November 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Inside job

(Page 2 of 2)

Holland says it was this job in particular that groomed Layfield for the CEO role. "The product role was a really good one because it exposed her to all aspects of the business and she met with people throughout the company," he says. "It taught her all the things she needs to know about making this company run more smoothly, not just in her understanding of all the moving parts of the business but in her relationships with the people she got to know. They all relate to Jill as a regular person."

Layfield's product management job morphed in 2010 into the role of chief operating officer as she took on more responsibility. She established reporting procedures among operational departments and business units, providing the fast-growing e-retailer with stronger processes. The e-retailer, by that time, was operating 11 e-commerce sites, including action-sports-focused Dogfunk.com and daily-deal sites SteepandCheap.com and Bonktown.com. Today it operates 10 e-retail sites and is in the process of moving those sites, which run on a mix of home-grown e-commerce systems, to a single platform based on Art Technology Group Inc.'s ATG Commerce software. Oracle Corp. acquired ATG last year.

Holland says Layfield has management skills that Backcountry.com lacked under his and Bresee's leadership. "We've upgraded," he says, highlighting Layfield's skills at developing business processes and steering and communicating strategy. He also says Layfield knows how to identify the right people for the right roles, and that when a match isn't right she isn't scared to shift people around until it is.

That mix of focus and fluidity fits the business and cultural style of Backcountry.com. Layfield says she consults candidly with other Backcountry.com executives on all big decisions. She wants as much as possible to maintain the e-retailer's open-door management style that encouraged her own growth.

Looking forward, Layfield says her goal is to create or acquire specialty web sites that can bring in new customers. "We want to deliver different web sites that are authentic to their sports' culture and that are within our current areas or adjacent to it," she says. Under Layfield's leadership, Backcountry.com acquired CompetitiveCyclist.com, an e-retailer of trail and road bikes, in August, bringing the number of specialty bike sites Backcountry.com operates to five.

"We're not looking to roll ourselves into a mega-brand," Layfield says. "We're trying to figure out where to create these unique brands and connect customers to their passions." The ability to make connections, both with customers and co-workers, is a big part of what landed Layfield in the CEO's chair.

allison@verticalwebmedia.com

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