Tales from the Backroom: Harvard Business School Conference

They say if you are the smartest person in the room, you are in the wrong room. If that's the case, I was definitely in the right room this past weekend. I was lucky enough to find out about a conference held at Harvard Business School put on by their Retail and Luxury Goods Group. 

The list of speakers and panelists included Jyothi Rao, the president of Intermix, Matthew Rubel, the former CEO of Cole Hann, Cheryl Kaplan, the president and founder of M. Gemi, Jeffery Folwer, the president of Farfetch, The Goldston brothers, Co-founders of APL, and incredible people from Louis Vuitton, Williams-Sonoma, Saks and Gilt just to name a few.

I had some huge takeaways I will share with you, that would be applicable to almost any career. Here they are:

Always think about what is coming next

 “Last year-itise” is a mindset we can get stuck in. “Last year this worked really well so let’s do it again this year” or “Last year customers really wanted ___ so let’s get more of it this year” Progressive thinking helps push us forward and keeps us evolving.

Be a disrupter

How can we shake things up in our industry? What can we do to be completely revolutionary? Similarly to thinking about what’s coming next, this is also a mindset in my opinion. This is the way you have to think to have a forward moving business. 

Have an authentic message

When you do so you also gain an organic following. Find out what your customers do and don’t value and speak to them.

Collect data but know where to focus your analysis 

I found this to be my greatest correlation with the teaching world. We all collect so much data in our industries but either don’t know what to do with it or don’t analyze it in a way that is meaningful. Pick one area of improvement and use the reports you gather to actually make a targeted goal and adjust according to your data. It is better to start small and make an impact then try to make changes off of the millions of reports, statistics and trends computers these days can collect.  Don’t forget that business intelligence is not just data; it is also emotions, behaviors and beliefs.

Put customers first

Build authentic relationships and show people you care. Customize your customer service to fit the needs of everyone who shops with you. Also, always keep your competitors top of mind. See what they are doing differently, how they are meeting the needs of customers, what they are innovating and use that to inspire you to be even more creative and hardworking.

I left feeling motivated to get our website up and running to sell product off by the end of the year. Countless speakers stressed the concept of omnichannel business being necessary in the competitive market today. (I felt beyond out of place when the first speaker said, “Now I know you are all sick of the buzzword omnichannel and how frequently it is overused but it is here to stay” and I looked around and EVERYONE was rolling their eyes and nodding their head. I quickly pulled out my phone and had to Google) Omnichannel just means having more than one channel to reach your customers (Let’s be honest, channel was not in my vocabulary either). In my case it just means to have a brick and mortar store and a website. I also know it will take time to do it right, and it is an investment. (And also totally overwhelming to me…maybe one of the most overwhelming parts of this job.)

I am also going to work on being a great storyteller. The brands and stores we tend to gravitate towards tell a great story. I need to do a lot more research on what all of this encompasses but it will be an area of focus for me for sure.

I often forget how unbelievable it is to live in Boston, where so many of the best schools in the country are located. I can hardly believe I was allowed to sit amongst these talented people and learn from them.

Place & Gather, celebrate accordingly!