Rodney C. Pratt knows a thing or two about keeping the consumer in mind at Converse. The company known for its signature footwear may be global, but its approach is local—not only when it comes to cities, but also when it comes to individuals. As vice president, general counsel, and corporate secretary for Converse, Pratt serves at the heart of this approach.
On a global level, Pratt establishes an overarching legal strategy for the company to achieve its objectives. But locally, he executes against that global strategy. So how does anything get accomplished? To achieve company goals, Pratt must balance long- and short-term approaches. “We always try to balance the ‘win now’ proposition against the ‘win from now on’ proposition,” Pratt says. “[On] a global level, the company is always focused on the ‘win from now on’ approach, but when we try to reach our consumers, we’re trying to win in that moment.”
This approach is nothing new for Pratt, who joined Converse after serving as an assistant general counsel for Nike. The transition, he says, “was a great opportunity for me, and it was one that helped me realize a dream job while I was already in a dream job.”
Nike’s principle slogan is “Just Do It,” and Pratt says that advising a company with this outlook was challenging at times, but it was always exciting. This determined attitude has remained with him since. “Bringing that spirit to Converse helped me to really inspire the company to get after it and be adventurous, and also be present at all times,” he explains.
Pratt remains connected to the Nike legal department, which allows him to leverage Nike’s more extensive resources while maintaining a Converse point of view.
“I wouldn’t be able to serve the Converse business without the shared services legal model that Nike provides,” Pratt says. “I also have plenty of thought partners in the Nike business, and that enables me to think differently about what’s best for Converse.”
Unlike Nike, which is embedded in and aimed at athletics, Converse is a lifestyle brand. As such, the company looks to its consumers for inspiration. “The purpose of the company is to serve the daring spirit of youth, and that spirit has no age,” Pratt says. “Our products are focused on providing everyone with a platform to express themselves physically, emotionally, and culturally.”
Converse designs products to help its consumers go about their day, whether that be at work or school. “We’re here to make people happy, to provide them a product proposition that hopefully will bring a smile to their face and comfort throughout their lives,” Pratt says.
This consumer-driven model requires Converse to anticipate consumer needs and to remain aware of how consumers view the company. In addition to balancing global and local regulations, Converse must also adapt to meet its consumers where they expect, whether that be in its brick-and-mortar stores or through digital commerce.
“Although we are a 109-year-old company, we are a start-up at heart,” Pratt says. “We stay ahead of the curve and make sure that we have our finger on the pulse of our consumers and provide them the products that they need, when they need them, and how they want them.”
As a global brand, Converse must adhere to a variety of country-specific regulations. Converse products are sold in more than 160 countries, and the company has major offices on four continents. If there is a change in one country’s regulatory policies, the legal team must adapt to that change specifically, while also maintaining global consistency.
“We need to establish and always focus on global best practices, but also understand the local nuances and distinctions that are needed for our hyper-local focus on our consumer to be achieved,” Pratt says.
Pratt has a passion for the consumers, in part, because he is one. In fact, one of his favorite perks of the job is wearing Converse’s iconic Chuck Taylors to work. The relaxed dress code underlines the simultaneously laid back and driven approach that Pratt fosters among his team. “We try to be serious about what we do, but not take ourselves too seriously,” Pratt says. “It’s a place I can show up in a pair of Chucks and jeans and provide the same advice I provided when I wore a suit and tie to work for a big law firm.”
In order to successfully advise the company, Pratt says that he and his team have to leave the office and bring in their own life experiences. “I always try to make sure that my experiences not only as a lawyer, but also as an African American lawyer are part of the advice that I give and the perspective that I provide,” he says. “For the diverse employees of color, I try my best to make sure that their voices are heard throughout all levels of the company—whether it’s a team huddle with the senior executives of the company, or just a conversation around anything dealing with how diverse employees are engaging and impacted through various policies in
Pratt’s team has to be in the office and outside of it, on a global level and a local one, nationally and internationally. Essentially, they have to be “everywhere and nowhere at the same time.”
“We need to understand the business, we need to understand where the business shows up today and where it plans to go, and we also need to be cognizant of all the laws, rules, and regulations that the business is impacted by,” Pratt says. And he does it all in the comfort of wearing his signature Chuck Taylors.