Meet Your Mentor
A brief look into what makes our leaders who they are through a series of short interview questions.
By Ryan Allison
Where did you cut your teeth in retail?
…coming out of college from New Mexico State University (NMSU), my first real retail job was with KMart in the super kmart centers. Straight out of college I was out to set the world on fire and thirteen to fourteen moves later its been a career of learning, fun, and hardwork, but at the end of the day its been extreemly rewarding.
What is the book or books you have given the most as a gift and why, or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life.
. There are many that I have read from a business perspective, also some personal, but the one that I would like to recomend today is a book called From Good to Great. For those that have not had an opportunity to read it, it really hits home from a business and leadership perspective in that when you hit your stride you are doing good in business driving your stores or whatever environment you may be in you may tend to settle in because things are good. At this point you kind of level out. The thing about it, is that going from good to great involves some additional commitments in your personal life and in your professional life. I would tell you that the key thing you take from the book is what sepparates you from those that are good and becoming great. In order to become great you must do the things that others are unwilling to do. Its not that they cant do those things, but instead its that they are unwilling to do them. When you go down that path and you discipline yourself in a way that you do those things, you start to see things and achieve levels of performance and sustanablility that before you thought were maybee not possible and the reward that comes with it. This reward comes from selflessness, it really teaches you that it is about team and the strength, significance, and magnitude of the impact that you can have on a team when you are moving to a common goal.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months or in recent memory?
. I recently bought a fit bit, which initially was something that was purely a fun way to track my fitness and health. But again it became a leason of discipline, committment and staying on a path. So for me what started as something that would get me down the path of better fitness it turned out to be a kind of underscore of once again when there is discipline and commitment to something how far you can go with it. It gave me the accountability to my self but you can really put yourself on stage to say you know i really want to be held accountable to this so you can join groups where you can challenge and motivate each other. I think when you expose yourself and make yourself vulnerable is when you really go down a path of success.
How has a failure (or apparent failure) set you up for later success? And do you have a favorite failure?
. Well my learnings from failures are that if you are not pushing the envelope and taking calculated risks then essentialy you are staying idle. There needs to be an element of risk in terms of whats next and how you persue that. But in terms of personal failure early on as an assistant manager who was extremely competitive, wanting to move forward and take the next step I found I could not do it by myself. All my hardwork, energy, passion, and being driven was fantastic but not planning for a team and making sure they were successful by leveraging the talent on the team meant that I would fail despite all my energy and drive to move the needle myself. Once you are in an environment where you are leading even if its just two people it doesnt have to be a large group, to have success you learn to leverage the strengths and knowledge of the team and take yourself out of the focus, instead make it about the team and what collectively we could do. Once I figured that out and once I got that down, we could move mountains.
If you could have a giant billboard anywhere whith anything on it, what would it say and why?
. There are a few things that come to mind but there is a motivational poster out there that comes up from time to time for me and it says “Luck is where preperation meets oportunity”. I cannot stress that enough that you prepare for the moment, you organize, and you leverage your team. So when that opportunity presents itself even if you want to call it luck at that point, you are ready to execute and you are ready to blow that away.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investment you have ever made?
. Monitarily realestate is something that has bean rewarding for me. On a personal level and on the business side, I am a learner, and so for me whats next is very motivational in terms of whats over the next hill and what can we do to over come that. For me its on going education. I have invested in continuing buseness courses and educational courses. They dont even have to be complex, but just staying connected through a learning process has been very rewarding for me and it also keeps me refreshed from a business perspective. Developement is huge, and its a never ending path really. I think that the process of learning and making yourself vulnerable that you may not know something is the seed that makes you want to learn more. Human nature is to stay away from things that we dont feel comfortable with, I propose to anyone that instead you should go after it, dive into it, and find out what makes it work.
In the last 5 years what new belief, behavior, or habbit has most improved your life?
. A behavior that isnt entirely new but I have eleveted and energized to a higher level recently has been ensuring I understand the needs of my team individually, their interests of growing personally and profesionally. Getting an accute understanding of my team on an emotional EQ level. Understanding how they feel about themselves and collectively as a group I think has an immense impact on our culture within our company and ultimately is translated directly to our customer.
What advice would you give to a smart driven college student about to enter the real world, and what advice should they ignore?
. Continue to work on self improvement, knowledge is very powerfull and can cary you far. But as a business leader one of the things to master is how to leverage teams, how to build teams that work well together and how to make it about the team and not ones self. The advice I would ignore would be pitfalls of focussing too much on you and your success.
What are bad recomendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
. Be someone who is about solutions. Dont wave the white flag, instead take the challenge and look for the solution. Overcoming adversity really helps you sepparate from the good to great as we spoke of earlier.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocussed or have lost your focus temporarily what do you do? How do you regain your focus?
. Stress is an interesting thing. For me I have learned to use stress as a fuel and an energy. I stop and dial into specific actions and activities that can help myself and team to overcome. dont let stress consume you in terms of worry but rather use it as a source of energy to further entrench yourself and dig in to say “we can do this”. It is easy to just say use the stress as energy but more dificult in reality, those moments call for extreme discipline, comitment to a plan (which doesnt mean it has to be rigid) but a commitment to how you are going to proceed. Breaking things down into pieces allow you to tackle them one by one with a timeline for each of those moments which allow your team to see the wins and gain momentum over the situation.