Alumnus driving “digital transformation”
by Kandace York
When Steve Rado was named chief digital officer for The Children’s Place in August, in addition to his deep marketing expertise, he brought decades of experience in finance and technology to his new role.
That experience started at BGSU’s College of Business, where he graduated in 1986 with a double major in finance and management information systems. It was a logical decision, he said. “I always had an interest in technology as well as finance, and I was familiar with BGSU because I had an older sister who had graduated from there.”
Rado recalled his college experience as one that combined academic rigor with engaged faculty. “My favorite professor was Paul Mueller, who taught finance. He was just fantastic -- passionate about educating his students.”
Finance and retail
Following his BGSU graduation, Rado spent the first part of his professional life in banking, where he worked with Bank One, now JPMorgan Chase & Co. He also continued his business education by completing an MBA.
After a decade in banking, Rado accepted a position with Victoria’s Secret. This move to the retail profession enabled him to apply his finance skills to the relatively new technology of e-commerce, an aspect of retail operations that was changing companies all around the world.
Digital transformation and personalized customer contact
“The old retail concept of, ’If you build it they will come’ doesn’t fly anymore,” Rado explained. “Instead, I think about how people will shop in the future. That’s what I’m interested in – giving Mom access to our brand when and where she wants digitally. I tell my team that we aren’t just running to keep up with technology; we’re leap-frogging.”
Joining The Children’s Place offered him a remarkable opportunity to drive the digital transformation of the company. Serving as the company’s chief digital officer, he said, also enables him to drive the benefits associated with a personalized customer contact strategy.
The Children’s Place sells fashionable, high-quality merchandise at value prices. The company operates more than 1,000 stores in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, with an additional 161 international points of distribution operated by seven franchise partners in 19 countries.
It is the company’s personalized customer experience, including a fast-growing online presence, that most intrigues Rado. “Mom’s in charge,” he said. “That’s our primary customer, and that’s who we focus on. We need to be sure we can deliver to our customers what they want, when they want it.”
Jane Elfers, president and chief executive officer of The Children’s Place, said, “We believe that a personalized customer contact strategy is our single biggest opportunity, and we have made the decision to significantly accelerate the development and implementation of this initiative. Steve’s deep experience in all aspects of marketing, including strategy development, customer relationship management and digital commerce, combined with his successful track record of delivered digital transformation through personalized customer contact, make him the ideal candidate to lead this effort.”
Rado said his first few months with The Children’s Place have only increased his enthusiasm. “Jane is a phenomenal CEO and I’m excited to lead the Number One initiative of this company.”
Part of the excitement is the knowledge that, despite lightning-fast changes, The Children’s Place remains grounded in its core principles. “We know the dynamics of how our business operates and how we make money, but we know we need to continue to transform in order to win in this highly competitive environment. That is our focus.”
Reflecting on his journey from college student to Chief Digital Officer, Rado said that he would encourage current BGSU students to develop solid problem-solving skills.
“That’s where I see the biggest gap,” he explained. “The internet allows us to ‘look up’ a lot of things, but that doesn’t help with problem-solving. I’m all about substantive knowledge, not ‘fake it ‘til you make it,’ and I’d encourage students who really want to be successful to work hard at developing problem-solving skills for the workplace.”