Felicity McGahan, group CEO of Strand, has retail in her blood. From her early days as a store manager at Sportsgirl, to leadership roles at Gap, Sussan and Cotton On, McGahan has built up a wealth of knowledge, which she has drawn from to shape Strand’s recent rebrand, and overseas expansion. Here, she shares her insights on leadership, discusses how she pursues innovation, and the “three wins approach” that helps her maintain work-life balance. Inside Retail: Tell me about your car
ur career journey. How did you get into the retail industry, and what are some of the different roles you’ve held along the way? Felicity McGahan: I was born into retail. Both of my parents were great retailers, so it was my destiny. I’ve always loved being around people and fashion, and loved the experiential and creative aspects of retail. I’ve also been fortunate to learn from incredible mentors and leaders, and to have had amazing opportunities both in Australia and overseas. From my first Australian store manager role at Sportsgirl, to my sales role at Reebok and then my international adventures which involved multiple leadership roles at Gap in London and in their global headquarters based in San Francisco, moving between functional leadership and general management. To my CEO roles at Sussan, then Cotton On, and now as the Group CEO of Strand. IR: What advice would you give someone who wants to get into your line of work? FM: You need to love it! I’m a huge believer in the idea that you should “do what you love and love what you do”. This is especially important for someone who’s leading a business. Surround yourself with great people, have an inspiring vision and an achievable but stretching plan, and always focus on world-class execution. Enjoy the journey and be kind. No matter where you are in your journey – just starting out or well on your way, these are the things that matter and will make a difference. IR: What are some of the key leadership lessons you’ve picked up over the course of your career? FM: The importance of culture and aligning your values to a company’s values. It’s all about the people – they create your culture, and you must have the right people in the right roles who are focused on the right things. You need to paint an inspiring vision and provide clarity on where you are going to take the business. This in turn enables you to be able to motivate the team and take them along with you. You also have to keep your customer at the centre of everything you’re doing. Listen to them, read and respond to the data, and be nimble and responsive while also leading with high-energy. This is important in retail where creativity, newness and fresh ideas are key to success and growth. Additionally, innovation is part of the day-to-day, not a side dish. Have a “change or fail” mindset to keep evolving and growing the business. Also, set goals and measure them often. You must define what success looks like to celebrate and learn from it. IR: Where do you go for career advice? FM: I go to my mentors, peers, and great people that I trust. I have a fantastic relationship with so many of my previous leaders, who I now call friends. They are a phone call or text away, and I call them when I make big career changes, or if I just want to temperature check what they are seeing in their markets. They know me and how I approach things, and we have deep mutual trust. IR: What’s your approach to work-life balance? FM: Balance is the key here. I talk about the “three way win” – what do I need, what does my team need and what does the business need? You must consider and balance all three of these. Then it’s a win-win. IR: Do you have any hobbies that help you switch off and stay balanced? FM: I love to travel. It’s so important for me to get away with my family and friends, switch off and celebrate living. I also love my girlfriends. Spending time with them is a very important part of my life. Most importantly, my family is everything to me. They give me purpose, so time with them is my special time.