An early conference call and silent film helped acquaint Laurent Potdevin with investors and analysts
Lululemon, the Canadian producer of high-end yoga pants, likes to do things its own way. The company keeps its products scarce, to entice customers to buy now at full price – a tactic that creates ‘fanatical shoppers’, according to recently departed CEO Christine Day.
The corporate culture is even more unusual. Employees – including senior management – are encouraged to attend self-help sessions at the popular but controversial Landmark Forum, as well as complete the Grouse Grind, a challenging three-kilometer hike up North Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain.
Lululemon’s new CEO strikes a yoga pose in his introductory video
It’s no surprise, then, that the company put aside the usual practices when it introduced Laurent Potdevin as its incoming CEO in December. First of all, lululemon put him straight on a conference call, albeit a short one, where he had to face questions from analysts before his official duties had started.
Therese Hayes, vice president of communications, whose role includes responsibility for IR, admits the move was a ‘little unusual’, but says it was important for the investment community to get a quick look before Potdevin focuses on getting to know the business for two to three months.
‘We wanted to acknowledge that audience, say hello to it and introduce Laurent, and also provide him with the space he needs to really focus internally,’ Hayes explains. ‘The first 60-90 days for the new CEO have to be internally focused, so that he gets a good sense of the business. It’s after that that he would be meeting with people on the investor side.’
While not every new chief executive has to instantly take questions from the sell side, it was at least a reassuringly short 17-minute conference call, which left time for only four questions.
Lululemon also created two videos to introduce its new man. One is of the more conventional, corporate kind: Potdevin looks into the camera and explains his excitement about joining the company, his passion for its products and his future plans for expansion (one of his key targets from the board is to grow the brand globally).
The second, though, takes a more innovative approach: the one-minute film, which is near silent and includes only traces of color (Hayes says it was inspired by The Artist, the 2011 French film that won five Academy Awards), follows Potdevin around his house as he begins his morning routine. Along the way, the viewer is introduced to items that represent different aspects of his life: an ‘I love LA’ mug (he’s relocating from there to Vancouver, lululemon’s home city); a snowboard (he worked at Burton for 15 years, including five as CEO); and a pair of shoes from TOMS (his most recent employer). ‘It gives little snippets of this man’s life before coming to lululemon – and ends with him sitting in a yoga pose,’ says Hayes.
As with the conference call, Hayes says the videos will help tide over investors and analysts until Potdevin is ready to pick up his IR duties. He’s scheduled to join the Q4 earnings call at the end of March, and then be the star of the show at the company’s analyst day the following month. Until then, he’s got a couple of months to immerse himself in lululemon’s unique culture.