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How Relentless Optimism Fuels Success for Hilary Schneider, CEO of Shutterfly Schneider explains her process for looking around corners to see what's next for the Shutterfly family of brands.

By Robert Tuchman Edited by Dan Bova


Hilary Schneider has a long-standing track record for driving growth and sparking creative innovation at large consumer technology companies. As a five-time CEO, Schneider has successfully led companies through a significant transformation, guided by her commitment to empathetic leadership, relentless optimism, and an ever-present athletic stance.

But it wasn't always that way for Schneider.

In fact, she credits two simple words with helping her take on new opportunities with gusto: why not?

"Early in my career, when I was an investment banker at Drexel Burnham, I took on a role within Corporate Development," said Schneider. "Not long after, I was offered an opportunity in an operating role for which I had zero experience."

Related: 8 Great Entrepreneurial Success Stories

Schneider added: "I'll admit, I didn't know if I could do it! And it would have been easy to stay in my existing role with a narrow remit. But I said to myself, 'why not?' The worst case is I fail, and I learn something. So, I accepted the role and never looked back. Those two little words – why not – have been guideposts for pushing myself out of my comfort zone ever since."

Moving towards positive action and embracing change has been a hallmark of Schneider's career and, most recently, during her time at Shutterfly where she has served as CEO since January 2020.

"As a long-time customer, I've always known that this was an incredible organization with two powerful brands in Lifetouch and Shutterfly, and that it had a strong culture and values perfectly aligned with my own," said Schneider. "But I also knew that these powerful assets could be evolved to serve the changing needs of consumers and to create more value for employees and shareholders alike."

As CEO, she now had oversight of the Lifetouch, Shutterfly and Snapfish brands, as well as its vertically integrated manufacturing across six production and fulfillment facilities. The Shutterfly infrastructure is purpose-built for the complexities of custom design which allows its family of brands to deliver personalized items to customers at a rapid pace.

Schneider stepped into her CEO role at Shutterfly just weeks before the pandemic began. She quickly halted her in-person listening tours, meet-and-greets with employees and visits to production facilities and instead pivoted to a 24/7 war room with her leadership team.

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Not only did Schneider need to keep the company's manufacturing sites operational and mitigate the pandemic's impact on school photography, but she also had to meet an incredible surge in demand within its consumer business. The rapid pace of change and the need for trusted communications required transparent and deeply hands-on leadership.

Schneider kicked off what would become the company's now highly regarded Snapshot series, a live, weekly 30-minute broadcast where any employee has the ability to ask any question that the executive team will answer in real-time. It's become her signature leadership vehicle for helping teams navigate change and stay connected to the long-term vision of helping people create products and capture moments that reflect who they uniquely are.

She learned from a mentor early in her career that vulnerability is an invaluable leadership asset. She's carried that lesson through her various executive roles, and it remains at the core of how she leads today, often sharing her personal cell phone number with employees if they have questions that their direct managers cannot answer.

"During the last two years, the pandemic has become a powerful clarifying force," says Schneider. "It forced me and my executive team to really hone our purpose and vision for the Shutterfly family of brands. We've strategized and reorganized; divested and invested. And I truly believe we've come out of it stronger for the future."

The pandemic has blurred nearly every line between the personal and the professional – and Schneider has weaved many lessons from her personal life into how she leads. She compares maneuvering through a crisis to something her children were taught in team sports - to always be in "ready position," an upright stance that allows an athlete to move in any direction as quickly as possible. In times of change, as in an athletic endeavor, you must move quickly and pivot in a new direction if needed.

Related: 8 Reasons a Powerful Personal Brand Will Make You Successful

As Shutterfly successfully navigates the post-COVID recovery, Schneider has made a

strategic bet with the acquisition of global design marketplace, Spoonflower, doubling the total addressable market for Shutterfly and deepening the company's reach into home decor. She also launched Shutterfly's first-ever Holiday Crypto Card NFT collection in partnership with Iris Apfel with sales benefiting the Boys and Girls Club of America. It's all part of Schneider's always-on athletic stance as she seeks to look around corners for what's next.

So what is next for Shutterfly and Schneider?

Shutterfly and its family of brands are firm stewards of the power of self-expression, helping consumers create products and capture moments that reflect who they uniquely are. 

Shutterfly's unique brand portfolio enables all dimensions of personalization and custom design, from photography (Lifetouch) and enterprise (Shutterfly Business Solutions) to premium home décor and a design marketplace (Spoonflower) and from the affordable (Snapfish) to the mainstream (Shutterfly).

And the Shutterfly family of brands is poised to do just that.

Robert Tuchman

Entrepreneur Staff

Host of How Success Happens

Robert Tuchman is the host of Entrepreneur's How Success Happens podcast and founder of Amaze Media Labs the largest business creating podcasts for companies and brands. He built and sold two Inc. 500 companies: TSE Sports and Entertainment and Goviva acquired by Creative Artists Agency (CAA).

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