Fortune: Top Tips from the Most Powerful Women in Business on Leading through Turmoil

By Beth Kowitt

Being a CEO is hard enough, but try doing it when both your company and industry is in flux. Top CEOs in the trenches tackled the issue of leading a transformation at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit last week. The following are their top takeaways.

Shira Goodman, CEO of Staples: Goodman says that her office supplies company had a “bona fide crisis in terms of how we sell and what we sell” as more purchases moved to e-commerce. That led Staples to its decision to go private and sell itself to private equity firm Sycamore Partners earlier this year.

Goodman, who is a 25-year Staples veteran, says that as someone with a long tenure, one of the hardest things was figuring out how to let go. “You have to destroy what you built,” she says, adding that your perspective should be, “I get to do this versus I have to do this.” “I feel like I’ve learned more in the last year than the prior five years,” she says.

She believes there are four things leaders don’t say enough: I was wrong, I don’t know, I need your help, and thank you.

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Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty: Dillon says that in her first month on the job as CEO of Ulta in 2013, she started picking up clues that the company needed to reinvent itself internally. “It was not a great culture in terms of people being heard and listened to,” she says.

Dillon pushed to create a collaborative environment rather than one rife with internal competition. “I won’t put up with any of that,” she says. “As a woman with that style, it can come off as not decisive enough.” So far it’s paid off: Ulta (ULTA, -3.51%) has been hitting double-digit percentage sales growth every quarter.

Margaret Keane, CEO of Synchrony Financial: Keane became CEO of the lender and white label credit car issuer when it split off from General Electric in 2014. She says that as the company figured out how to go it alone, she had to publicly keep up a persona of confidence.

One benefit of a transformation, Keane says, is that “some real talent emerges as a result.” She pointed to her CIO as an example as she dealt with a tremendous workload during Synchrony’s (SYF, +0.13%) separation from GE (GE, -0.48%). “She knew what she wasn’t strong in and hired people more senior than her in some areas,” she says. “They helped her deliver.”

Christa Quarles, CEO of OpenTable: Quarles says that OpenTable (OPEN, +0.00%) had a very “command and control” culture. But as a leader, she says you have to be willing to receive criticism and feedback in order to give it. “The executive team trusts each other,” she says. “We’ve all gotten to a place where we can say the thing on our mind.”

Shideh Sedgh Bina, founding partner of Insigniam: The Insigniam founding partner, who works with CEOs and c-suite executive on transformation, says that in every post-mortem she’s done over 30 years the No. 1 lesson that comes up is that the company did not “get rid of the wrong people fast enough.” Her advice: “I would look for people who are not aligned.”


MaineBiz: Women Presidents’ Organization Focuses On ‘Opportunities’ And ‘Success’


The Women Presidents’ Organization is an international nonprofit membership organization for successful women entrepreneurs. Verrill Dana LLP partner Juliet Browne, who chairs the law firm’s environmental group and co-chairs its energy group, chairs the WPO’s Maine chapter.

Once a month in Portland, Browne facilitates WPO peer learning sessions in a roundtable format. The Maine Chapter consists of 11 members from a variety of sectors. Browne says the organization is open to new members, from Maine as well as New Hampshire, “as long as they’re committed to participating” and meet the annual revenue threshold.

Mainebiz: You’ve previously said you weren’t one to join women’s groups. What about this group spoke to you?

Juliet Browne: It was the notion of an organization that was focused on growing and success and bringing people together to share experiences and collaborate. Not focusing on obstacles and challenges, but on opportunities and success. Really it was just the people. Every conversation I had I left me thinking, ‘Wow, these are people I’d like to spend more time with.’

MB: What is your role as the Maine chapter chair?

JB: I facilitate our monthly meetings, which means I try to make sure they’re getting meaningful content out of each meeting I also do recruitment and outreach to try to get new members to join.

MB: Who are the members of the group?

