Category Archives: Business

Veteran executive Richelle Parham fueled by passion, career and community

Many of us spend a lifetime on a quest not only to find our passion, but also to use it in a way that touch and improve lives for future generations to come. Long-time executive Richelle Parham says she found her passion for marketing in high school.

Richelle Parham

“I knew that I loved TV commercials and I loved print ads. I loved all of the things connected to getting brand messages out to customers,” said Parham, who recently served as chief marketing officer at eBay.

With that clarity, Richelle applied to Drexel University where she earned two bachelor degrees, one in marketing and the other in design and merchandising. She was also attracted to the school’s co-op program which inspired the marketing guru to work for Valentino in New York infusing her two passions: fashion and marketing.

For many of us who are still on journey to finding our passion, Richelle offers this piece of advice.

“Talk to people. When you find people who are interesting – doing interesting things – find out what they are doing. Find out how they think about it and ask a lot of questions, because you might be able to find a piece of this person’s role that actually makes sense for you. I think you have to listen; keep your eyes and ears open. You have to be willing to take risks. I have taken a bunch of risks in my career and they have all paid off in some way. So you have to be willing to put yourself out there a little bit to learn and grow.”

Richelle leveraged her education and co-op experiences to land opportunities at reputable companies, including Digitas Inc., a global digital marketing and technology agency. Richelle had a 13-year career there, with her last role as the SVP GM of the Chicago office. After Digitas, Parham took a role as head of Global Marketing Services, then later head of Global Marketing Innovation for Visa Inc. Most recently, she served as Chief Marketing Officer of eBay for over four years. In this role, she led all marketing efforts (internet marketing, customer acquisition, customer relationship marketing), as well as cultivating and driving the evolution of the eBay brand globally.
“I owned all facets of marketing end-to-end, including customer marketing which is all about customers and how the company connects with them, either through eBay’s verticals like fashion, electronics or motors, or through the deals platform,” she shared.

Richelle leveraged her past role in one of the world’s largest tech companies to champion diversity and give a voice to women and minorities. As one of the only C-Level African-American women in the technology sector in Silicon Valley, Richelle is passionate about ensuring that women have a place in the industry. Her commitment to diversity led her to becoming an advisor for Girls Who Code. She also finds time to mentor women in tech careers, and played a huge role in eBay’s Women’s Initiative Network (WIN) for North America during her tenure at eBay. In four years, eBay more than doubled the number of women in leadership roles and increased the share of leadership positions held by women – 42 percent of eBay’s total global employee population is women.

When asked what has contributed to a successful career and being able to thrive in such a male-dominated field, Richelle says:

“Stay curious; don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes people feel like ‘if I ask questions, I won’t look smart’. Show up in the room and ask the right questions.”
“Learn from as many people as you can. Be willing to listen, because I believe that you will learn the most when you listen and, in particular, listen to different points of view.”
“Drive innovation. Continue to reinvent how things get done. Drive innovation in the things you own and do everyday.”

Passion is at the center of fueling your career and making a meaningful impact in your community. For Richelle, she found her passion at an early age and has made a commitment to be a lifetime learner, which has resulted in her becoming one of the top marketers in the world. One thing we can all learn from her journey is that magic happens when you are able to turn passion into a career and using your influence to impact the world community.

Q&A with Richelle:

Q: If it weren’t for Michael Jackson …

A: I wouldn’t have the imagination I have.

Q: The key to living life you want is…

A: Being true to yourself, respecting others and doing the best you can every day.

Q: You will never regret…

A: When you turn your intentions into action.

Q: But you might wish you had

A: Been more deliberate.

Q: The biggest risk that I have taken is…

A: Moving far away from my family.

Q: Never be impressed by…

A: Shiny objects

Q: I hope people will remember me most for

A: Helping others.

Q: What would you say today to the 21-year-old Richelle?

A: Keep having fun.

Q: What’s one book everyone should read before they turn 40?

A: My favorite book of all time is Pride and Prejudice. I read it every year. Of course I know the ending, but I read it every year.

