The Top Women in Retail 2016: Marci Grebstein, Chief Marketing Officer, Lowe’s
What do you enjoy most about working in the retail industry?
The retail industry is so dynamic. No two days are alike, and it’s never boring. I do my best work when there’s constant change and always need to consider the ever-changing needs of the customer. Working in retail requires both very short-term execution to meet the day-to-day needs of the business as well as long-term strategic planning to understand your customer and think about where the company wants to be in the future. Having to balance both is very engaging and energizing to me.
If you weren’t working in the retail industry, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would go to culinary school. I love cooking and have found it to be my creative outlet. However, I don’t enjoy baking as much. Baking is very precise. If you miss one ingredient or measurement, you can ruin the whole dish. With cooking, it’s about finding your personal flavor profile, experimenting and creating something new. Often, when I find a new recipe, I will follow it accordingly the first time, then play around and get creative with it the next time. There’s so much you can do with cooking, and I would love to take the time and learn culinary techniques as well as how to cook interesting cuisines from around the globe.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Growing up, I always wanted to be an elementary school teacher. I even played school in my basement with my younger brother, who was forced to be my student. When I was in college though, I opted not to pursue teaching knowing that it was a difficult profession to get into. As a reflection of that, I feel my leadership style has been about knowing when to teach and when to learn. I think we’re always doing both. As a leader, I have to know when to guide, help and direct my team, and then when to sit back, be quiet and let them go. It’s my role to light the way in front of others and set them on a path — whether from a personal development or professional standpoint — but then at some point to step back and let them continue to explore that path on their own.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave you the advice?
A former boss of mine who I greatly respect used to tell me that if I haven’t ticked someone off today, I wasn’t doing my job. What he meant by that was I shouldn’t always accept how things are being done. In order to be innovative, you have to shake things up a bit, step out of your comfort zone and encourage others to see and do things differently. As a result, some people may feel unsettled or uncomfortable. And sometimes that’s ok. Status quo isn’t acceptable; you have to be willing to push beyond that and be bold in order to create meaningful, differentiated experiences.
Do you have any mentors in the retail industry?
My father has always been a personal and professional mentor to me. Growing up, he managed his own manufacturer’s rep firm selling men’s and women’s accessories to retailers. I watched him work through the challenges of a startup and different adversities that came his way. I saw him pick himself up and start over after his warehouse burned down. Even in his personal life, he fought cancer three times. His determination, perseverance and positive attitude have influenced me greatly. His approach to both business and life has been so personally inspiring.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I truly enjoy spending time with my family and walking my two dogs. The pups bring simple fun and energy to my life. I obviously also love to cook, but a new hobby that took me by surprise is yoga. A little more than a year ago, a friend of mine invited me to try yoga with her, and I went hesitantly. But after the first time, I immediately felt like my posture was straighter and my presence was stronger. I also felt more grounded and introspective. Now I’m hooked. At Lowe’s, one of our values is to give your best, always. That’s the same with yoga. The community is so supportive and the practice of yoga inspires us to give your best each time. That’s why it is called a “practice” — it’s never perfect. Yoga also gives me a space to reflect about what’s important to me.