Women Of The C-Suite: “Ask and care about the opinions of your staff”
With Adrianne Weissman
Ask the opinions (and care) of your staff. I feel it is very important to ask the opinions of the people who work in different departments before making changes. Without input from the people in the stores or in the warehouse, you can’t make informed decisions. I truly respect my staffs’ opinions about our business.
I had the pleasure to interview Adrianne Weissman. A former buyer for Macy’s, Adrianne Weissman serves as President of Evelyn & Arthur, a family-owned, destination for women’s fashions that has served customers for over three decades. She oversees nine locations throughout the state of Florida, a location in Hilton Head, SC, and the company’s corporate office and warehouse. Adrianne is known for her focus on female empowerment, not only through the offerings of high style, figure-flattering clothes but through the management of each store location within its community. Working with each location, Adrianne empowers managers to use Evelyn & Arthur as a means to give back to community charities through in-store and off-site fundraisers. Additionally, she serves as a noted speaker for numerous business and philanthropic organizations, speaking on a wide-range of topics including women in leadership, business management and the importance of philanthropy. A breast cancer survivor, Adrianne is active with local breast cancer organizations. She is a current member of the board of directors for The Lord’s Place, and Temple Israel, and volunteers with the St. George’s Soup Kitchen. Adrianne received her Bachelor of Science degree from University of Bridgeport and is a past recipient of the Adovah Award for Outstanding Volunteer Service from Temple Israel. She is the proud mother of two daughters, Elyse and Alexis. She resides in Jupiter with her husband Fred and two dogs.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Macy’s was an incredible place to work when I was first beginning my career. We were given an enormous amount of responsibility at a very young age. I’m very grateful that I was able to go through their Executive Training Program and then become a buyer. At Macy’s, we learned the expression, “If not you, who?” meaning that if I wasn’t going to take care of it, who was? I’ve remembered this philosophy of personal responsibility and brought it with me when my parents opened their first Palm Beach Island store in 1985. Today, I’m honored to carry on my parents’ namesake as Evelyn & Arthur celebrates our 33rd year in business with nine locations across the state of Florida and our first out of the state, in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I’ve got two. When we came up with the idea to host “Pop-Up Shops” for local charities, I was looking through our inventory and wondering if we could get more donated items so we could offer the women even more. I sent out an email and asked some of the manufacturers and companies that we work with regularly. We had a huge response! Everyone wanted to participate. I was blown away at the even bigger difference we could make just simply by asking via one email.
The second story also has to do with one of our pop-up shops. It is actually the one that propelled us to make the pop-up shops a regular giveback activity. We had arranged a donation of over 300 pair of pants to 4 local organizations facilitated through our local United Way. Three out of the four organizations just sent a staff representative to pick up their pants. One of the organizations, The Lord’s Place, brought a client with them. She was a young woman who could have easily been my daughter. She had fallen on hard times and was living in one of their women’s shelters. This young woman was very shy and insecure. She was also skeptical about our company’s intentions. She wasn’t really sure why she was there. I went over and began talking to her. I asked her pant size and then handed her a few to try on. She tried them on and when she found a pair she liked, she came out and was beaming! My heart melted immediately. We talked for a little while longer and I realized the heart of the issue was that she didn’t believe she was worth anyone doing anything nice for her. She’d had a couple of tough years. As she felt more comfortable with me, she began sharing more about her journey. She was an assistant special needs teacher who had lost her apartment and was living out of her car. Eventually, her car broke down and then she lost her job… and along with that, her dignity. This false belief about herself had become a negative cycle for her. I realized that afternoon that one-on-one contact was far more valuable than just dropping off clothes at a shelter. Seeing her blossom over one pair of new pants given with personal care and a human touch made more of an impact on me than I would’ve anticipated. It inspired me to go to other local women’s shelters and launch pop-up shops in communities where are stores are, and to make the experience even more personal. Whether this particular woman knows it or not, she made a lasting impact on me.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
