Deliberate and Bold
When Wendy L. Schoppert mentors young professionals hoping to follow in her footsteps, she always offers the same advice: “Make yourself uncomfortable,” she says, “because if you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not learning.”
That philosophy has guided Schoppert through a series of companies to the position that has been her career goal since earning her MBA: CFO, a title she assumed two years ago at Select Comfort, a Minneapolis firm that designs, manufactures, and retails the Sleep Number bed.
“I very deliberately sought out new areas to learn instead of taking a vertical route,” Schoppert says. “I decided to move around into different functional areas to build up my toolkit for future roles.”
At Select Comfort, Schoppert followed her own advice when she became CIO, although she had no previous leadership experience in information technology. It was 2008, the height of the economic meltdown, and Schoppert boldly slashed IT expenses by more than 50 percent — a tough move that ultimately contributed to a turnaround of the company. “We literally saved the company by focusing on our core business and building a lower cost structure,” Schoppert says. Last year, Select Comfort increased sales by 26 percent and earnings-pershare by 34 percent.
Schoppert attributes the company’s growing market share to three key strategies: increasing awareness of the Sleep Number brand, optimizing and expanding the retail store portfolio, and adding innovative products, such as the adjustable pillow and memory foam series.
Although Schoppert’s career has spanned the travel industry, financial services, and consumer products and retail, one common thread is her appreciation for analytical, data-driven decision making. She recalls her fascination for math as a child growing up near Princeton, N.J.; she later majored in math at Cornell. “I loved the problem-solving aspect of math,” she says.
When she isn’t working, Schoppert loves to go on adventure tours with her 12-year-old son, Brett. So far, they have visited Alaska, France, Spain, Italy, and the Galapagos Islands. “What I enjoy providing for my son is an appreciation of the world outside the U.S.,” says Schoppert, who was recently appointed to the University’s President’s Council of Cornell Women. “I want to make sure he has a global perspective as he grows up and decides how he wants to contribute to the world.”