The CEO of SAS on Facing Challenges and Supporting Worker Growth

Each day in June, FN is highlighting female forces in the industry as part of our Women in Power series.

Nancy Richardson, CEO of San Antonio Shoemakers, comes to the shoe industry with a diverse business background, providing her with a unique skill set when it comes to confronting business challenges. Among the lessons learned along the way is the importance of embracing change in order to move the company ahead. Here, Richardson shares some tips on building a successful career and business.      

What was the biggest breakthrough moment in your career?

There are always challenges. You lay out a path to a goal, get very intent on it and then roadblocks pop up. You have to take a deep breath and stop. But once you realize they’re just temporary, or even if they’re permanent, there’s always another path to what you want, whether you have to go up, down or around. I worked at SAS from ’86 to ’92 running finance and accounting. I think if I’d stayed, I wouldn’t be CEO today. I had to see the world and [returned] with experiences in different industries and environments. After the passing of the company’s last founder, I was also a link to the past. It gave me credibility with the team here that an outsider would not have had.

Is there anything you would have done differently?

When I was younger, I thought asking for help was a sign of weakness. As I’ve matured, I’ve realized [you can] ask for the help, and people are willing to give it. They’re usually excited to teach you something you don’t know. I wish I’d been more willing to ask for help at times and not see it as a weakness.

What is the biggest challenge you faced in the last year, and how did you overcome it?  

My biggest challenge has been and will continue to be for some time, helping employees embrace change. We live in a world where change is constant and rapid — probably more so than anytime in the history of business. As human beings we’re always hesitant to embrace change [since] we’re comfortable with what we do. [However], there’s great value to mixing it up.

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