Boris Radke, head of corporate communications at Zalando, has published an interesting story about his first five years at the German online fashion retailer. One of the things he elaborates on is how he and a few other guys with little experience ‘just’ started planning a logistics facility and that the key learning of it all is to “think big and act fast”.
If there ever comes a movie about a European startup – just like ‘The Social Network’ was about Facebook – then we will be opting for Zalando as the ideal subject. Backed by Rocket Internet, a praised as well as despised incubator who’s famous for ‘cloning’ promising internet businesses, Zalando soon became the Zappos of Europe. The online fashion retailer was founded in 2008 and soon grew incredibly fast, while maintaining a low profile. It booked net sales of 6 million euros in 2009 and doubled its revenue of 2011 to reach 1.15 billion euros in 2012. Now it has been moving toward the 3 billion euro mark for 2015. But there are not only positive stories to tell about Zalando. In Germany, there’s much to do about how Zalando has been treating its employees.
On blog-publishing platform Medium.com Boris Radke, head of corporate communications at Zalando, now tells the story of how he started working at the German company and how he climbed the career ladder rather quick.
It’s interesting to read how Boris was introduced to then managing director Rubin and got offered a contract as a freelancer to work on a secret project for Zalando. “All-in-all maybe 5 minutes of talking and after I agreed, he asked if I could just stay for the first meeting”, he says. In this meeting he and some other people discusses the roadmap for the construction of their first self-built warehouse, somewhere in Germany. Boris didn’t come from a consultant firm, wasn’t a pro at Excel sheets and actually never studied at all. But there he was, talking about building a logistics center.
To illustrate how Zalando could become the big powerhouse it is today, Boris shared this anecdote: “So when a bunch of young managers decided to invest roughly 140 Million Euro into a logistics center in eastern Germany, with a 10 year plus renting contract, willing to hire more than 500 people (not in tech or online marketing or business development) in the logistics, the reaction of, in my opinion, every investor in the world would have been: No. No further discussion”, he recalls. “But what happened at Zalando? They explained the case to Alex Samwer (managing partner at Rocket Internet). He shot a few great questions back at us, challenging the whole concept deeply. But one meeting later he was convinced. Next day he called and said: All investors are on board. Go ahead.”
He then concludes, after six months of working at the fashion startup: “It’s all about trust. Without trust, you cannot scale at such a pace and you will never reach such dimensions.” He then elaborates further on how he and some other people formed the team to build Europe’s largest ecommerce facility. After that, he was assigned to build up the first corporate communications team for Zalando, focusing on media relations and regaining trust among journalist and other stakeholders.