Monday, March 6, 2017

parting wisdom: top five lessons from nordstrom

lately, I find myself thinking about lessons I learned from my very first job out of college often. I'm not sure if this is normal, or if I just had the most spectacular AND terrible first job out of college ever. one of the things that I love about blogging is that it's a creative outlet for me to walk down memory lane while telling the story at the same time. I decided that I had to write a post about my nordy days - like I did when I left spanx, which is one of my favorite posts.

my first job post-undergrad was a series of roles at nordstrom in different stores in the dallas fort worth area of texas. I just loved the company {still do!} and everything it stood for and I couldn't wait to get back to my roots full-time. my very first job when I was 15 had also been part-time at nordstrom; however, working as a manager full-time was an entirely different experience. I ended up spending about three years, including two and a half promotions, with the company when I knew it was time to make a life change and move to atlanta to earn my MBA. the lessons I learned at nordstrom have stayed with me ever since those early days.

nordstrom northpark, where I started and ended my post-grad nordy career in dallas, texas. I later traveled to this mall to watch the spanx store opening about five years later!

1. people shop with people
this lesson, like others, are intuitively customer-focused on an individual level. however, when we explore this - we know that it's a universal truth, broader reaching than simply an individual level. without major differences in price, people want to shop with people they like. if you shop at a certain place regularly, I can guarantee you that people have something to do with it. have you ever stopped going to a restaurant after your favorite server left? I have. the food was the same, but abraham was gone. and so on, this applies to so many aspects of life. life is personal and we want to associate with people that we like. main point - be a likeable person.

2. people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers
ironically, a boss that I left taught me this one and I can attest to its truth. an amazing, supportive boss can lead an employee through fire. an average boss that's not supportive? or worse, a truly bad boss? your people are not leaving the job, they are leaving you. I cannot tell you how much I learned from nordstrom about managing people. it is so easy to get caught up on the hamster wheel, making goals, coaching, performance... your employees are people and you should get to know them, their kids and spouses names, hobbies, what drives them the most. if your employee needs to leave on time on mondays to get to a child's baseball game, as a boss, this needs to be a priority for you. leadership is not a dictatorship, it's all about empowerment. if there's anything I regret from this job, it was not being personal enough with my people.

3. customers vote with their wallet
this lesson definitely applies to any sales role or product-related scenario. get good at metrics and data and you can basically understand the qualitative reasons for customer decision-making. if a customer wants something, they will buy it. if something is not moving, there is a reason. 

4. a customer with a bag is a happy customer / selling is service
if you ever doubt that people don't want to be sold to - take 20 minutes and go sit outside of a department store. observe the faces of customers walking out and I promise you those people with shopping bags will be happier than those that are empty handed. whatever role you are in, people want you to do your job - by focusing on what your customer needs, you can sell the value of any given product or service and delight your customers.

5. know when to bet on yourself
there comes a time when you have to be willing to bet it all on yourself. I had several bosses at nordstrom when my dream job came available - two out of three of them whole-heartedly supported me when corporate called to ask me to apply. when the other boss said I need more time to develop, I didn't apply for the job so as not to cross her. what I wish I would have known is that, in that moment, I had lost all respect and desire to work for this boss. I couldn't work for someone who wouldn't support me when I needed and deserved it, even when she offered me another role while simultaneously telling me 'no' about the role I wanted to apply for. I learned that there are times when you must be willing to bet on yourself, for all the marbles. I left the company shortly after this situation and consider it to be one of the turning points in my life. do I wish I would have applied? yes. do I believe that things such as these happen for a reason? also yes. 

6. bonus! the devil is in the details
develop a keen eye, it will set you apart. do you ever walk into a store and see outdated signage? today I walked into a UPS store with christmas holiday delivery cut-offs posted... it's march. immediately, this means something to me. it signals lack of attention to detail, lack of care, lack of professionalism. sure, you may think it sounds uptight - but I promise you, people notice. spell check your emails, your PowerPoints, your reports. keeping your desk clean is another little detail. a clean desk signals confidence and competence. a messy desk signals chaos and disarray. and as I also learned at nordstrom, perception is reality.

 nordstrom stonebriar, where my 15-year old self worked part-time in frisco, texas on the fashion board of the junior's department.

nordstrom northeast, where I was promoted from dallas to what felt like a different country [in more ways than one] - an hour commute to and from work out in hurst, texas. I had my first "manager" role at this store.

even as I write this, I am thinking of so many more lessons I learned from nordstrom. some of them about leadership, some of them about fashion. I am so grateful to have had such a hard first job to learn from and experiment with as a young person just out of college. what job did you learn the most from? do you still think of lessons that you learned to this day like I do?


  1. I totally agree with you about the people quitting managers! I've found that the places that I enjoy the most have been because of the people even if the work wasn't the greatest.

    1. a good manager can make even the worst task do-able or even fun!