Dream Job: CEO at Backcountry.com


“This is a fantastic company, full of great people, and I want to do everything I can to make sure this company is here for the long haul.” Photo credit: RE Wikstrom/backcountry.com

By Molly Sprayregen

Meet Jill Layfield
: 36
Stomping ground: Park City, Utah
Job: CEO at Backcountry.com

In 2004, Jill Layfield took a marketing job at Backcountry.com. Since her arrival, she has helped the online outdoor retailer grow from 215,000 to 2.6 million orders of gear shipped per year. This year, she was named as the company’s new CEO. And while her new duties are keeping her busy, this wife and mother of two won’t let anything slow her down.

What is a typical day at work  for you?

A typical day involves about 3–4 hours of meetings, usually a combination of meetings with folks that are on the executive staff and those with other employees who are keeping me in the loop about different initiatives we are working on. I also spend a lot of time responding to e-mail. I am a big believer in not letting your e-mail box become unwieldy, so I have a rule that I respond to almost all e-mails within a week. Every day I also spend about a half hour writing a post on an internal blog that all of our employees read, mostly about progress against our goals. And finally, I will usually escape in the middle of the day to run or mountain bike or go to the gym. I pretty much need that to keep my energy up.

How did you become interested in working for an outdoor company?

When I saw the marketing position with Backcountry.com, I was an avid climber. I’ve also been a skier and a mountain biker, but climbing was very much a part of my passion and something that I really spent most of my free time doing. When I saw the position, it seemed like a dream job to be able to do e-commerce and also live in an area where access to climbing and skiing is unparalleled.

What has been your biggest challenge as CEO?

The biggest challenge has been balancing what I think employees want from “the CEO.” They expect me to act differently and they view me differently, so I’m balancing that and filling that role in a way of leadership and authority, but at the same time still remaining who I am and approachable. People want to look up to me, but they also want to relate to me, and I really want to balance that. It is super challenging being a strong leader, but also being very down to earth.

What about your work keeps you motivated?

First and foremost, I love to win. I’m competitive, and I think of what we do here as being highly competitive because customers have a lot of choices about where they can shop. It’s up to us every day to try to improve our customers’ experience so they continue to come back. I want to make sure we are doing everything to be at the head of the pack. On a personal level, I feel an immense responsibility to all of our employees. This is a fantastic company, full of great people, and I want to do everything I can to make sure this company is here for the long haul.

How do you balance work and being a mom?

I surround myself with the best people, respect their talents and expertise, and delegate. I’m comfortable with the fact that I can do lots well, but maybe not lots perfectly. When it’s time to work, I work. When it’s time to be a mom and wife, I am a mom and wife. When it’s time to sleep, I sleep.

Last modified: February 10, 2012

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