Talent and the Non-Vertical Path up the Career Ladder.


After attending a conference trends i starting realize the problem with most business is the talent or the lack there of. Now you might be wondering how a conference on trends lead me to this statement, i will explain. One of the speakers was the new Director of Merchandise for a home decor company, and he was talking about their new collections, that they're sales are double digits over projection and last years sales, actually they have had the highest sales in the companies history for the last two years after he joined the company.

Now the company and the person are irrelevant, it is the career path and the experience of the new director is the key here. He had no home decor experience before taking the job, NONE! His career experience was very diverse from, Marine/Boating, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, Apparel and many others; no gift, table top, Home Decor or even hardware. His job title were as diverse as the industries he worked for, Director of Product Development, GM of Operations, Manager of Customer Service and Manager of Sourcing. So why did he get the job as Director of Merchandising for a Home Decor Company and why is the company having the best sales ever?

It was the non-vertical career path. Industries self mandate that one must transition in a straight vertical line up the career ladder: From entry level to, Assistant X, to Associate X, to Manager X, to SR Manager X and so on, all within the same industry and quite often the same subset. You can not get a position in Fashion if you worked in Hardware, you can not get a position in Home Decor if you worked in Souvenir Gifts. In this traditional and expected path there is the "Expected" methodology on how things are done. One must "Drink the CoolAid"! And when there is a break out in the industry they all wonder "why didn't we think of that" or " why didn't we developed that"? If you are training your talent that they must follow the described path and must have experience in a mandated industry, you are not going to get talent that thinks differently on how achieve success.

The Director above learned how to approach each industry and job he had in a completely different mind set. I spoke with him after the seminar and he told me that he could not just take a cookie cutter approach to any project and that the diversity of his career path helped him look at each challenge in the 360. He also said he looked at all of the data at the home decor company, sales, demographics, competitors and it was completely clear what was needed to be done. When he presented his planned new direction for the products and the company , he was met with allot of resistance from his buyers, planners, product developers, also most his entire team. He did have full support for the top, there was a little bit of gasps but he had full support. The naysayers on his team all told him, "this is not how we do it , its not how it is done in our industry". None the less, much of the staff was replaced and he hired new Buyers, Developers and so forth from other industries.

He also stated, "I am always looking at all of retail, all of it, every industry. Reading all articles, social media posts, Business TV shows and so on; when you drill it down, the brights spots, the run-away retailers, the hot new thing or concept, for the most part are from people/talent that did not "drink the CoolAid."

I, myself, have worked with clients and their current talent is okay, they went through the expected career path but when i challenge them to look at the task at hand in a new way, or how another industry does it, the response is usually the same, "That is not how it is done in our industry", or "I was taught that this is how to do it", "Why should we do it that way, we're not...", they drank the "CoolAid" .

I believe and it has been shown time and time again, those who had the diverse career path, who have bought or developed products, or worked in operations from all different industries in their careers, are always the best Talent to have on your team. Remember the principles are ALL the Same regardless of industry it the diverse experiences one has on how you use those principles that leads to Success.

This is going to be a series of post on Talent, since it is an issue I and many of my peers have to deal with on a daily basis and we all believe is the biggest issue in business today.

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