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The E-commerce CEO

Where "E" stands for a slew of electronic platforms, from cable TV to mobile phones, and "C" stands for curious.

Mike George, president and CEO of West Chester-based QVC. (Bradley C. Bower / For the Daily News).
Mike George, president and CEO of West Chester-based QVC. (Bradley C. Bower / For the Daily News).Read more

Mike George

President and CEO of QVC Inc., the cable TV shopping channel, based in West Chester.

Where he's from:

An intriguing assortment of "it" cities where creative types cluster. George was born in Billings, Mont., and raised in Seattle. He went to college at Northwestern University, got his master's in finance from the university's Kellogg School of Business, then spent his formative years with McKinsey & Co., in Chicago. From there he joined Dell Inc., in Austin, first as Michael Dell's executive assistant (for three months) and then as chief marketing officer (for five years).

He took the helm at QVC in April 2006. After 19 years of cajoling his Jersey-girl wife, Amy, to call the ocean "the beach" in good West Coast form, he's come around to saying "the Shore."

Dude, his mentor was a Dell! Working alongside one of the world's most admired CEOs, George picked up a knack for "pinging" for competitive insights.

When Dell is getting his mind around a problem, he blankets employees and friends with e-mails, George says. "That's what I learned with Michael. He would reach out one-on-one. He's the most intellectually curious person I've met. He was always daring us to get better - to get more information, get more insight."

Lesson learned: At QVC, George convenes round-table meetings twice a month with workers drawn from the company's crazy quilt of operating groups - from jewelry buyers and control-room operators to Web designers and affiliate relations people.

So they won't just say what they think the CEO wants to hear, he invites criticism and vows confidentiality. "When you're in this role, you need to find a way to be connected," he says. "You do anything you can to keep the information flowing."

A theme that's been coming up in the sprawling QVC enterprise: Employees feel that they're holed up in departmental "silos," and that this stifles innovation.

Pinging outside the box: "Every time I meet with a vendor, I start by saying, 'What can we do better?' " George says. "Sometimes it takes someone from the outside to help you see things in a different way."

Reaching out to the entrepreneurs is also critical because QVC launches 250 new products a week to fill the maw for its round-the-clock shopping shows. "We have this constant thirst for new items," George says. In the past year, the company has evaluated merchandise from 6,000 small businesses.

Regarding those QVC billboards: The saucy new iQdoU? campaign has two agendas. First, it's meant as a wink to upscale customers who buy from the home-shopping channel but don't necessarily admit it to friends. Second, it's an attempt to attract new shoppers. Although about 96 percent of homes with cable receive QVC, only about 8 percent of these households place orders in a given year. Encouraging more people to try it is one way the company is looking to grow.

My other TV is a cell phone: E-commerce and global expansion are two more ways. Roughly one-seventh of QVC's sales are done via the Internet, and the company has sizable operations in Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany.

In Japan, 6 percent of its sales come in via mobile phone.

Impressions of Philadelphia: As an outsider, George says he has found the city's Chamber of Commerce to be unusually energetic - and focused on promoting the tri-state area as a unified business region. Chairman Joseph Frick has served as a virtual Welcome Wagon Man to the George family, now settled in Berwyn.

George sees the Delaware Valley's homegrown workforce as another unsung strength.

Dude, you're getting a life: George has four children - 17-year-old Chris, 14-year-old Matt, 10-year-old Nick and 8-year-old Katie - and he's a stickler for work-life balance. Dinner at the George household is at 7 p.m., and unless dad's traveling, he's at the table, as are both teenage boys.

Four's a big number, so George takes one child out to dinner on a rotating basis to connect one-on-one. The Main Line's Asian restaurants are leading economic beneficiaries. "With Matt, it's Margaret Kuo - sukiyaki for two," he laughs. "Katie likes Wabi Sabi" - a Japanese steakhouse in Paoli.

- Becky Batcha,
Daily News staff writer

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