Succeeding in Stride

A look inside a showroom at ALDO’s head office, in Montréal.

ALDO’s VP of finance, David Schwartz, stepped into the shoe industry as a neophyte general manager, but he quickly laid the groundwork for the strategic role he inhabits today

“I have always been self-motivated. I like to set a goal and strive to attain it. Success motivates me. To me, the common denominators of success are integrity and accomplishment.”
“I have always been self-motivated. I like to set a goal and strive to attain it. Success motivates me. To me, the common denominators of success are integrity and accomplishment.”

Even as a kid, David Schwartz was interested in business, so much so that he didn’t just love to read business-related books—he annotated them. “I read Talking Straight by Lee Iacocca, How to Sell Anything to Anybody by Joe Girard, and The Wealthy Barber—a book on personal finance that was a Canadian bestseller,” Schwartz says. “I read them and underlined the key concepts.”

Schwartz pursued that passion at university before obtaining his CA and CFA designations at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He then went to work for a payment-processing company specializing in online payments as vice president of finance. By age 32, he was CFO. “The company started as a spin-off from a subsidiary of Bell Canada Enterprises and, at one time or another, was listed on the Montréal Stock Exchange, the Toronto Stock Exchange, the NASDAQ, and the AIM of the London Stock Exchange,” Schwartz says. But after nearly a decade at the firm, he was ready for a change. “When you’re changing jobs, your network is essential—who you know and who they know,” he says. “The ALDO Group is family-owned, and after hearing that I was exploring opportunities, one of the family members reached out to me.”

So, in the fall of 2010, Schwartz joined the Montréal-based international company, which specializes in fashion footwear and accessories. Although his background was in finance, he started out as general manager of ALDO Global Retail, a newly created position. It was a chance for him to learn the business and establish relationships that would have long-term benefits for both him and the company. “I spent two years doing that, and it has paid off,” he says.

Eventually, Schwartz found his way back to the financial side, and today he serves as ALDO’s vice president of finance. His main responsibilities involve the overall financial management of the company, but he’s also involved in such areas as human resources, analytics, inventory, technology, operations, business development, and strategy—“everything but picking fashion styles,” he says.

Schwartz describes the ALDO Group as a complex global environment—with retail, wholesale, and franchise components for brick and mortar as well as e-commerce. “We do everything, from coming up with the concepts for the shoes, to technical specifications, to sourcing materials, to getting the finished product to our customers,” Schwartz says. “And running the stores is very technical. Unlike an apparel store, a lot of the activity in a shoe store is going on behind the scenes. The back of the store has to be very efficient, both in terms of operations and use of space.”

43

Years the company has been in existence

92

Countries with an ALDO brand presence—from Dubai to the Dominican Republic, and Venezuela to Vietnam

1,800+

ALDO Group stores around the World

$10+ million

Amount raised by the ALDO Group for the fight against AIDS

What Schwartz really appreciates about the ALDO Group is its focus on people, which starts with the company’s founder, Aldo Bensadoun. “He’s passionate about the business and the customer,” Schwartz says. “The company’s guiding principles are love, integrity, and respect, and we live them every day. It’s important to give the members of the team opportunities to grow to their full potential. And it’s equally important to give back to the community.”

To that end, Schwartz has become very involved in the company’s activities in support of cancer research. “Cancer touches most people,” Schwartz says. “In fact, two out of five Canadians will develop cancer.” In 2011, he formed a team of ALDO Group members to take part in a two-day cycling event called The Ride to Conquer Cancer, during which cyclists ride more than 200 kilometres from Montréal to Québec City. Over the last four years, the ALDO Group team has raised more than $375,000 for the cause. Schwartz also participates in organizing and recruiting for a two-day walk in support of cancer research—and his team of cyclists cheers the walkers on.

It’s initiatives such as these that help motivate him, making a good work-life balance all the more important—something Schwartz readily acknowledges. “My wife and three daughters are extremely supportive—as is my team at the office,” he says. “We help each other out. The key to a good work-life balance is planning ahead.” He tries to attend all of his daughters’ parent-teacher meetings and basketball games, and he has served on the boards of their schools. “I try to lead by example, showing the importance of education, hard work, and giving back to the community,” he says. A longtime running enthusiast, he has also begun participating in half Ironman triathlons recently. “You have to be passionate about life,” he says.

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he loves his job as well. “We have an amazing product, a strong brand, and a creative, dynamic team,” Schwartz says. “It’s great being associated with ALDO—and being part of something so special and successful.”