JB: The members are great. They’re successful women business owners in Maine, mostly the greater Portland area, with businesses that range from communications to specialty seafood to home decor, so it’s a diverse group. We don’t have members from competing businesses, because we share a lot of confidential information in each meeting. We meet once a month for four hours.

MB: That’s intense.

JB: It is, but people make the effort to get there, so you want to be efficient, and instead of having multiple shorter meetings, we really found that the one four-hour meeting a month works. The hallmark of our meetings is confidentiality, so I can’t talk about specific topics that come up, but the format is generally as a business roundtable, so members share issues, challenges, experiences, opportunities in a facilitated manner.

MB: Would these women otherwise not have peers to talk to about these issues?

JB: Yes, it’s lonely at the top. A lot of times, a successful woman business owner doesn’t really have a peer that she can talk to about issues in the business. She may be able to talk to staff and employees, so this is an opportunity to talk to other similarly situated women about the types of issues, challenges, opportunities that she might face in her business.

MB: Generally speaking, what do they talk about?

JB: In general the chapters tackle issues like human resources and personnel as well as access to capital, growth and how to scale your business. Obviously in Maine, one of the challenges we have is the lack of employees, which is particularly challenging in the service industry.

MB: Are there also national gatherings?

JB: There’s an annual conference in a different place every year. What is really just incredibly powerful about the conference is you have 850 successful women entrepreneurs in one place. I leave each one inspired to grow my own business and take to heart some of the information from the other women there.

MB: Are you a business owner yourself?

JB: I’m an equity partner here at Verrill Dana, so I am a business owner.

MB: What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from your experience with the WPO that you apply to your own practice?

JB: Lawyers are very task-driven and focused on providing client services, which is a good thing, but then we also need to think about running and growing the business. My involvement with WPO has come at a time in my own practice where it’s a nice transition to focus more on the growth of the business and mentoring of other lawyers, so it’s been a nice segue.

UPS: A Winning Formula for Freight Forwarding

By: Cindy Miller | UPS 

The future is a popular place these days. Everybody wants to know what it looks like. Everybody wants to know the best way to prepare for it. Everybody wants to know how to get there first and with the right stuff.

But getting it right has never been more difficult. Or as Yoda told Luke Skywalker, “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

Emerging economies are challenging the advanced ones by creating new markets but adding competitors.

Our worlds are being rocked by the same forces: new technologies, new competitors, new economies, new consumers, new politics and new expectations in the value we create for our customers.

Playing this new game according to our old rules, experiences and assumptions is like playing checkers on a chessboard. When the board is three-dimensional, the rules change with every move, and new players can join at any time.

A time of paradox

Our view of the future is clouded by a time of paradox.

Emerging economies are challenging the advanced ones, creating new markets but adding new local competitors.

A billion people have joined the global middle class, with a billion more on the way, improving quality of life but putting tremendous stress on global resources.

Humanity is packing up and moving to cities, concentrating wealth and simplifying access – but posing huge challenges to quality of life.

Take a step closer to our businesses, and we see the same kind of change. Along with the macro changes, both ports and freight forwarding are navigating transformation in the ocean carrier industry.

Coming off years of increasing volatility and financial losses, we’re seeing massive consolidation and a concentration of market shares. Consolidation means less volatility, but it also means fewer competitors.

The next battleground

Experience is the next competitive battleground. It is the ultimate measure of everything we do.

We dug deep into research on the state of customer experience in the freight forwarding industry. We saw that we had to create a more powerful and intentional relationship with customers.

We needed to get a whole lot better at seeing experience through their eyes.

We needed to start building long-term partnerships as soon as we started new relationships, with the same time and attention we put into connections with long-time partners.

Success will be measured by interactions with customers and high-quality experiences.

We formed a customer experience team. They’ve been charged with giving us new tools and procedures to modernize and simplify our processes.

The measure of the team’s success will be better interactions with customers and the ability to provide the high-quality experiences they expect. There are few places where creating the right experience is more important, high-stakes and complex than retail.

That’s true for UPS. And true for ocean shipping in general.

