I’m the CEO of a consumer retail brand group, and I’m a big believer that customer intimacy is at the heart of every successful consumer brand. One of the important parts of my job is to set a strategy for the company that gets us as close to our customer as we possibly can be. Deeply understanding your customer is one key to building long-standing customer relationships, as well as a strong and lasting brand reputation to driving long term success. I’m also a believer in diversity of teams in the workplace. I believe diversity of perspective will almost always result in solutions or strategies that are significantly better than what would result from a homogenous team.
It struck me last week that if I value diversity so much, then why is our company’s management dominated by women? When I say “dominated,” I really mean dominated. 95% of the managers in the company are women.
This includes the executive team all the way first level management. I’d say this is more than extremely rare in the corporate workplace today, and I think it is one of the reasons our company is a leader in our industry. So why do we have so many women in our management ranks? The short answer is the team gives our company a passion and customer intimacy. The long answer has 8 elements:
1) The team needs to reflect the customer. The most influential consumer of retail services for kids is women. As such, if we expect to be close to our customer, to understand our customer and to innovate services that appeal to our customer, we need women on our team. We need mothers on our team. In fact, I estimate the perfect mix of women to men in management for our company is about 80/20. This is a direct reflection of the customer for our services (Yes, dads do influence purchasing decisions for kids services too!)
2) Women have a natural bias towards customer service. We are in a customer service industry and we differentiate from our competition on our ability to offer amazing customer service levels. I believe that women have innate instincts to read customers and put them at ease. This leads to providing high levels of customer service in our industry. Our staff and leadership treat others as they would like to be treated in the marketplace – as well as the workplace.
3) Moms understand moms. I’m convinced that there is a secret language that is universally understood by women. I believe the root of this language is the innate understanding of mothering and caring for children. With our primary customers being 25-45 year old mothers, our quest to understand/predict our customer to the greatest extent is supported strongly by a significant number of women in our management ranks.
4) Women are creative. For a company to realize the most creativity and innovation possible, the culture of the company has to be “safe”. It has to provide safe places to review new ideas and innovate. Women naturally promote creativity in an organization in that they have the ability to provide safe places for idea creation and review. They are natural idea nurturers.
5) Yes, women are emotional, and that’s a good thing! Emotion drives passion. Passion drives dedication and execution success. We embrace the passion and drive that our management team brings to our business, and we support it. Management supports the entire team, and everyone wins.
6) It’s all in the family. Though 70% of mothers have a job outside the home, when it comes to work-life balance, many women still tend to have a bias towards family. While this can be challenging for the company in cases where personal demands might conflict with company priorities, if the company creates a culture where the company is family-oriented as well, this attitude that family doesn’t go away while you are at work can yield extreme dedication from your employees. This cultivates a highly dedicated culture when the company responds to the real lives of the entire team accordingly.
7) Good management requires empathy. Good managers have empathy for their employees. They have the ability to deliver tough messages and set direction with empathy. This empathy drives alignment and support from subordinates.
8) We need great trainers who feel the business. As a franchisor, training is one of the most important things you can do. Training your franchisees to understand the business at a very fundamental level is critical. As trainers for our industry, our women-dominated staff understands our business and understands our customer base at a level which helps them impart a deep understanding of the entire business.
I don’t dispute that there is still a gap between women and men in the workplace today. While there are many reasons for this that will take decades to change, my advice to my daughters is to find a company that embraces the unique gifts and skills that women possess. At SafeSplash Brands, there are a bunch of reasons we celebrate women in our workforce.
Matt Lane is the CEO of SafeSplash Brands, the world’s largest and fastest growing franchisor of swim schools for kids. Not only does he run a company managed primarily by women, but he also is married to a successful woman, Dr. Lara Lane and is the father to two amazing teenage girls. Needless to say, he’s a big believer in women.