The Top Women in Retail 2016: Mary Dillon, CEO, ULTA Beauty
What do you enjoy most about working in the retail industry?
I love being in our stores with our incredible associates. We have more than 22,000 beauty-loving associates across our nearly 900 stores who help us deliver all things beauty, all in one place. I’m particularly proud that we give our associates — 92 percent of whom are women — opportunities to grow into leadership roles. In the last two years alone, we promoted 1,200 women to management positions. That’s incredibly rewarding for me as CEO. On top of this, we’re providing more jobs. We’ve created more than 5,300 jobs in the last two years, an increase of 30 percent.
If you weren’t working in the retail industry, what do you think you’d be doing?
At this point, it’s hard to imagine myself anywhere other than Ulta Beauty because I truly believe that everything I’ve accomplished in my career has led me to this company. Ulta Beauty is a great home because I love working on consumer-driven businesses. For me, that means building a winning culture with our associates and putting the guest insight at the center of everything.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I’m very focused on creating a strong culture of continuous improvement. Every day, we push ourselves to do better and make Ulta Beauty the most loved beauty destination and the most admired retailer. I also believe deeply that the best business solutions are derived when a leadership team truly works together to create the best overall solutions. I expect my leaders to have three key attributes: deep functional expertise, the ability to “wear an enterprise hat” and the ability to collaborate.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and who gave you the advice?
Early in my career, I worked for Margaret Stender at the Quaker Oats Company. She was an incredible leader and has been a true mentor and friend to me. One day, she told me I needed to realize that sometimes 80 percent is enough. In other words, don't allow yourself to be consumed by always driving for perfection. At times perfection may be required, but sometimes “good enough” works and leaves you with time to focus on the bigger picture.
Do you have any mentors in the retail industry?
I really admire Howard Schultz and his vision for Starbucks. I was honored to join the board of directors this January and I look forward to working with this world-class organization.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
I love spending time with my husband, our four children as well as the extended family, many of whom live in Chicago. My husband and I, who are almost empty nesters, love visiting local music venues as well as enjoying the outdoors. Often we spend time together doing one or both of those things.