Meganne Wecker of Skyline and Cloth & Company: Five Things Business Leaders Can Do To Create A Fantastic Work Culture

Tyler Gallagher
Aug 23, 2020 · 8 min read

People assume that the most important factor in securing an employee’s happiness is money. The reality is, money is only one aspect that contributes to employee’s contentment. Personal growth and a sense of ownership/accomplishment are critical to an employee’s happiness. I don’t think organizations invest the time necessary to understand their employees’ personal goals and how to help achieve them. If people feel they are cared for an invested in they will work hard to reciprocate that investment.

a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meganne Wecker, President of Skyline and Founder of Cloth & Company.

Meganne is the President and CCO of Skyline Furniture, a 4th generation family business that has been handcrafting made-to-order furniture in the USA since 1946. Under her leadership, the company has transformed into a multimillion dollar powerhouse, pioneering the move into online furniture sales and click’n’ship manufacturing. In 2016, Meganne expanded her resume when she founded Cloth & Company, a Chicago based furnishing and home décor company that brings the fast fashion concept to home. As the country’s first print-on-demand, tech focused home brand, Cloth & Company harnesses digital design to bring collections to market with unprecedented speed, without ever making a sample. Praised for revolutionizing the supply chain, the brand utilizes digital printing technology and traditional craftsmanship to ship customized product to the consumer in under three weeks.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

kyline Furniture is my family’s business started by my grandfather in 1946. In college I studied International Business and Spanish. After graduation I was looking for an opportunity that would allow me to use my degree and travel the world, but didn’t consider joining the business as a viable option. At the time, Skyline’s was importing furniture from around the globe. My father never put any pressure on me to commit long-term to the business but offered me a job that would allow me to travel the world and I left for Mexico the next week. In the years to follow I became interested in the design and textiles aspect of the company. I believed there was opportunity in the market to design fashion forward furniture that my friends and I would want to buy, at a price we could afford, and be able to buy it through a channel we wanted to(e-commerce) for our first apartments. This is when I really became more invested in my family business and found a niche where I could use my skill set to really grow the business. In 2016, we took Skyline’s made-to-order capability to the next level, investing in a digital printer and creating Cloth & Company, a fashion focused, customizable home decor brand that delivers to the customer in three weeks.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

Investing in the digital printer and really innovating the supply chain is one of the most interesting things that has happened to us from a business stand point. It has been amazing to realize our potential and seeing technology interplay with the production methods that we have been perfecting over the past 70 years.With our made-to-order model and the introduction of 3-D rendering and digital design, we have been able to let our imagination wonder and produce collections that would have once been deemed too risky from a design stand point. I now meet with retailers and there is genuine excitement and a playfulness on our ideas. We not only discuss things that we can do now, but also dream about what we can do in the future to further leverage our capabilities.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! We are working on the technology that will allow customers the ability to completely customize their own piece of furniture. Think creating your own shape and textiles- everything can be customized!

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

People assume that the most important factor in securing an employee’s happiness is money. The reality is, money is only one aspect that contributes to employee’s contentment. Personal growth and a sense of ownership/accomplishment are critical to an employee’s happiness. I don’t think organizations invest the time necessary to understand their employees’ personal goals and how to help achieve them. If people feel they are cared for an invested in they will work hard to reciprocate that investment.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

Unhappy employees can be toxic for an organization, and that toxicity can spread in a company impacting entire teams. Productivity is affected as unhappy employees will do the bare minimum, and not become invested in achieving goals. Profitability is impacted when there is turnover as the financial investment to train a new employee is quite significant. An employee that is happy with their work, excited about their contribution to the company’s goals and consistently see rewards from their hard work foster a healthy view of their self worth.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

  • Diversity in the work force

Having diversity in age, gender, race and socio economic backgrounds allows for new ideas and encourages employees to learn from each other. Given our company is a multigenerational, we often find the elder generation is having to learn new technology from the younger generation, while conversely the younger generation is reliant upon the elder generation to learn the handmade craft that has been passed down for over 70 years.

  • Create an environment where feedback and ideas are welcomed and encouraged.

Some of the best improvements our company has made came from the people working on the factory floor. They are the ones working with the products day in and day out, and often times see issues before anyone else. Its important everyone has a voice and is given the opportunity to share their ideas on how to improve the company.

  • Allow for flexibility

We employ a lot of young people who are juggling a career and parenthood. Allowing for flexibility in the work schedule is very important toward creating a positive work/ life balance. At the end of the day, great employees will get the work done, it doesn’t have to be between the hours of 9–5.

  • Encourage and reward team efforts

No department in our organization operates in a silo. It often takes two or three teams working together to execute initiatives. When everyone is working toward the same goal we accomplish a lot more faster. So celebrating those wins together is very important.

  • Stay core to the company’s values

Skyline is a family business, and we employ generations of families, so we have always operated under that belief. We celebrate accomplishments together, and face challenges together in our business and in personal lives.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

I think the changes that we need to make are two-fold. Within our work culture we need to celebrate diversity not only in ethnicity and gender but also in skill-set and age. I think as employers we need to also ensure our work place allows people to grow not only in the professional lives but also in their personal ones. Providing ample education, health benefits and holidays is crucial, as well as just being compassionate to our employees needs. Our nation’s work culture would be improved if we can all try to walk in other people’s shoes and treat everyone with the respect that we would like to be given.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I lead through inspiration. I am passionate about design and innovation, and I look to inspire our team through my vision of what is possible. For example, I saw an opportunity for us to create the “Nike” experience of customization for furniture. In sharing this vision, our team became invested in the concept and everyone had an important role to make the idea become reality. In October 2018, we partnered with One Kings Lane to launch Palette, the only true customization offering on the market. It’s a platform that allows consumers to customize standard features- legs, silhouettes and fabrics, as well as offering the ability to choose scale and color of the textiles to create a truly unique product.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that? My father has been my mentor and my biggest supporter. He believed that I could break all the rules by being a successful woman in manufacturing. He gave me space to take risks and pave my own way, while at the same time guiding me with his years of experience.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Skyline employs over 300 people. It is very important to us that the employees and their families benefit from the success of our company. We offer full health benefits for all factory workers, English classes, GED and college class reimbursement, and other benefits.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never stop learning”. This quote has guided me in several ways throughout the years. Reading and learning about how fashion companies are using digital printing to bring fast fashion to market, is what gave us the idea to implement digital printing in our manufacturing process.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Wow this is a tough question! I would love to be part of any movement that helps people to attain happiness. Our generation seems to conflate business or financial success with happiness which is such a common misconception.I guess in that respect I would be proud to be part of a movement that distributes wealth more evenly so that the 1% find joy by giving, and the poor experience happiness by being able to realize their potential.

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