Scott Vifquain is Chief Technology Officer at Tailored Brands, where he was hired in 2021 to help turn things around through the use of improved technology. The men’s clothing retailer — including Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A Bank — was reeling after it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy amid the pandemic.
Prior to joining Tailored Brands, he was Senior Vice President of Technology at Kohl’s. He began his career at Kurt Salmon Associates (now Accenture) where he consulted major retailers on supply chain technology.
Vifquain explains to CO— how three informal mentorships gave him professional self-confidence that he never imagined possible. He also shares how these mentorships each played a unique role in helping him to reinvent Tailored Brands, which exited bankruptcy in December 2020, as a leading-edge tech retailer in men’s clothing at a time it so desperately needed change.
CO—: Who is your mentor and why?
SV: My career has three chapters and my three mentors come from the first two. The first chapter was at Kurt Salmon [now part of Accenture], where I had two important mentors who were both partners: Torre Crupie and Britt Dayton.
My second chapter was at Kohl’s, where my most important mentor was Ken Bonning, Senior Executive Vice President. All three have helped to make my third chapter, at Tailored Brands, a success.
CO—: What were your mentors like?
SV: None were formerly designated as mentors. Each mentorship began organically.
Torre Crupie was absolutely fantastic at fostering relations with customers.
Britt Dayton was a great storyteller who cared deeply at fostering the next generation of talent in the organization.
Ken Bonning was a risk-taker who encouraged team members to push their boundaries.
CO—: What have you learned from them that’s key to your career?
SV: Torre taught me the value of customer relationships and how to build and nurture them. Just watching him do it showed me the way.
Britt always set a standard of excellence that I still have until this day. He was all about driving results and then owning those results in operational excellence.
Because of Ken, I’ve made several career pivots that pushed the boundaries of what I thought I could do.
It’s empowering to know that someone in a senior position has taken a personal interest in your success.
Scott Vifquain, Chief Technology Officer, Tailored Brands
CO—: Show us your mentors’ imprint in action.
SV: At Kurt Salmon, we had a major project that we were doing with Nike. This was a supply chain transformation to expand and improve their retail distribution capabilities. Torre was deeply invested in this and the level of attention he gave to it showed me how to do it.
[Meanwhile] if we had a presentation due the next day at Kurt Salmon and if it was not good enough, Britt would challenge us to work through the night until we got it right. He taught me to never deliver anything that isn’t excellent. He didn’t just say it but was with us in the trenches doing it.
Thanks to Ken, I went from being Director of Engineering to a much larger operational role of a facility that I ran. I’d never managed an operation of any kind before and suddenly I was managing 1,000 people. He gave me the keys to do that. That would have never happened without his belief in me.
CO—: How does your work at Tailored Brands reflect your mentors’ imprint?
SV: There’s a new point-of-sale system that’s going into pilot next year and is currently in design at Tailored Brands. I keep pushing my team to make sure that our store sales associates have lots of input in its design. That all comes from Torre, who taught me about collaboration.
At Tailored Brands, we are bringing a new level of organizational and process discipline to IT that is a whole notch above what we had in the past. This standard of excellence comes from Britt.
Our data network at Tailored Brands that connect our stores and corporate is a good example of Ken teaching me about constantly pushing for improvement. We’re elevating the expectations for the team that manages that network and Ken showed me how to do this.
CO—: Please complete this sentence: ‘Had I not met my mentors, I likely would never have…’
SV: Had I not met Torre, I would not have developed the customer orientation and collaborative leadership style that I needed to be successful.
Had I not met Britt, I would not have learned about the standard of excellence necessary to advance my career.
Had I not met Ken, I would never have learned how to challenge and push myself into areas that were uncomfortable.
CO—: Why is having a mentor so important?
- It forces you to move away from the day-to-day workplace experience.
- It gives you special feedback on your performance from someone with typically great workplace experience and wisdom.
- It’s empowering to know that someone in a senior position has taken a personal interest in your success.
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