, the, uh, the cat food. We don’t have a cat, but, uh, <laugh> the, uh,
Ethan Garr 00:49:40 He’s gonna try it anyway.
Sean Ellis 00:49:42 <laugh>, I’ll try the women’s products. Sometimes they’re better <laugh>, but, uh, but awesome. Thank, thank you so much. Um, thank, we’ll, we’ll, uh, we’ll look forward to, to getting this episode out as quickly as possible.
Sandeep 00:49:55 Thanks for having me.
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