Jerry Stritzke Says OSU Was Instrumental
In His Ascension To The Top Of Coach
Jerry Stritzke grew up in Oklahoma, was a member of the FarmHouse fraternity at Oklahoma State University and was an aspiring farmer. So how is it that he ended up with an office on 34th Street in mid-town Manhattan, N.Y., as the president and chief operating officer for Coach, one of the world’s largest marketers of accessories and gifts for women and men?
That’s a good question and one he answered Thursday at the Executive Management Briefings speaker series coordinated by the Center for Executive and Professional Development and presented by OSU’s Spears School of Business in conjunction with corporate sponsors. Stritzke spoke on “The Magic and Logic of Going Global” to more than 400 people as part of the Executive Management Briefings at the Cox Business Convention Center in Oklahoma City.
“I have to say that Oklahoma State was a transformational experience for me. It was a very defining event,” said Stritzke, who earned a bachelor’s of science degree in agricultural economics from OSU and served as a judge for 4H livestock competitions while growing up in Stillwater. “OSU really kind of motivated me to embrace the idea of what was possible.”
Stritzke’s path after graduating from OSU took him to Norman (where he earned his law degree from the University of Oklahoma), Chickasha (where he began his law career), and Tulsa (where he was part of the law firm of Best, Sharp, Sheridan & Stritzke before opening his own law practice). But he realized that being an attorney wasn’t what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“In the eight years that I practiced law, by the time I was 31 or 32, I had tried about 65 jury trials and had a really great success rate. But I woke up one day and said this is not what I want to do,” Stritzke said.
He began a new career as a consultant with a retail consulting firm in Tulsa, and was hired in 1999 by Limited Brands. Within nine months, he was asked to succeed the founder and president of MAST Industries who was retiring. “I didn’t know anything. I didn’t know how to be a CEO. I didn’t understand finance. I sure didn’t understand making women’s apparel,” Stritzke said of his new role as chief executive officer of MAST Industries.
That year was transformational. I had to learn,” he said.
From 1999 through August 2007, he held several executive positions with the Limited Brands, Inc., organization, including COO and co-leader of Victoria’s Secret, including Victoria’s Secret Stores, Victoria’s Secret Direct, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Pink.
The former OSU student joined Coach as an executive officer in March 2008 and eventually succeeded former president and COO Keith Monda after his retirement. Stritzke has seen remarkable growth in his nearly four years with Coach. The company bought back its distributorship in China three years ago, and retail sales have increased from $30 million to $300 million.
Coach opened five retail stores and five factory stores in North America during the last three months of 2011, while six locations were opened in Japan and nine new stores in China. New stores also were opened in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Great Britain and another is planned for Germany.
“What did I learn? Great things don’t happen by being safe. Sometimes it’s about pushing the unknown. Fortunately, and foolishly at time, I stepped into the unknown in changing a job or changing a career, taking a job where I really wasn’t qualified, but the one thread throughout it all was learning, and that began at Oklahoma State,” said Stritzke.
“When we start talking about magic I believe that learning is the thing that really underpins magic and underpins people that are successful and is the key to organizations that are successful. If you’re in an organization and that organization isn’t learning, you’re not pushing the boundaries of newness, you’re not exploring, then you have a problem. That’s a part of the passion and a part of the magic at Coach. We’re so curious. We’re hungry for knowledge.”
Stritzke also learned that attending Oklahoma State and growing up in Oklahoma have been beneficial throughout his successful business career.
“I’ve found the work ethic, the hunger, the desire and that commitment that I think is so common in a place like Oklahoma fits in well anywhere in the world. (James Peters), my chief financial officer for Coach Japan is an Oklahoma State graduate. My head of visual merchandising (is Kris Houlton), who lives in Shanghai, China is an Oklahoma State graduate. In Sri Lanka, the gentleman who is running one of the largest factories in the country and is an amazing testimony in that country is an Oklahoma State graduate.
You would be surprised when I travel the world how many Oklahoma State graduates that I connect with. I think the skill sets you learn here definitely translate well.”
Next Month: Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and former head of marketing for the social media website, will be the featured speaker in the third and final installment of the 2011-12 Executive Management Briefings series. She will speak on “Social Change Through Social Media: How the Web is Changing the Way We Live, Vote and Organize” in both Tulsa and Oklahoma City in March.
Zuckerberg, who founded R to Z Media after leaving Facebook last August, will speak at noon Thursday, March 15, as part of the Tulsa Business Forums at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. She will be speaking at noon Friday, March 16, at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City as part of the Executive Management Briefings.
To register online for either the Tulsa or Oklahoma City event, go to http://cepd.okstate.edu/, or call 405-744-5208 or 866-678-3933.