From Procter & Gamble to Bath & Body Works, GNC, and most recently Rent the Runway, Beth Kaplan’s career has focused on reinventing companies and finding innovative ways to help them grow and thrive.
It hasn’t all been glamorous. She’s seen major companies through ups and downs, and she’s had to make tough life decisions, such as working in one city while her husband and children lived in another. But through it all, Kaplan has persevered and prospered, and now she is inspiring other women in business to do the same.
She recently shared a few stories and lessons learned from her career with 220 of South Florida’s leading women at The Commonwealth Institute’s Leadership Luncheon at Jungle Island in Miami.
Here are Kaplan’s top four tips for success:
- Your reputation is your most valuable asset. It is your personal brand, and it follows you wherever you go.
- We always underestimate the impact we have on other people. Our behaviors (positively or negatively) affect those around us more than we realize, which is why it’s important to solicit quality feedback frequently.
- Make a graceful exit. How you leave a company is just as important as how you enter.
- Pick the right partner. “We don’t always agree, but he always has my back,” Kaplan says of her husband. “He reminds me of the things that are most important in my life.”
Kaplan acknowledged that women often feel pressure to conform to expectations, and they sometimes have to make decisions that may not be popular. If you’ve given a decision careful thought, you should stick by your choices, she said. “Never apologize for something you’ve thoughtfully considered.”
When the decision in question is whether or not to take a job, thoughtful consideration includes conducting due diligence on a company’s culture. As Kaplan learned the hard way through her experience of seeing Rite Aid nearly collapse in a high-profile financial scandal, culture can make or break a company.
Kaplan says culture has been one of the top priorities for the leadership team at Rent the Runway, where she currently serves as a strategic advisor and board member. The online clothing rental startup recently changed its compensation structure, eliminating bonuses and raising salaries in order to underscore its trust in employees, shift employee focus to long-term strategic thinking that can help scale the business, and create a culture of learning that encourages feedback.
Giving your team members “unvarnished, truthful and constructive feedback,” is important, Kaplan said. And if an employee is no longer a good fit, address it sooner rather than later.
One event attendee asked for advice about accountability. The first step to creating accountability in your team is to make sure that you and your employee have well defined the problem in question, Kaplan said. After that, give your employee ownership by allowing him or her to come up with the solution instead of prescribing a solution.
A final piece of advice for busy women: Find a way to unplug and recharge. For some, it may be taking a vacation, working on a hobby or spending time with friends. For Kaplan, it’s ballroom dancing.