Professional Advice from Retail Consulting Leaders.
Personal thoughts from Anne Gallutia and Charlotte Haynes, Columbus Consulting International retail consultants.
The self-help and career advice industries are ripe with multi-media options that provide women with tips, insights, facts, learnings, profiles, studies and pretty much every suggestion and practice you can imagine to help improve oneself. Women, specifically, have been told that they need to lean in, have it all, thrive and pay it forward, only to create a dynamic of interdependence and confusion. Women are communal. Team players. Socially inclusive. Men are independent. Competitive. Self-promoting. Over and over career counselors hear about the “imposter syndrome” vs “the fake it til you make it” approaches to success.
So, in the spirit of International Women’s Month, Columbus Consulting wanted to offer its unique point of view. The CCI retail consulting firm has worked with over 300 leading global brands and their retail consultants have all held senior level positions within the industry over the course of the last two decades. They have worked with all types of leaders and have a unique vantage point being in and from the industry.
We asked two of their prominent female consultants their points of view on women leaders, paying it forward and the most meaningful advice that they have received.
Here is what they said:
WHAT FEMALE LEADER HAS INSPIRED YOU THE MOST IN YOUR CAREER AND WHY?
Anne Gallutia, Partner: I have been fortunate to have several influential women in my corner through the years. These included college professors to vice presidents. The common theme that resonated with me has been, “you’ve got this.” A little reinforcement to encourage me through pivotal career cross roads. When you approach decisions from a position of strength and positivity, you are likely to motivate yourself to figure it out and be successful. Compare this approach to one of doubt and caution. The most influential women in my life have always offered encouragement.
Charlotte Haynes, Principal: Throughout my career, I have been grateful to have many female leaders inspire me on a daily basis, including CCI’s own Charlotte Kula-Przezwanski, who, through working closely with over the past 3 years, has demonstrated how women can work together with balance, integrity, and conviction. Another notable female leader in my career is Mimmi Westlin, a former colleague at H&M group who was pivotal to my formative years in my career. Mimmi gave me a blank notebook to journal all of my career experiences. She reinforced the notion that women need to navigate their career with confidence not uncertainty. My notetaking practice helped me to identify and evaluate critical professional moments. Sometimes just recognizing what is happening and what you want to happen is what you need to move with intention.
WOMEN OFTEN TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF HELPING OTHER WOMEN, HOW DO YOU “PAY IT FORWARD?”
AG: My inner chant of “you’ve got this” carries through in how I conduct myself and exhibit leadership to my team. I think the best thing you can do to pay it forward is to create a safe space for others to learn and grow. Knowing that you can fail and still be supported goes a long way to hone skills in taking chances, growing beyond comfort zones and building confidence. I am especially mindful of when I am working with young employees and interns that I encourage them to acknowledge their dreams, passions and interests.
CH: Share and listen. As a recipient of having been around inspiring, successful women, I am able to extend myself, knowledge, and wisdom to other women who maybe lacking confidence. Most recently, I have been supporting women who are re-entering the workforce after starting a family. This stage of a professional’s life can be filled with insecurity and uncertainty. To help them overcome their own mental obstacles, I have taken them to industry events to reassimilate them, helped to review their resumes and even practiced interviews with them.
WHAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADVICE YOU RECEIVED FROM A FEMALE BOSS, MENTOR OR COLLEAGUE?
AG: I sound like a broken record, but it is a great theme song for me and one that will resonate with other aspiring female professionals. The best advice I received was, “you can do it.” If you think you can, you will. I faced this challenge when I decided to make a career change in my 30’s. I quit my job and went back to school. I wanted to start my own consulting practice. I was scared. I heard my inner voices telling me all the ways I could fail. How my income would be impacted. How I was starting from scratch again. I could have talked myself out of my dream but, instead, I listened to my mentors and friends who encouraged me and told me, ”you can do this,” and I did.
CH: It sounds cliché, but I was once asked “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Note that I did not quote the more common version of “what would you do if you knew you could not fail?” For some reason women more than men are victims of “imposter syndrome,” even if they have equal competency and capability to their male counterparts. Women are afraid to fail, afraid that they won’t have the right skills, afraid that they will be deemed incapable. Their inner voice of “can’t,” “don’t,” “what if?” echo whenever they are faced with unknown. Of course this is a vast generalization, but I know I have gone through this and I hear it from most of my colleagues at some point. So, my best of piece of advice is to believe in yourself and support and encourage other women to overcome negative thoughts.
How many times have you felt unsupported? Thought you were less than qualified? Hesitant to take a risk? It is always interesting to know that so many successful, talented and inspiring women have or still do feel the same way. So, what’s the difference between the women who have figured it out and those who are still searching for answers? A point of view. Approaching your career with confidence, positivity and an attitude of self-belief is a common advice ingredient.
Women have pioneered so many milestones throughout the years. It is time to do more than lean in. It is time to leap forward. Be ok with stumbling. Get up. And keep going. Come on, we know you got this!
Happy International Women’s Day.
Columbus Consulting is a retail consulting practice and is a consultant member of WIRLC.
Anne Gallutia is a Partner at Columbus Consulting International with over 20 years of retail-related experience in merchandising, allocation, all areas of planning, and forecasting. Her focus includes strategic planning, functional and business process design, system implementation, testing script creation and execution and training. Anne has proven her ability to draw upon experience gained in both the retail industry and software design to utilize formal implementation methodologies and best practices.
Charlotte Haynes is a principal at Columbus Consulting International based in London. She is an omnichannel Retail Buying & Merchandising specialist with over 12 years of experience working with retail, e-com, wholesale and manufacturing companies focused on improving corporate performance through better planning, execution & analysis.Charlotte has most recently been awarded The Ones to Watch Award/Rising Stars in Retail by Consulting Magazine.
ABOUT COLUMBUS CONSULTING
Columbus Consulting is a leading retail consulting firm. Our team of retail consulting practitioners all have career experience with leading global brands in retail, CPG, wholesale, and grocery. Our philosophy is simple, if you do it, we do it. From strategy through implementation, our retail consultants will work as extensions of your team. For over 20 years, we have helped companies like yours with assortment planning, inventory planning, demand planning, unified commerce consulting, store systems consulting, FP&A consulting, IT consulting, data analytics consulting, digital transformation and more. With a 96% re-engagement rate, our retail consultants pride themselves on building long-term, trusting relationships by being nimble and driving true value.