In The very first blog I explain why I’m writing this in the first place:
I want to share my journey to help people that might find themselves in similar situations in this crazy retail world we live in. Each Blog I write about a real life experience and how I handled it. Sometimes it was right and other times a lesson to be learned. In any case I survived it all and learned a whole lot to share in this story
From blog #1 to Blog #178 I go through the first half of my career up until the time I join Zappos in 2003. Here is my re-cap of some of the things that we learned along the way.
These learnings have become my tenent’s or principles that were held true by my mentors. The purpose of the blog was to go through my history and what I learned that lead me to Zappos. Now we are at the Pivot point and I will explain how I used these tenet’s during my 18 years (and hopefully many more years to come) at Zappos to help be part of an amazing company.
Attention to Detail is Key to Success
My Dad taught me at an early age, If your names on it, make sure it’s something you will be proud of. Expecting something extra for something you are expected to do will not benefit you. Doing the right thing and taking pride in what you do will speak volumes to your character down the road. This had a huge impact on me obviously because I’m still talking about it.
I talked about how doing a simple task such as mowing the lawn turned into a lesson. At first I did it quickly to get through it. I didn’t want to mow the lawn and certainly wasn’t thinking that I should be proud of what I did. Yes, I did think it was cool that my dad gave me the responsibility. But that’s where it ended. The lesson started by him pointing out the imperfect job that I did. By him telling me “If your names on it, make sure it’s something you will be proud of” also gave me “the why”.
So many times a boss will tell you to do something and if you ask why, the answer usually is “Because I said so”. My dad wasn’t a boss, he was a coach and became my mentor for that reason. Just because he was my father didn’t automatically give him the mentor title. He earned it…
Planning, Being prepared and getting organized
Another common theme throughout my blogs is the Planning, Being prepared and getting organized mantra. I think they all inter-twine. If you fail to plan you plan to fail. Planning is so important. You also need to realize that it’s just that, A plan….A vision of what should happen. If it doesn’t, you make adjustments to the plan. Always be nimble. As a buyer you usually make your plans for the following year 6 months ahead of time. As you get closer, you may tweak the plan here and there depending on business.
If you go through the year and your plan is way off, you aren’t going to continue down this path, that would be disastrous. At Zappos we have “guidance” which essentially is after the first few months you re-evaluate your plan based on results.
Next is being organized. So many times I talked about how we “cleaned up the stockroom” or how I had a system in the way I would buy merchandise. Being organized relieves chaos. Chaos is never good except in maybe a revolution. Be nimble in the way you organize yourself too, because things change constantly.
Time is money
You should be able to find things quickly and have some order in the way you have your “Business tools” readily available. You wouldn’t organize your Po Book in a way you couldn’t find a PO you were looking for. There is no cookie cutter way to do that. You need to figure out which way is best for you. Could be by PO number or by month and delivery dates. Every business is different. Bottom line is if you need it quick you need to find it quick.
And finally being prepared. There’s something to this boy scout motto. Anticipate questions, know your business and the competition. Educating yourself is the first step. Knowledge is power and helps you be prepared for anything that might be thrown your way. Whenever I prepare for a meeting, first thing is to make sure you look at your trends, results and forecasts. Next I think it’s beneficial to anticipate what questions might be asked.
Focus on the Solutions, and not the Problems
You can change your thinking from negative to positive, from unwanted (the problem) to wanted (the solution). It’s really about moving yourself forward instead of going into a drama death spiral. There usually is a solution to every problem. Sometimes it’s best to ask for help if you can’t see the solution right away. The best person to ask is someone who may have experienced a similar “problem”.
In one of the blogs at Nordstrom I talked about how Valley Fair was going through a remodel. It would have been easy to blame everything on the fact the front of the mall was closed and piles of dirt made it look like it was going out of business. Yes, this was part of the problem. The point is, you can’t control or fix this. So you need to turn to solutions that will make the pain more bearable.
In this particular situation I also had someone who was on a power trip and made my life miserable along with many others who dealt with him. It didn’t matter what solutions I came to. Case in point we were running up the stock to make sure everyone could find everything and he was hell bent on proving to everyone he was the “Boss”. Sometimes you can’t win. So my next “solution” was to make a change.
He ended up getting fired for doing something stupid many years later so it caught up with him. Karma’s a bitch sometimes.
The importance of Mentors
This was discussed several times throughout. From early on with my Dad, as I stated previously, teaching me the value of attention to detail. He also taught me to believe in myself and “if it’s to be it’s up to me”. My dad was my biggest cheer leader. Learning different things from different mentors Like Jim, Martha, Rob and many others in my career.
It’s building a foundation then fine tuning always. You can learn from most everyone and even the ones that may seem horrible at the time, that’s a lesson too. Learning what “Not to do” and how “Not to treat others” can sometimes be just as valuable. You may not call them a mentor but you still can learn from them.
People Are Your Most Important Asset
I would start this segment off by saying “You” are the most important asset. You have to have your head straight though and realize you can’t do it alone. So while it’s important to be the leader in all this, it’s just as important to realize the importance of having a great team. The reason why I say You are the most important asset is only because you have to have the self-realization that your people are truly where your focus should be. I learned this the hard way.
When I got promoted to the Brass Plum Buyer In Arden Fair, I was still learning a lot. We had amazing success in bringing the department from number 20 in the company to number 2. This was the beginning of the realization that people are your most important asset, except I didn’t get that part yet. Yes, I knew that the reason why we were having great business and positive results were that we had 9 Pacesetters on the floor and a great Management team. Why didn’t I start there in Palo Alto?
E-G-O…MY ego got in the way. So many people were telling me how great I was and I started to believe that. What I was great at was developing an awesome team. Since my hard lesson in Palo Alto, I’ve tried my best to focus on this aspect of business.
Finally at Zappos I put this tenent into practice. Not right away though. When I first started there were only six of us buyers. Then we grew to a few more the next year until finally we decided to have a progression plan. Once we started having teams that were part of our categories I put this tenet into practice. I also tried to think globally and make sure Zappos as a whole had world class people in Merchandising.
My Zappos Journey begins and my 5 tenents
So all these tenents are important to your business but it starts with you…
SIZES... SIZES... SIZES... SIZES...
…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career.
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