We need disruption

Disruption is a bad thing if somebody does it to you. It’s a very good thing if you do it to yourself.

Self-disruption can be very hard for big organizations, especially successful ones. Why change when we’re winning?

It’s very easy for a large and successful company to see the world from the perspective of your own history, experience and success.

For most of us, we’re usually at our worst when we’re convinced we’re at our best. We have to look at disruption from two perspectives.

One is circuits and code. The second is organizations that can use amazing new tools to rethink how they work and the experience they create.

We have tools we could not even imagine a decade ago. Machines can connect, learn and make decisions. They can be so small that you need a microscope to see them.

The Internet of Things will allow even the smallest businesses to connect to global networks. By 2020, 40 to 50 billion devices will be connected to these networks.

Smart sensors by the hundreds of millions can monitor, calculate and connect, giving us the kind of real-time data that has been beyond our reach in the past. And they will do that to the level of a single package.

Blockchain technologies will give us secure global spreadsheets that live in the cloud and are available at every point in our network. 3D printing will revolutionize the interaction between manufacturing and distribution.

We’re working with SAP and 3D-printing company Fast Radius to build a 3D-printing network in our UPS stores and a 3D-printing factory at our global hub in Louisville where we have printers running 24-7.

We’re not talking teleportation here. These advances are real. They are now. They are growing. And they will drive change at a rate the world has never seen.

WPO would like to thank UPS for providing this week’s sponsor blog content. 

WEGG: Enabling Global Growth for Women-Owned and Women-Led Enterprises

By: Laurel Delaney

An estimated 126 million active female entrepreneurs do business in 67 economies around the world.  According to the American Express OPEN State of Women Owned Business Report, this includes 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., with approximately 1,200 new women-owned businesses started each day—one nearly every two minutes.  These enterprises generate more than $1.4 trillion in revenue and employ more than 7.8 million people.

Women-owned firms that export,” reports the White House Council on Women and Girls, “not only earn more but employ more people and are, on average, more productive than women-owned firms that do not.”  But estimates show that only 12 percent of women-owned SMEs in the U.S. export.  Either women do not think they have what it takes to export or they lack the appropriate support, such as training, education, and advisory networks.

Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global (WEGG) exists to remove the barriers keeping women business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide from going global.  Established as a nonprofit in 2015, WEGG makes learning to export affordable, accessible, and implementable.  Export experts and successful global companies give women practical, gender-informed tools to create a more promising future for themselves, their families, and their community.  What would normally cost tens of thousands of dollars in consulting fees is free and as close as a computer.

Click here to read more about WEGG, how you can participate in its tuition-free monthly WEGGinars™ and how to sign up for its newsletter on all things related to growth through international trade.

WPO Guest Blog: Three Pieces of Advice for Women Entrepreneurs

By: Margery Kraus

As the founder of APCO Worldwide, the largest women-owned firm in the communications and public affairs industry, I feel I have a tremendous responsibility to train and mentor the next generation of women leaders at all stages of their careers, not just in our profession but in business generally. We need to develop more leaders who can contribute meaningful dialogue and bring about policies that will help remove obstacles toward progress for women everywhere.

I am inspired by the many women who have achieved so much and become outstanding role models for the next generation of business leaders. I have seen first-hand how businesswomen are driving economic change in Africa, effecting societal change in the Middle East and political change in the United States and Europe. These changes do not come easy; it is important to remember that we must remain engaged for the long-term to sustain the momentum to resolve issues of gender and diversity well ahead of projections.

In that spirit, I want to share three things I’ve kept in mind that helped me maintain perspective and contributed to my success.

Click here to watch.

PwC Canada: PwC teams up with #MovetheDial

Dedicated to increasing the participation and advancement of women in technology

We have always known that in the technology industry, women have a steeper hill to climb – as attested to by leaders like Sheryl Sandberg and the many brave women who have spoken up about the “bro-culture” in Silicon Valley and venture capital industry.