In 1983, my mother (Evelyn) overheard me insisting that a customer have her receipt before I would consider accepting her item’s return. Thankfully, she quickly intervened and calmed the situation. At Macy’s, if you didn’t have the string that came with the box, we were not taking it back. I thought my mother was going to shoot me, but I learned the valuable lesson of customer service, which I’ve never forgotten.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our customers are treated like family. Each one of our stores and staff has a personal relationship with our customers. We know when they are celebrating good things, and we know when our customers or someone in their families are sick. We send cards, flowers and gifts. We’re even know to hold fundraising events for causes that are close to customers hearts! In turn, they treat us like their family. It truly is amazing. We have been invited to weddings, birthdays, funerals, bar and bat mitzvahs and dinner parties.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am always looking at ways to help the communities where we have our stores, whether raising money for charities or looking at why other businesses around us are closing their doors. Shopping online with Amazon is having a tremendous effect on brick-and-mortar shops of all types. So we have a responsibility to watch out for and support each other so that we can all prosper.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
Treat others how you would like to be treated. It is something I live by.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Practice patience and do not micromanage. Hire the best people and let them do their job.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I think my mother’s mother was a quiet inspiration. She was the President of a Jewish organization and had a small store in her apartment. She did everything. She had four children and 10 grandchildren. Each of us felt like we were her favorite. She had boundless energy.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I love being able to give back to local communities where we have stores. It’s a wonderful feeling to ask my manufacturers to donate new clothing to share with those who aren’t as fortunate as I am. One of my favorite things to do is host a “Pop-up Shop” for a local organization that helps women who have been victims of domestic abuse. These women have been through an awful time and many of them have a very low self-esteem. To see them walk through the doors feeling very unsure and uninterested and then to see them come out of their shells and leave so confident is amazing. We love to be able to offer this “Shop” to them for no charge. It really is about them!
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned from My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
1. To care about your employees. The previous place I worked was a tough place to work. As a corporation, they primarily cared about what was good for the corporation. I promised myself that if I ever had a business of my own I would treat my employees much better. I would be more open and honest. I truly care about our Evelyn & Arthur staff members as people; I also care about their families.
2. Ask the opinions (and care) of your staff. I feel it is very important to ask the opinions of the people who work in different departments before making changes. Without input from the people in the stores or in the warehouse, you can’t make informed decisions. I truly respect my staffs’ opinions about our business.
3. Consider yourself part of a team. I think of my business a TEAM. I could never do this alone. Everyone is valuable.
4. Always keep growing. If you want to move up in your company, you have to find the person who is going to replace you. Train them. Do not micromanage them. Give them the support and credit they need and deserve.
5. Be philanthropic. Give back to the community where your business is based. Help those around you.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
At this moment in time, I have decided that voting is the most important movement. Women fought for our right to vote. Many women have forgotten or take for granted that they can vote. They choose not to vote, or they think it is not necessary. Women give their choices of who to vote for to their husband or partner or friend and do not do the research necessary to make their own decisions that will affect their life. They use excuses that they do not have time to vote or that their vote does not count. I feel that we need to educate women about voting. I have chosen to close all of my stores on election day to send a clear message to women that it is more important to vote than to shop. We all need to make the time to vote. As women, we need to read about the issues and candidates that will affect our lives and the lives of our family and friends.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Treat others how you would like to be treated. This is all about customer service. At Evelyn & Arthur, we pride ourselves in our customer service. My personal motto is, “Sure. No problem. We will take care of it.” A customer should never feel upset, frustrated or annoyed with us or that we didn’t try our best to fix a problem.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Michelle Obama. She is proactive, and I am proactive. Of course, she is MUCH better!!! Mrs. Obama knows how to reach people in a positive way and get things accomplished. I need to learn how to do that. We need to get a group together that is going to help our country get back on the right track.