Julie Bornstein

Julie Bornstein’s career has taken her through Starbucks, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, Sephora and Stitch Fix, where she is wrapping up a two-and-half-year run as chief operating officer.

That last stop — at the still rapidly growing Stitch Fix — has Bornstein thinking of the virtue of the small (although Stitch Fix isn’t that small anymore, with sales of $730 million).

Offering up something akin to an exit interview, Bornstein detailed “10 Lessons from Big to Small,” detailing what she learned after transitioning away from the mega.

  1. There is a whole new nomenclature and tool suite — from Slack to cloud-based applications, there are new and easier ways to plug in.
  2. “Applied” data science is different from data analysis — start with data instead of using data to analyze a business; build algorithms to answer questions.
  3. Engineering is different from IT — engineers build new product, while the information technology team handles infrastructure.
  4. Build in-house the things that are key to your differentiation — if it’s going to define you, make it yourself.
  5. Legacy systems and organizations are a threat to your survival — find technologies that can work around your legacy systems rather than building into them.
  6. Anything is possible with three key ingredients — the right strategy, the ability to innovate and the right people.
  7. Staying fast and nimble is hard, even for a young company.
  8. Amazon is an existential threat to brands and consumers, but there is hope — there are plenty of areas the web giant hasn’t taken over, opening up opportunities.
  9. Half the population doesn’t like to shop — many people are actually overwhelmed and looking for help.
  10. Omnichannel may be a red herring — omnichannel initiatives often emphasize ways to bring together the clicks and bricks and make those channels more alike when they’re different.

On that last point, Bornstein noted: “While obviously things like pricing you don’t want to have different between channels, really the beauty of those different channels is they bring really different experiences, and customers go to those channels for different reasons. There’s been a little bit of an overfocus in the industry on trying to make everything the same as opposed to thinking about when you’re using your phone, when you’re using the site, when you’re in the store, what are the best possible experiences in those moments and how do you continue to innovate and make those experiences even better.”

Apparently, going from big to small can sharpen one’s focus, at least for Bornstein.