In our first-ever 40 Under 40 issue this week, we salute rising stars across the industry who are engineering change, thinking differently and helping position their companies for the future at a crucial time.
Cultivating the next generation is critical for every company. While many veteran players recognize that young leaders are critical to their future, some top execs have been slow to embrace the next generation. After all, the business is still dominated by executives who have been going strong for decades.
But as the digital revolution continues to dramatically alter the landscape, young, forward-thinking leaders are making waves like never before. And they’re not forging ahead in the same way their predecessors did.
“The younger generation doesn’t want to be told what to do. They want to lead their generation — in how they think about product and how they consume. It’s a different mentality than yesterday,” said Ronnie Fieg, the 35-year-old mastermind behind the Kith empire “It changes every day. It takes a nimble approach.”
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Other emerging stars said the key to rallying the troops is by including them in a diverse range of projects and opportunities.
“Mentor, listen to and collaborate with the next generation. Invite people to meetings they wouldn’t normally attend. Provide a new opportunity with a project. Have different kinds of people work together,” said Jori Miller Sherer, 33, who serves as the VP of product development for Minnetonka Moccasin Co., her family’s company.
“Teach them by taking risks with them. Ask them to lead on a project or initiative that you think may be a bit out of reach,” added Alison Prince, 35, the VP and DMM of women’s active and kid’s shoes at Nordstrom. “Provide enough guardrails, guidance and feedback so that even if success is not guaranteed, chances of shortfall are limited. Then get out of the way.”
Companies must also emphasize training in this ever-changing climate, many leaders said.
“Retail is evolving rapidly, and it is key for the next generation to have a solid foundation in analytics, customer-centric strategy, omnichannel management and digital marketing, as well as knowing the store experience,” said 37-year-old Carrie Tharp, SVP and chief marketing officer at Neiman Marcus Group.
Click through the gallery for an inside look at some of the shoe industry’s most influential young talents. Check back Thursday for our list of under-40 designers to know.