A Professional Journey Dipped in Chocolate_ Leading Bitter Sweet Change

A Professional Journey Dipped In Chocolate

Don’t hire ahead of revenue

In a negotiation after everything’s been said, the first one who talks loses

Bad business is worse than no business

-         Jack Winters

 

I am told that my dad was unusual for his generation. Dad believed that a woman needed to make her way in the world, and many of our earlier conversations centered on going to college and picking a profession – not necessarily teaching or nursing. His encouragement carried me through my college career at BU’s School of Management.

In the last six months of my senior year of college, I like many of my classmates were interviewing. Boys, to include my brother were returning from Vietnam and looking for jobs. The competition was stiff and I was pretty discouraged. Nine out of ten jobs were going to people with experience, not to recent grads.

 

I did eventually land my dream job on the executive training program for Saks Fifth Avenue.  I worked for two very different women. Miss Nan was flamboyant and creative; Miss Janet was structured and disciplined. One forced me to imagine the impossible and the other taught me not to take short cuts. That has carried me through my career.

Later I went to work for an entrepreneur extraordinaire, Jack Winters. Jack bought the rights to market Mary Quant cosmetics and accessories in the U.S.

Jack gave me a territory and the opportunity to build a business from scratch. He had a vision that we could put both the cosmetics and the accessories side by side in the fashion areas of department stores or in young and edgy boutiques.  This was a first, but Miss Nan’s mentorship gave me the courage to imagine the impossible and in six months Mary Quant was in a primary department store in every major city on the East coast, along with 200 boutiques. I kept impeccable records, called on the department stores regularly and visited the boutiques on Saturdays as the Mary Quant “specialist”. On those Saturdays I worked with women, putting make-up on them, selecting colors and selling stock. Thanks to Miss Janet I established a disciplined routine and did not take short cuts. Jack promoted me to National Sales Manager, the youngest among my peers and the only woman at the time.

He taught me three major principles:

  1. Don’t hire ahead of revenue
  2. In a negotiation after everything’s been said, the first one who talks loses
  3. Bad business is worse than no business

These principles have guided me through my corporate career and the last eleven years as an entrepreneur.

 

When Anne Mulcahy appointed me to the position of Chief Transformation Officer at Xerox, no one including me really knew what this role was and what I was meant do. When asked, I responded “I guess if you don’t change, you’re under arrest”. That gave me some levity and time to figure it out.  Three months into the position, I met other change agents and began to form a community that later became “The Center for Business Transformation”. Again applying the learning and principles I received from my early mentors.

 

After a long and successful corporate career, I founded Fassforward Inc. d/b/a fassforward Consulting Group, with a British engineer I worked with at Gartner Group.  fassforward is a business transformation boutique built on the model a small group of change agents established at Xerox.

Our firm was incorporated in July of 2001, with some principles of our own:

  1. Be choosey
  2. Build a reputation
  3. Never compromise on the deliverable

We had one client, a well-known fortune 500 company and a highly regarded brand.  Three months later we landed another fortune 500 client. We were on a roll!

Then came 9/11…

Our two clients cut our budgets due to financial constraints. We came to realize large and small companies were struggling to survive.

A few months later a call came in from a former colleague sending an opportunity our way.  We met the potential client in beautiful offices out on the Island. As we talked with the decision maker it became clear to me that this was not the right opportunity for us.

We agreed that we could not afford to pass up new business, but… Jack’s voice was ringing in my ear, “bad business is worse than no business”. We needed to be choosey. We passed on that opportunity.

“fassforward” to today and we’re still here, with a client roster we are proud of and years of experience under our belt. Nothing is impossible when you don’t take short cuts!

Bio_rose2Rose is the CEO at fassforward consulting group. She blogs about Leadership, Change, Culture and Chocolate Conversations at leadingbittersweetchange.com.

You can follow her on twitter @rosefass.

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