Inside Retail: Did you always want to work in retail?
Travis Wright: I didn’t always want to work in retail, but I always wanted to be in business. At first, I [worked] in technology and marketing, and then, once I moved to Australia…you know, you have to leverage your network because that’s how I got my role at Esther & Co. I fell into a role that I didn’t know brands needed at the level they did in 2014. I was really focused on social media, email marketing and the online space in general, and I became obsessed. That’s why eventually I launched my own jewellery brand [Travel by Travis]. Ever since I started down this career path in e-commerce, it has really fascinated me, and I can’t get enough of it.
IR: What is it like living and working in a country you didn’t grow up in? What are the challenges, and what are the benefits?
TW: I would say that initially there was a learning curve. Even just learning the new tax system and how healthcare works – all the things that you don’t really think about when you grow up in one country and then move to another where it’s a completely different system. But I’ve loved getting to experience and learn what drives people and different cultures.
I love that in Australia everyone is exposed to so many different cultures, whereas where I grew up in the US, I wasn’t exposed to as many. In Sydney and Melbourne, there are people from all over the world, and they all have something unique about them to share and to learn from. I think it’s made me a more well-rounded person overall, but also someone who, in the workplace, is able to adapt very well to any type of person I meet and is able to relate to different people from around the world.
IR: You’ve gone from being a marketing manager to a general manager to a CEO in just a handful of years. What’s your secret?
TW: I guess my secret is that I put in the hard yards. It’s something I’ve done my entire life. From an early age, I had a belief that if I worked hard enough, then there shouldn’t be anything that I can’t achieve. When you have that belief and that internal mindset, and if you’re willing to put in the time and the effort, that’s what I believe has led to my success today.
When I first moved to Australia, I was working at Esther & Co in a new capacity in the online space, but I was working every night almost five days a week and I’d usually work at least one day on the weekend. I’d often do learning and upskilling sessions during the day, and then I would do executional stuff in the evenings. I know that’s not sustainable for everyone, and it’s not sustainable forever for me either. At one stage it did feel like work, but then beyond that, because it’s something that I love so much, when I was doing it in the evenings, it never bothered me, it wasn’t something that felt like work.
I made sacrifices that I don’t know everyone would be willing to do, but that’s what has got me to where I am today. And I love what I do. That’s my other secret. I really love what I do. I have a personal investment in every brand and every role that I’m in. I don’t ever feel like it’s just a company or just a job. It’s something that I really put my heart and soul into, and I think my team can feel that as well and by correlation, I end up with teams who are really invested and help me achieve amazing things. If they didn’t care and love it the way that I do, then I wouldn’t be where I am today.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with a lot of amazing and really talented people. That’s extremely important in any role I’m in – making sure that I have the right people in place so that we can create something really amazing together. That’s another secret.
IR: Do you have any advice for other young people who want to climb the corporate ladder?
TW: Know what your worth is. Both in a way that is in reality – what skill sets do you have, what will you bring to the business – and in being able to articulate it and showing it every day, day in and day out. You need to be able to bring numbers to the table when it comes to your results and the successes that you’ve had, because any conversation that you have around progressing your career, you will need to be able to talk about numbers and results.
I’d also say keep upskilling and learning. Have mentors and people that you can ask when you get to a stage where you’re not sure what the right next step is for you, or what courses you should take, or what books you should read. That is super beneficial as well.
Be your own best advocate – go out there and ask people to be your mentor, go out there and pitch yourself for a different role. I pitched a different role for myself in at least two of the roles that I’ve had. There wasn’t a role that was there at the time, but I pitched for them internally and [explained] why we needed this role and what I believed we could achieve if I was in the role.