Embrace and Drive Change #253

Embrace and Drive Change #253

Embrace and drive change

In blog #252 I talked about how the Journey continues. In this blog I want to talk about Embrace and drive change.


I’ve written 252 blogs so far about my career in the footwear industry. I’ve shared positive and negative experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today. With all the experiences I have had, there is one core value that is how I got through it all. “Embrace and drive change”.


My first experience with a major change was when Koby’s shoes was acquired by Payless shoe source. I had been in store management for 3 years now and living in Southern California. I wasn’t too happy with all the traffic in Los Angeles and missed my family and friends.


I got the call that the company was being acquired by Payless shoe source and I would still maintain my position. I was offered a small severance package if I didn’t want to move forward. Since I didn’t like my current living situation, I opted for the severance that would basically pay for my move back to Fresno.


I quickly found another position at another company called Cincinnati Shoe company. They had leased shoe departments in Rodders, a fine apparel department store in Fresno. 2 years later they didn’t renew the lease and offered me a job in the Bay Area. I decided to take the position. Little did I know how expensive the cost of living was. It was so expensive we didnt have too much left over at the end of the month. We would put our coins in a big jar and every so often treat ourselves to a beer or two with the change.


You could argue this was a mistake, but I learned a lot from the experience and ended up getting a position at Nordstrom in 1989. The experience at Nordstrom was pivotal in my career and my life. I learned most of the basics that have made me successful throughout my career. I also learned how to treat people with respect and dignity. This piece is lost in so many companies today.


When Zappos was acquired by Amazon, many people thought that it would become a mini-Amazon. Thankfully Tony Hsieh was the CEO and he kept everything as “business as usual” for many years. I approached the change and embraced it as another learning experience. I continued to utilize the skills I learned from all my jobs and had a good run. It’s important for leaders to set the example. Since I strongly believe that people are the key to a strong team, and not just the leader, I feel it’s important to be positive and solution driven when experiencing change.


Change can take place in other ways too, like a completely different management model. I experienced “Holacracy”. Holacracy is like an operating system for your organization. It is a predefined set of rules and processes, checks and balances, and guidelines that an organization can use to help them become self-managed. The company becomes self-organized by giving every employee (instead of just management) the power to innovate, make changes, and have a voice.


The company put together training classes for all employees and Brian Robertson the developer of holacracy came out to help us through the learning process. I’ve always been of the mindset, if it’s safe enough to try, why not. It was straightforward enough, just the rules of engagement were the things we had to get use to. There were certain ways you had to voice your opinion and in typical Zappos fashion we tweaked some of them to suit our style of doing things.


Tony was passionate about this. Asked how holacracy works, Tony said that many people misunderstand the concept, thinking it means eliminating all hierarchies within the business. But as he described it, “instead of being a hierarchy of people, it’s a hierarchy of purpose.”

He said it starts with something called the general company circle, the purpose of which is the same as the business’s purpose statement. Within that circle are sub-circles and roles. “And then it cascades from there for each sub-circle.” Tony also addressed reports that holacracy doesn’t seem to work for a lot of businesses. In his view, what people misunderstand is that holacracy is not a pre-packaged solution but a platform. He compares it to an iPhone that has the latest operating system but no apps. “So what we’re doing is a lot of experimentation, which is the hard work of ‘building the apps.’ Some work out great and some don’t, and we just keep iterating.”


Having a positive attitude and solution driven mindset certainly helps you through the rough patches. Because of all the changes with the new holacracy model Steve asked me to re-vamp the progression to fall in line with our new direction. I picked people for the circle that I thought would be the drivers of change.


This didn’t mean that they had the same mindset as me, in fact I purposely picked people that would challenge the whole thought process. This made for some long meetings, but in the end we came up with a great progression plan for all the merchants. We started from where I left off in 2004 being involved with creating the first progression plan. We sorted out what worked well and the opportunities we had. We restructured all the positions and had a clear path for success. We called it “Career Path”.


The key to any change is having a positive mindset and ever evolve. If something doesn’t work, try something else. You must keep personal emotions out of it and try to decide what’s best for everyone since we are setting the policies. If only politicians did this lol.


Other changes can be technology as well. Growing up, I remember earning some money and going to Tower records to get the latest Boston album. They were vinyl back then, so you had to keep away from heat and try to avoid scratching the album. Living in Fresno was challenging in keeping the heat away from my precious albums. Compact discs came out in 1982 so the album era started having a slow death.  Finally, Tower records closed in 2006.


VHS tapes came out in the late 70’s. so videos were now easier to watch on Tv and you could tape shows to watch later. Later in the late 90’s DVD’s came out and slowly replaced the VHS tapes. In all these cases the changes were positive and technology much improved over the previous systems. Some people have a hard time with change, however. I’m sure there are still people listening to albums and watching VHS tapes even today.


Another big change we are experiencing today is working from home. This started about 2 years ago with the Covid-19 outbreak. Many people and companies had to shift their mindset and settle into this new way of working. In many cases companies saved thousands by having employees work from home and in most cases the employees were more productive. In the few cases where people weren’t more productive, these individuals most likely weren’t productive to begin with or weren’t good in accepting change. Again, it’s a mindset and you have to look at the positives and solutions to be successful.

…just sharing my story and tips from my footwear career. 

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This post has 2 comments

dave normart
1 Aug 2022

great blog really enjoyed this one

12 Aug 2022

Thanks Dave!


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