Vice President, International Business Development, Wolverine Worldwide
If it’s all going to be tough, I might as well do something that I like and have a nose for.
Very few people can say that the shoe business is in their blood. Tom Slosberg D’90, T’99 is one of them. His great-grandfather, J.A. Slosberg, emigrated to the United States from Russia in 1887 and founded Stride Rite in 1919. The business was eventually led by Slosberg’s father, Myles, who graduated from Dartmouth and Tuck as a 3/2 student in 1959. As Tom learned the tough nature of the shoe industry, before and after he graduated from Dartmouth, he decided to explore other industries. “The shoe business is a dog-eat-dog, competitive, mature industry,” he said, “and I learned that the way you grow is by stealing market share from someone else.”
Slosberg came to Tuck with the mindset of “there’s got to be a better way to make a buck,” he recalled. He was drawn to the school for its solid reputation, its focus on teamwork, and its general management approach to the MBA. At Tuck, he explored the business landscape for an undiscovered segment, or a niche that had been overlooked. He continued that search during his two and a half years as a consultant at Alliance, a spin-off of Boston Consulting Group. He eventually realized he liked being on a brand-driven team and, more importantly, that “every industry is hard,” he said. He wasn’t going to find that hidden niche, but he knew he loved the shoe business, so he went back to work for the company his great grandfather started at the beginning of the 20th century. “I said, If it’s all going to be tough, I might as well do something that I like and have a nose for,” he remarked.
Stride Rite went public in 1960, acquired Keds and Sperry in 1979, and Saucony in 2005. Then all those brands were sold to Wolverine Worldwide, where Slosberg is a vice president of international business development. In that role, Slosberg gets to be a generalist who can call on his deep background in sales to grow market share and revenues in foreign countries. He does this by being an evangelist for his brands, convincing distributors in 200 countries around the world to invest money in marketing the shoes to their fullest potential. He scored a big win in 2012, when he helped persuade the company to sign Taylor Swift as a celebrity spokesperson. “It was a major catalyst for the business, as you can imagine,” he said.
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