Today, most consumer-driven companies are playing catchup in a rapidly changing world. We see mistakes made by their leaders and unexpected changes in companies’ strategic directions. The retail industry has suffered not only from badly thought-out decisions but also from the increasing pressure of online retailers.
While retail companies are trying to catch up and win back customers, I’ve decided to look at the issues from a leadership perspective. What has changed in the capabilities and skills of successful retail leaders? Who can turn things around? Who can be a future game-changer? Mark Cohen, professor at Columbia Business School and former CEO of Sears Canada, helped me with answers to these questions.
Lilia K. Staples: Let’s start with challenges. Today, in your mind, what are the top three issues of retailing leadership of large corporate enterprises?
Mark Cohen: Insuring that the entire organization is properly focused on the strategy of the company and its execution. (read more…)
I’ve been thinking a lot about wrecking balls lately, and no, not because of Miley Cyrus.
I’ve been thinking about wrecking balls because this year my company went through our own demolition. We took the momentum from a year of hard work and used the force of our collective strengths to deconstruct what we originally built and start all over again.
Sounds a little dramatic but it was the best decision we’ve ever made. Here’s why.
Anything worth building once is worth building again
When we first built 15Five — an employee-feedback platform that takes 15 minutes to write and 5 minutes to read — we dove in with the concept and figured out the other details as we went. We rapidly built our back-end technology and designed a UI to quickly get the idea out to the world to see how people would respond.
It wasn’t perfect, but it worked. (read more…)
Bill Swanson is North America CEO of Cartridge World, but he’s also the company’s global chief financial officer. I recently asked him how he came to hold both roles, how he balances and weighs those responsibilities, and how other companies might study a similar strategy and structure.
You have a finance background and came to Cartridge World as global CFO before adding the North America CEO role. What led to the decision to take on the second role, and how important was your background in that decision?
Cartridge World needed new leadership after the company moved its North American headquarters from California to Illinois in 2011. I came aboard as global CFO in May 2011 before adding the North American CEO title a little more than a year later.
Prior to moving to Illinois, the Cartridge World system wasn’t working. We were creating negative cash flow and had far more expenses than were sustainable based on our revenue stream. (read more…)
What does your company stand for? Go ahead, look around you; check out the published mission or values statement. Take a moment to read it. Now do a gut check: what was your reaction? Did you feel positively connected to a meaningful purpose? Or did you disdainfully roll your eyes?
If it’s the latter, your company has a cultural congruence problem: the stated organizational values aren’t lining up with the reality of daily business decisions. And this means the leaders in your organization had better get to work closing that gap.
It’s easy for leaders to make statements like, “Our customer is No. 1” and “Safety first”; it’s a lot harder to turn those pronouncements into a reality. The reasons for a cultural congruence gap are many: financial pressures, regulatory issues, competing demands within the organization. Most leaders understand that making decisions incompatible with company values is counterproductive.
Still, they justify their actions with “Just this once” or “Our shareholders demand this.” It’s counter-productive, but they still get away with it. (read more…)