You just began your tenure as RILA’s president. What are you most excited about with this new chapter?
I’m excited about RILA’s continued evolution.
Fifteen years ago, RILA was a small niche trade association. Today, we’re a powerful representative of the largest retailers in the United States. While I can’t predict exactly what we’ll look like fifteen years from now, given that we represent the most innovative companies in retail, I know that our focus will still be informed by their insights and as a result we will be well positioned to serve their leading edge needs.
What will RILA be focused on in 2020?
We just released our public policy priorities for the year, which of course include trade, privacy, organized retail crime, and more, but we’re also very excited about progress in other key areas, such as the growth of our diversity initiative, engagement in our operational communities, and the growth of our legal and compliance offerings.
Our issue priorities change year to year, but at the end of the day, we will always be focused on propelling our members forward and enabling them to be leaders in every area in which they operate.
Can you say more about the diversity initiative? How did that originate and where does it stand today?
We established our Diversity & Inclusion Initiative in 2018 with the goal of supporting retailers at all points in their D&I journey. Rather than nailing down one standard definition of success in this incredibly complex area, we wanted to help companies identify where they are compared to where they want to be, and through some excellent tools and a dialogue among retail D&I leaders support their progress.
And it was really Brian Cornell, Target’s CEO who served as our chairman the last two years, who both challenged and enabled us to really make an impact in this space. Today, we’re seeing more and more companies recognize the business imperative of D&I and secure commitments from leadership to make progress here. It’s really exciting to see the industry unite around a shared need and not be shy about the opportunities and challenges surrounding it.
Privacy is a hot button issue now. How do you think about RILA’s role on that issue?
Certainly shaping state legislation is important, but ultimately, a national standard is what’s necessary to provide retailers and customers with uniform national set of rules. But while we’re focused on that, we’re helping companies comply with the California law and potentially others through active benchmarking and educational offerings to help retailers deal with the complexity of the laws.
Do you have a professional mentor?
I’ve had the opportunity to learn from a lot of people, RILA’s former president Sandy Kennedy chief among them. But I like to think I’ve taken lessons from just about everyone I’ve ever worked with, regardless of if I considered them a mentor or not at the time. Though I don’t always succeed, I try to be a good listener so that I don’t miss those lessons.
What’s your favorite book and why?
The Captain Class by Sam Walker. It’s the perfect mix of sports history and lessons in leadership. It features two heroes of mine, Bill Russell and Bill Belichick, and what made them successful. I highly recommend it.
What’s your favorite movie?
I’m not sure I’d say it’s my favorite movie, but I can’t seem to flip past Love Actually. Don’t judge me! Sometimes you need to just turn your mind off.
RILA’s board of directors just elected a new chairperson in Ulta Beauty CEO Mary Dillon. What impact do you think Mary’s leadership will have on the industry in this role?
RILA is lucky to have a Board of Directors full of exceptional leaders. Mary is terrific. She is bringing new ideas and a healthy openness to change. She’s candid and creative and surrounded by a terrific team. I’m thrilled to be able to work closely with her.
Who will win the presidential election?
Who knows?! Our job is to be ready for any outcome.