For Denise Teti, being predictable is not an insult. In fact, it’s a must for delivering brand-defining creative for Speedo USA’s market-leading products. With thousands of SKUs of merchandise and multitudes of channels for sales, her bi-coastal team of marketers must create a massive volume of assets worthy of their brand’s iconic status.
That’s why Denise is our Manager-X Award winner for Predictability in Planning. Her ability to see the forest through the trees, prioritize projects that drive business results, and deploy her resources to execute at scale is essential. And for a global brand whose customers range from beach-lounging vacationers to gold medal Olympians, there’s no shortage of work to do.
We spoke with Denise about how she manages to cut through the chaos and lead her team to excellence.
How did you feel when you found out you won this award?
When I got the news that I had won this award, I was honestly completely shocked because I didn’t know an award like this existed. It kind of made me laugh a little bit too, because I love making a lot of puns on the name Wrike. Puns like, “They have the Wrike stuff.” And I was like, now I really have the Wrike stuff.
Tell me a little bit about your role at Speedo USA.
I oversee basically all consumer-facing marketing for the Speedo brand in North America. So that includes the United States, Canada, and Mexico. We work closely with our PVH corporate divisional marketing team, which is based in New York. The work that my team does looks at all product marketing, in-person marketing across regions, and digital marketing. It’s a pretty robust set of deliverables that we’re working towards with a lot of people and a lot of different places.
What are some of the projects that your team works on?
We create trim and packaging for every single product across all our lines of products, including any custom or exclusive products that we launch. We have tens of thousands of SKUs, so it’s quite complex. And then we’ve got all of our in-store graphics kits, the point-of-sale signage, and we run all of our photo shoots and develop all of our own creative.
We also work with our advertising partners, whether it be print or digital advertising, across all of our paid partnerships, and create all scheduled marketing for speedousa.com. This means all of our site content updates, all of our direct-to-consumer email blast updates, and all of our social media development. It’s pretty complicated, and on any given day, you could be talking to around fifty people in Wrike.
Being bi-coastal and having such a broad scope of work, how do you get the visibility you need to prioritize projects?
My management philosophy is focused on transparency and being honest about what my priorities are, what the business’s priorities are, and what’s achievable. So we use Wrike and one of the things I love about it is its transparency, and how it can visualize task dependencies and capacity planning. That was also something that was very challenging to articulate before.
We also have bi-coastal status meetings that we run through a video conference, screensharing Wrike to review the statuses of all our projects and create the agenda for the meeting. We have two of those meetings a week, which makes it really easy for people to be like, “Oh. Mayday, mayday, I’m drowning,” or, “Actually, I have some room to do this.”
Speedo USA has a wide cross section of customers. Does that add to the complexity?
Absolutely. Sometimes we’re talking to parents that are trying to teach their kids to learn to swim and buying swim diapers. Other times, it’s competitive swimmers, or even people who just want to sit by the pool on vacation. It’s a very complex brand.
The person who nominated you said you have a natural knack for prioritization and making sure the work you do is aligned with the brand’s business goals. What is the secret there?
I don’t think you can be an effective marketer if you don’t understand your business’s opportunities and risks. You’ve just got to be really dialed in, and spend a lot of time studying and learning. You have to make make sure you know your numbers and understand the sort of subjective, tangential color that goes along with managing relationships with different accounts.
Marketing is an art and a science, and I think so is prioritization. Every project isn’t its own art project—it’s part of an ecosystem of effort.
What’s the structure like on your team?
My team is very agile because we have to connect to a creative team that’s organized by subject matter expertise, a product team that’s organized by product category, and a sales team that’s organized by distribution channels. And we are the stewards of the brand.
I have to have one person from each tribe of people on every project, which allows me to have a more holistic oversight of gaps or opportunity, and identify where we need to bring in more people, or where we can free some people to work on different projects.
How do you take in requests in a way that’s conducive to prioritizing and ultimately executing work?
I have an amazing project manager, and she audits every single brief that comes in. She’s like my police officer. She knows to loop in the right people on my team should the briefs be lacking enough information or direction to be executed at all, which is critical.
But before we even get to that point, I’ve invested a lot of time in training people in my department and outside of my department on how to write a brief and what a brief should include; not just the facts, but also the emotional intent.
A brief is meant to inspire your creative team to get them to do something that differentiates whatever you’re asking for from whatever else is already out there. And I think that has really helped our partners on the product and sales team give us information so that we can take that and create something compelling to pass to our creative team to do their best work.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Telling people I work at Speedo USA, because everyone I talk to always has some awesome personal story about how they grew up swimming or some funny story about a vacation they took as kid. It’s amazing to be a part of a brand that means so much to so many people.
I can’t tell you just how many times I’ve welled up with tears, and sometimes even started crying a little bit, especially talking to moms. It’s the best feeling to know that our brand connects so many people to so many personal experiences.
Now that you are an award-winning manager, what’s the best advice you have, especially for people dealing with high volumes of complex work?
Know your business and build strong relationships with your senior stakeholders. You need to be able to walk the talk, and also be able to have frank conversations with senior leaders and have their trust, because not everything they request is achievable in the way they envision it.
I always say, “We can’t make steak from ground beef, but if we work together, we can make really delicious meatballs, and you’re going to love them.” To have those conversations, they have to trust that you and your team really know how to deliver.
For more information on the Manager-X Awards, take a look at our winners announcement.