This April, we selected former Costco SVP of e-Commerce, Ginnie Roeglin, as our Emissary of the Month. As a former marketing executive at one of the hardest and most desirable organizations to sell into, Ginnie has been an invaluable resource in arming our clients with the tools they need to sell successfully.
We sat down with her to learn a little more about her career—a winding journey that’s taken her from marketing to IT and back again. Along the way she has grown into a seasoned marketing expert, as well as a powerful advocate for women in the workplace.
Tackling the tough jobs
After working her way up to management positions at various IT companies, Ginnie found herself in the right place at the right time: Price Club, 1993, during its merger with Costco.
She knew that integrating the internal computer systems of both companies would be critical to ensuring a seamless transition and harnessing the colossal buying power of both organizations. Ginnie didn’t balk at the challenge. In fact, in what would quickly become a recurring theme throughout her career, she raised her hand for one very tough job.
She leveraged the technical knowledge she’d accumulated over the years in IT leadership roles to lead the successful integration of the systems in record time. She accomplished the large-scale integration, originally projected to take two years, in three months, and the high-profile nature of the project significantly increased her visibility within the organization.
Leading Costco into the e-commerce space
Ginnie leveraged her rising stock within the organization to transition into marketing, her true passion and the function in which she felt she could do her best work. As the AVP of corporate marketing, she secured a partnership with American Express, which led to a long-standing, fifteen-year relationship with Costco—which, at its apex, was the highest subscription generator for the credit card company at the time.
In 2004, she was charged with taking over the Costco.com business, and immediately found herself on the front lines of change as e-commerce began to emerge as a disruptive new force in the market. She credited the diversity of her early career experience with enabling her to successfully navigate the unique challenges posed by this new landscape.
“ I was fortunate that the early jobs I had were for tech companies, so through osmosis, I acquired an understanding of the technical aspects which lend themselves well to success in e-commerce,” Ginnie said.
It may be hard to fathom in the era of online everything, but at the time, it was a challenge to convince senior leadership that, for a business based on an in-store membership model, prioritizing e-commerce was in their best interests. To make matters worse, Ginnie’s professional challenges were compounded by other, more personal ones.
“Costco focuses so much on driving store traffic to the buildings, there were a lot of years where it felt like pushing a big rock up a steep hill to try to get everyone on board with e-commerce,” she said. “Being one of the very few women in senior management back then, there were days when I felt sort of isolated. Costco was very supportive and valued diversity, but in senior management, it tended to lose some of that.”
Despite the challenges, Ginnie was ultimately successful in creating a thriving online marketplace for the brand that didn’t cannibalize in-store sales—in fact, it enhanced them. Soon, the two businesses were coexisting profitably.
But the diversity issue still remained.
Discovering—and inspiring—tomorrow’s female leaders
In 2007, on the heels of a newly developed Costco diversity initiative called BOLD, Ginnie founded Journeys, a resource group designed to improve leadership opportunities for women through educational, mentoring, and networking events. As the organization’s highest-ranking female executive, Ginnie was well positioned to address the challenges facing women in the workplace and offer insight into what had made her so successful in her own career. A fellow executive leading the diversity charge at Costco told her how he—and her coworkers—perceived her.
“He told me I was a role model for other women, because I had two children and worked while raising them, and that I was an example for them,” she said. “I recognized that other women were looking up to me because I was one of the senior leaders in the company, and I felt I had a responsibility to help them succeed. I felt very blessed to have the opportunities that I had, and I wanted other women to feel that they had access to those opportunities, as well.”
Ginnie quickly brought men on board, too, to foster a truly inclusive atmosphere within the fledgling organization. She recruited male leaders, who she called “advocates,” to serve as mentors and speak at events to help inspire young female professionals. Fortunately, Costco was just as interested in improving diversity as Ginnie was. Today, there are Journeys chapters in every market in which Costco does business, with over 15,000 employee participants.
“So many companies don’t want to talk about diversity because it can be uncomfortable,” she noted. “But now, it’s just part of the everyday conversation at Costco.”
Making an impact with Emissary
This commitment to mentorship extends beyond Ginnie’s leadership roles at Costco and Journeys—in fact, it’s part of what makes her a standout Emissary.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my work with Emissary,” she told us. “It feels like I’m actually able to make a difference and get the client a meeting or help them succeed in a way that they wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.”
For an organization as famously difficult to sell into as Costco, having access to this kind of insider information is crucial.
“Costco is a public company, and it has to perform and reward shareholders. But unlike many other companies, Costco doesn’t make decisions based on its stock price,” Ginnie said, emphasizing the company’s focus on quality over quantity. “They carry a really limited SKU count. In the warehouses, it’s more like 4,000 items, as opposed to Amazon’s millions. We’re more focused on selling the right goods, rather than selling millions. That’s part of what makes it difficult to get anything into Costco. ”
For sales professionals, Ginnie stressed the importance of building relationships from day one and taking a selfless approach to leadership.
“It’s really not about you,” she said. “It’s about your team and how you can help your team. I think that’s a very important concept. Sometimes people ask what you wish you’d known, and for me, it took a while to realize how important building relationships can be.”
Ginnie Roeglin, an Emissary and former SVP of e-Commerce at Costco, has a career arc to marvel at. Her leadership experience in IT, e-commerce, and marketing leadership at the retail giant gives her unique insight into the complicated world of selling technology—or anything, really—into a values-driven organization that prioritizes quality over quick revenue. And she’s a noted champion of diversity, to boot. Today, she’s an in-demand Emissary with a track record of successful engagements that have led to demonstrated wins. All in all, she’s an invaluable contact to have in your rolodex.