By Leslie Sarasin, President and CEO, FMI
FMI Midwinter Executive Conference Chairman and Co-Founder and CEO of Boxed.com, Chieh Huang, responded to several questions I had for him regarding his journey to build a successful wholesale and technology platform from the ground-up that recently achieved IPO status. Throughout his entrepreneurial career, he maintains a commitment to his employees by investing in them and their families, which has become a notable attribute regarding Boxed.com’s company culture.
Leslie: Chieh, you have had an interesting career path. You started out as a lawyer, moved into the gaming industry, and then into food—how would you prepare new employees who’ve taken a similar, non-linear path to joining the food industry?
Chieh: I would say think of the ideal career as a Venn diagram. Find the overlap of what you’re good at, what you enjoy, and what might be lucrative. The closer you get to 3/3, the closer you’ll be to a position where work doesn’t feel like work. It won’t happen with your first job (or maybe even your first career!) but each step you make should get you closer to finding that overlap.
Leslie: Follow up: How has that path influenced your leadership style, company culture and your brand’s success?
Chieh: I’ve realized that not a lot of things in life are rocket science – and that driven people can adapt and learn quickly. It’s the reason you’ll see people in our company from all walks of professional life.
Leslie: How have you retained your corporate culture in a remote environment?
Chieh: It’s been hard for everyone, including us. We’ve picked up the pace of our Town Hall meetings and have also planned offsites and opportunities for the teams to come together once in a while, even in a hybrid environment. The entire IPO process also became a big rallying moment for us as well.
Leslie: We’ve read that you set up a college fund for your full-time employees’ children college fund for your full-time employees children. What inspired that decision?
Chieh: I realized that a college education and access to it is the one way to improve your situation, but not everyone is in a position to receive that college degree. I was in a position to do something about that, and that’s why I made the decision I made. If my parents had not sacrificed and prioritized my education, there is no way I would be where I am today. I want everyone who works here to have a shot at that opportunity.
Leslie: You seem to be fostering a company culture of generosity. What impact have you noticed from this strategy?
Chieh: It’s really interesting to see it come alive, even though being kind to others, especially our frontline staff, is not officially codified anywhere. It has solidified my belief that it’s all about action from the top vs. hanging a banner with core values and not living it. I think it has definitely affected how we think about each other, and who enters our recruiting funnel.
In his address at FMI Midwinter Executive Conference on March 29, Chieh will explore the many ways in which the food retail business and consumer buying patterns have changed forever and how he’s thinking about the future.