Retail Execs Share the Best Advice They've Ever Received
Total Retail’s Winter 2017 issue featured its seventh annual Top Women in Retail list. Among the questions asked of this year’s honorees was, “What's the best advice you ever received, and who gave you the advice?” Here are select answers to that question from some of this year’s award winners.
Becky Gebhardt, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, Lands’ End: Be true to you! When I was attending a management program at Kellogg, one of my mentors had a heart-to-heart conversation with me, and it was one of the most defining moments in my career. Her advice was direct: “The true strengths and leadership skills you possess should not be suddenly perceived as your weakness. If that’s the case, run; you’re in the wrong company trying to succeed in an environment that doesn’t match your core values. Believe in yourself and don’t change your leadership style to align with a company’s overall management style to be more effective … it simply won’t work."
Yael Aflalo, Founder and CEO, Reformation: Elon Musk said something a few years back that was really impactful. He said, “The path to the CEO’s office should not be through the CFO’s office, and it should not be through the marketing department. It needs to be through engineering and design.”
Shira Goodman, President and CEO, Staples: My grandmother, paraphrasing the Greek philosopher Epictetus, used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason — listen twice as much as you talk.” That’s always stuck with me throughout my career.
Jessica Herrin, Founder and CEO, Stella & Dot: The best advice I ever got came from an “angel in a cowboy hat” — a cab driver in Texas I met while interviewing for my first job out of college. I already had a job lined up on Wall Street, which was really appealing because I had a ton of student loans to pay back. But it wasn’t as appealing to me as a startup in Austin, which would offer more range in my job and more potential upside — at the cost of a lower salary and a greater chance of failure. I was torn between paying off debt or doing what was more authentic to who I wanted to be.
The cab driver looked at me in the rearview mirror and asked what I was worried about. I shared my situation with him and he told me to think about the best- and worst-case scenarios of both jobs. Then he asked, “Is the job with the best upside worth the risk of the worst-case scenario of that same job?” That made it very obvious to me. If it didn’t work out, I would still have my education and could always go back to get the safe job. So I went for it. I always go for maximum upside, as long as it’s worth the risk. I’ve never regretted the decision, and I still use that decision framework in my business and in life.
Related story: Retail Execs Share Their Leadership Styles