First Movers: Travis Colvin
TRAVIS COLVIN is the Senior Director of B2B eCommerce at the Kellogg Company.
He started his career at Target’s HQ in Minneapolis before transitioning to Kimberly-Clark in 2013 and a few years later to Kellogg to help advance its eCommerce efforts globally.
More recently, he transitioned to a new role leading eCommerce for Kellogg’s Away From Home (B2B) division in North America. He has had the good fortune of seeing eCommerce from a lot of different angles (retail, personal care, food, etc.) in a lot of different places.
Developing a more holistic view of the challenges and opportunities surrounding eCommerce continues to be an important part of his personal development.
Why did you choose to pursue eCommerce in your career? It became clear earlier in my career that eCommerce was going to be an enduring trend. You didn’t have to look too hard at the data to realize that every organization was going to be impacted to some degree or another, so it seemed like a good place to invest in skill building. Beyond that, I’m really interested in organizational transformation. This is largely what eCommerce is all about.
What is your biggest strength, and how have you used it for your success in eCommerce? I’m exceptionally average at a lot of things.
What is the weirdest skill or talent to come in handy in your eCommerce experience? See above. It helps to know a little about finance, a little about marketing, a little about sales, etc. There are a lot of hidden costs tied up in the translation gaps that exist when working across these siloes.
How have you most successfully influenced change within your organization (or with your clients)? Through relationships. Hard to drive lasting change if people don’t trust you.
What was your most “valuable” career failure, and why? The first time I was up for a promotion earlier in my career, I ended up getting turned down for same job twice within two weeks (long story). That sort of experience instilled A LOT of humility. However, I’d also say that bouncing back from it helped me develop a certain level of confidence. The combination of those two qualities has served me well ever since.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life? Initiative. If you want to change the status quo, then you need people who take a lot of initiative. Inertia can be a powerful force without someone there to work against.
What are you learning right now? How to play the guitar with my 8-year-old son, which has been humbling…on many levels.
What are the 1-3 songs that would make up your career soundtrack today?
- Too many to name, but there is a lyric in a song (“Flowers in Your Hair”) by the Lumineers that’s always stuck with me. “It’s a long road to wisdom, but it’s a short one to being ignored.” How you get results matters.
What are the 1-3 books you’ve gifted the most or that have greatly influenced your life, and why? Here are three recommendations of resources that have had significant impact on my professional development:
- Seth’s blog – I was introduced to Seth Godin’s work very early in my career. His daily posts (and books) consistently offer great perspective for anyone looking to make a difference. They’re the first thing I read in the morning.
- The First 90 Daysby Michael Watkin– As someone who has made a lot of career transitions, I’ve always found value in Michael Watkin’s book as it provides a structured approach for accelerating onboarding to a new role and/or organization. Transitions are always filled with uncertainty (e.g. will I fail?). This book won’t guarantee success, but I think it can greatly improve your odds.
- Mindset by Carol Dweck: This book points out that people generally adhere to one of two mindsets when it comes to how they approach learning: Fixed or Growth. Fixed mindset people tend to be more binary (you’re good at something or not) whereas growth mindset people believe that capability can be developed through effort, failure, grit, etc. I’ve always identified with the latter. I’m not the most naturally gifted person (very mediocre student). To compensate, I’ve always tried to put myself in difficult or uncomfortable situations as a forcing mechanism to drive learning and developing. It’s painful in the short run, but I think the long-term benefits can be transformative.
If you could have a gigantic billboard for the world to see with anything on it, what would it say, and why? PLAY THE LONG GAME
What are the worst recommendations or advice you have heard related to eCommerce? I think it’s great to read about eCommerce or listen to podcasts, but the best way to learn is by going out and experiencing it firsthand. Not saying that it’s bad advice to study eCommerce, but I think you can get a lot more out of experimenting with all the platforms directly. Run some Facebook Ads, try WMT grocery pickup, etc.
What advice would you give to a future leader of change about to enter business, or specifically the eCommerce field? It’s critical to have a sounding board of people you can trust and rely on to be completely honest with you. Figure out who those people are and work hard to nurture the relationship(s). Mentors are invaluable.
What specific, industry-related change do you believe will happen that few others seem to see? Hyper-personalized grocery shopping. How many Americans are dieting? Have a food allergy? etc. There’s a lot of friction imposed on the consumer when it comes to managing around these restrictions. The data and tech are all in place to provide a much more personalized and predictable experience than what we experience today. Increasingly, I think we’ll see all the pieces come together to create a fundamentally different grocery experience than what we’re used to today.
What is the last thing you bought online, and why? Groceries via Instacart. It saves us a ton of time (~50-100 hours/year). That’s the #1 reason. I’m happy to put up with some of the pain points (e.g. substitutes) if it means not having to take my three young kids with me to the grocery store.
First Movers is a change leader interview series featuring select industry pioneers who are boldly driving the evolution of digital commerce, the consumer and everything in between.