Entrepreneur at Heart
Scott Roe (HCB, ’87) started his career with entrepreneurship in mind. With encouragement from mentors, he pursued a degree from the Department of Accounting and Information Management, thinking he’d work with a Big Eight firm for a few years before starting his own business venture.
But Roe’s career took some unexpected turns, landing him at VF Corporation, the global apparel and footwear company that owns Vans, Timberland, and The North Face. After more than 25 years with VF, he recently joined Tapestry, Inc., a New York-based corporation that owns luxury brands Coach, Kate Spade, and Stuart Weitzman, as the company’s chief financial officer and head of strategy.
“My career has not been what I thought it would be, but it’s been very rewarding,” Roe says. “I’ve discovered many opportunities to apply my interest in entrepreneurship even at large companies.”
A graduate of Cleveland High School in East Tennessee, Roe says the Haslam College of Business was a natural fit for him as a young undergraduate student. His father, William Roe, was the first in his family to get a university degree and became a financial executive for The Maytag Company. “He was a role model for me,” says Roe. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
But unlike his dad, Roe didn’t want to work for a company—especially a large one. “I wanted to be an entrepreneur and start my own business,” he says. “That was my goal in life.”
After earning his degree and CPA certification, Roe went to work at Arthur Young & Co., now EY, in Atlanta. In the early 1990s, he co-founded a paper recycling business. Roe and his colleagues picked up paper documents from offices in Atlanta, shredded them confidentially, and recycled them, but the business struggled. “We limped along for five years and eventually sold the company to cover the debt,” he recalls. “While the business failed, we learned a lot along the way.”
Roe continued his career working in industrial companies, including Blue Circle America, a cement company, and Alumax, an aluminum producer that eventually became part of Alcoa Corporation.
In 1996, after deciding it was time for a change, he went to work for VF Corporation. “I was interested in shifting toward a consumer-facing company whose brands I knew and were interesting to me,” he says. The move turned into a 25-year career with the company. After a decade with VF, Roe had the opportunity to relocate to Switzerland with his family, including his wife, Dianne, and their four sons ranging in ages from two to 10. “We spent six years in Switzerland and that international experience, working with people from other parts of the world, became a big part of my career success and propelled me toward more responsibility at VF,” he says. While working abroad, Roe also helped grow the company’s international revenue from $1.6 billion to $2.6 billion.
After returning to the US, Roe served first as controller and principal accounting officer at VF. In 2015, he became the company’s CFO, a role he held until 2021, when he accepted a CFO position at Tapestry. He also leads strategy at Tapestry, which appeals to his entrepreneurial roots.
Investing in Future Leaders
Staying close to the consumer and being quick to react to changes in the market is key to the apparel and fashion business, says Roe, who enjoys the challenge. “The ability to react at scale is a key skill that I bring to this role,” he says. “Big companies can become monolithic and slow moving, and that’s suicidal in today’s market.”
As a leader, Roe’s vision is to focus on what matters most and craft clearly defined goals for those who serve under him. “I spend most of my time making sure we have the right people in the right roles,” he says. “At this stage of life, I like to think of myself as a people developer, helping to train the next series of leaders.”
Steve Murray, group president for the US and Americas at VF Corporation and a longtime colleague, appreciates Roe’s track record for developing a strong talent pipeline and taking time to mentor others. “Numerous finance and operations executives at VF benefited from Scott’s mentorship in the early stages of their careers and have gone on to occupy substantial roles at the company,” Murray says. “This is a legacy we’re extremely grateful for.”
Tom Glaser, COO at Tapestry, agrees. “He has incredible balance, with the ability to lead well and to follow and support others,” Glaser says. “He also manages to be numbers-driven yet intuitive at the same time.”
Roe brings his leadership skills to the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation at the Haslam College of Business, serving as a judge for Vol Court and the Graves Competition and funding
the Roe Prize, an entry-level competition at the Anderson Center. “I’ve mentored a couple of students who are in our field,” says Roe. “It’s rewarding to give guidance and counsel to young entrepreneurs.”
He also supports community colleges and trade schools, having served on the board of several local institutions. He sees great value in the integration between community colleges and universities, where the skillsets needed in the business world can be further developed.
Looking back, Roe is happy with where his journey has taken him. “As I’ve progressed through my career and gained experience, I’ve moved toward more general management activities,” he says. “My job today is much more about strategy, big decisions, long-term orientation, and making business decisions. I enjoy that big-picture focus.”