By Marie Albiges

Elizabeth Elliott is a managing partner at Columbus Consulting, which offers a unique, consumer-centric approach with an end-to-end perspective that bridges function and organization silos from strategy to education. She’s also a Women in Retail Leadership Circle (WIRLC) consultant member! In this member spotlight, we asked Elliott a series of questions so that you can get to know her better.

Women in Retail Leadership Circle: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
Elizabeth Elliott:
 This is an easy one for me  — it’s my father’s book, “Secrets for a Good Life” by Dr. Jack Elliott. The book is a resource for readers to use in their own lives and it continues to keep me grounded and think outside of my own comfort zone. My dad was a go-to resource and confidant to so many and was known for his wisdom, observations and advice. In his book he shares his secrets and tools on how to apply your own values, morals, faith and relationships in everyday life.

WIRLC: What’s a mistake you made early in your career?
 I’m not sure this is unique to me, as I have heard many women confess to a similar weakness, but not having the confidence to say no to things. When you’re starting out, you think you need to agree to taking on more and more so that you don’t limit your options or future opportunities. At some point, however, you realize that taking on too much can actually limit your ability to succeed and deliver your personal and professional best. This is especially true for women with young children. Knowing how and where/when to set limits is critical. It allows you, as you progress through your career, to be able to say yes to the right things that you enjoy and that enrich you. The key is to decide what’s most impactful for you and learn how to delegate and let go, but still stay connected.

WIRLC: What are you looking forward to most for the industry in 2023? 
 I look forward to finally seeing true omni-retail. The industry has talked about this for many years, but the technology hasn’t caught up until now in order to bring that to fruition. Having brands be able to deliver consistency throughout the end-to-end customer journey will benefit not only the consumer, but the retail organization as well. Until now, retailers had to patch their systems and processes to be seen as seamless to shoppers. Now, with artificial intelligence, we have the ability to get to very low levels of detail with greater speed and more accuracy. This will free up talent to be more creative and customer-focused. New cloud-based solutions that leverage machine learning can now connect the dots in predictive ways we haven’t been able to do previously.

What does this mean? Getting the right products in the right sizes/colors/assortments to the right locations and ultimately to the right customers has become a true science. Less wasted production (better for the environment and margin), less inventory voids or excess (that create missed sales or markdowns), and more customer personalization and, ultimately, satisfaction and loyalty. For many years the industry has been focused on driving digital commerce; post-pandemic, we’re seeing a return to the physical store which requires even more attention to experiences. This is where getting it right across channels in real time becomes even more important.

WIRLC: What values are most important to you as a leader?
 In a word, integrity. Being honest, empathetic and authentic is something I’ve always strived for and looked for in leadership. The concept of walking the talk is sometimes lost as organizations often reward individual stars. Knowing that you have the ability to influence success without solely owning it is a huge “a ha” moment in one’s career. This skill of being able to take initiative but not take sole ownership and credit is what I look for in senior team members.

WIRLC: What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
 I have a few thoughts here:

  1. Be inclusive; don’t try to go it alone.
  2. Listen not to hear, but to understand.
  3. Make sure you can articulate your vision AND a plan on how to achieve it.
  4. When things go sideways (and they will), dust yourself off and get on with it. As my father would say, “It’s OK to take a shower in those moments; just don’t take a bath and linger.”

* Republished with permission from Women in Retail.

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