This year, a movement called #MovetheDial was started to increase the participation and advancement of women in the Canadian tech community. We knew the Canadian tech industry faced similar issues to the global community – but we didn’t know to what extent, so we teamed up with #MovetheDial and MaRS Discovery District to find out.

Research and analysis of 933 tech companies in Canada uncovered key findings such as:

  • Currently, only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female founder. When companies with male and female co-founders are factored in, the percentage of tech companies with female founders increases only to 13%.
  • Only 5% of Canadian tech companies have a female CEO — and when companies with male and female co-CEOs are factored in, that statistic increases only to 6%.
  • Women comprise 13% of the average tech company’s executive team, while 53% of tech companies have no female executives at all.
  • On average, only 8% of directors at Canadian tech companies are women. 73% of boards have no women at all.
  • Approximately 30% of Canadian venture capital firms have a female partner, and on average, 12% of partners are women.

Female leaders are just as qualified as their male counterparts, and we believe they should be given equal opportunities to advance in their careers. In an industry fiercely competing for the best talent, we can’t afford to leave a significant portion of our workforce on the sidelines.

Learn more about the #MovetheDial initiative and read the new benchmark report Where is the Dial now? here.

WPO would like to thank PwC Canada for providing this week’s sponsor blog content. 

Huffington Post: Women Entrepreneurs Are Driving Economic Growth

Carlos M. Gutierrez, Jr., Contributor

The ability to chart one’s own economic destiny by becoming an entrepreneur is one of the hallmarks of capitalism. Many of today’s most recognized companies and brands began as the brainchild of an individual who embraced the risks of entrepreneurship with hopes of realizing their entrepreneurial vision. Yet, while in theory entrepreneurship is anybody’s game, rates of female entrepreneurship have historically lagged those of men.

Thankfully, for the benefit of innovation, business, and society as a whole, in recent years we have seen an increase in rates of women entrepreneurship. Globally, from 2015 to 2016, women entrepreneurship rates increased by double that of their male counterparts. In the United States, not only do women own 11.3 million businesses, it is estimated that 36 percent of all businesses are owned by women, an increase of six percent from 2007. Perhaps not surprisingly, according to a study by Dell, the United States ranks number one in the world in terms of providing the world’s most favorable business climate for women entrepreneurs.

Increasing female entrepreneurship rates are only half of the story. The economic impact of increased female entrepreneurial participation is significant and holds the potential to continue to be a major driver of economic growth. In the United States, with an economic impact of $3 trillion, women owned businesses are credited with creating or maintaining 23 million jobs. When coupled with statistics showing that women-led companies perform twice as well as those led by men, one can begin to imagine the significant impact the continued increase of women-led businesses can have on domestic job creation and economic growth. Furthermore, as investors continue to seek opportunities to maximize returns on their capital they would be wise to look towards female-led businesses; studies show that on average female founded companies create over 60 percent more value for investors than those founded by men.

Despite great strides, female entrepreneurs continue to face roadblocks. As noted by the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), among other challenges, lack of training and financing remain major obstacles for female entrepreneurs in the United States. The lack of financing allocated for women-led enterprises is particularly appalling; of the $58 billion that was invested by venture capitalists in 2016 only $1.46 billion reached women-led companies. While female-led businesses are increasingly being funded, access to capital for female entrepreneurs is far from reaching parity.

Regardless of gender, any entrepreneur will tell you that successful entrepreneurship is a challenging task requiring deep commitment and unlimited amounts of motivation. A testament to the aforementioned, I recently had the opportunity to interview entrepreneur, designer, and author Tala Raassi, the founder of Tala Raassi SwimwearDubbed by Newsweek magazine as “One of the Most Fearless Women in the World”, Tala’s memoir, “Fashion Is Freedom: How a Girl from Tehran Broke the Rules to Change her World” traces her unlikely path to fashion industry entrepreneurship. Fresh off the heels of her recent TedX talk, Tala and I discussed her views on business, women entrepreneurship, and writing a book.

Click here to read more.