Holiday Madness: Small Business Survival Guide

HOLIDAY-STRESS

For many people the holiday season means juggling several professional, social, and family obligations. For many small business owners the holidays can be the most challenging yet financially lucrative time of the year. As a result, the entrepreneurs that have a plan, deploy staff effectively, and make necessary adjustments are able to maximize this time of year

Here are four tips to help small businesses survive peak season:

1. Ask for help

Office Depot/Office Max Elf Who HelpsAs this year’s Office Depot/OfficeMax “Elf Who Helps” winner, my prize package included two days of on-site services from TaskRabbit. TaskRabbit is a peer-to-peer marketplace that helps local users outsource everything from household errands to skilled tasks. Once you post a task, you see hourly rates for the Taskers who are most qualified for your job. A minimum payment of one hour is required per task. TaskRabbit takes a 20% service fee on each task but it’s definitely worth the investment. This year with the help of my two Taskers I’ve closed out the year feeling organized and ready to tackle 2015.

2. The early bird catches the worm

Early BirdSeveral retailers started promoting and giving customers an opportunity to buy or pre-order Black Friday deals days before their official event. This strategy helps smooth out the peaks in your business while also accelerating cash flow in your business. This strategy is a win-win situation: 1. Customers enjoy the luxury of avoiding the long Black Friday lines; and 2. Potentially gives you a head start and edge over your competitors who wait to offer their deals starting on Black Friday only.

 

3. Manage customer expectations

One of the things I didn’t do well this holiday season was manage online product delivery expectations with my customers. I noticed there were tons of “If you want it before Christmas mailers and e-mail notification from Online Retailers communicating specific deadlines to place orders to ensure delivery before Christmas. Here is an example of specific verbiage used from an online retailer. If you order before Dec. 20, your order will arrive by 12/24 with ground shipping. If you order by 12/22 receive your order by 12/24 with next day shipping. At first glance the communication is geared with the customer in mind to ensure they receive their products before Christmas. However, if you examine this a bit closer this communication also drives customer-ordering behavior that puts the small business in the driver control.

4. Set an Out of Office Message: Take A Break

Sorry we are closedWe all need to time to rejuvenate to ensure we are bringing the best version of ourselves not only to our business but also to the people that matter most. The last two weeks in December are usually an optimal time to take a break since most people and companies slow down during the holidays. If you are a small business owner with a small staff or you’re a sole proprietor you are probably are thinking you can’t afford to take the time off. Honestly, you can’t afford not too. If you are in this situation and/or run a time-sensitive business, I suggest hiring a few temporary employees and setting up a small emergency/time sensitive customer hotline during this time. I think it is worth the investment. For other small business owners I suggest setting an out of office message with the days that your business will be closed and when you will be back to normal business hours.

What strategies have helped you through this Holiday? Please share and leave a comment below.

Happy Holidays. Cheers to an even better 2015.

 

THE BUSINESS OF GIVING: MY HEART IS IN HAITI

Why am I thankful this season?

Heart of Haiti

With all the recent conversations about Immigration Reform, I’ve approached this Thanksgiving season with an extreme sense of gratitude and appreciation. According to the 2010 Census, there are an estimated 975,000 people of Haitian ancestry in the U.S. During this time I’ve thought about my own personal story and how I’ve personally benefited from immigration laws. Thirty-five years ago, both of my parents decided to change the trajectory of their lives and confront fear. Although this journey could have led to death they both risked it all and set sail across the Caribbean Sea from Haiti in search of a better life. It is because of their fearlessness, I stand here today as a proud Haitian-American.

Giving Mindset

It was important for my parents that their children uphold Haitian values. Every summer and Christmas my parents would send me to Haiti to ensure I was infused with the Haitian customs and culture. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from this experience is the power of having a giving mindset. My brother and many close relatives still reside in Haiti, so I know first hand the impact the earthquake has had on the lives of Haitian people. I’ve personally donated to the rebuilding efforts but was yearning for a way to support the people of Haiti in a more economic sustainable and impactful way.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime

I come from a lineage of entrepreneurs and as a serial entrepreneur myself I know first hand owning a business is the way to economic freedom. I recently came across Macy’s Heart of Haiti campaign that seem to meet the need of providing Haitian business owners with a more sustainable form of income.

Macy’s went to Haiti shortly after the January 12, 2010 earthquake and realized that despite the devastation there was an artist community that existed and was eager to bring their product to market. Macy’s launched a product line for sale at Macys.com across many stores in the U.S. This launch has employed 400 artists to date. To put this into perspective, the average Haitian’s annual income is only $400 – for a year! Add to that, Haiti has an estimated 400,000 artisans (out of a 10M population) who rely solely on their handcrafted goods as a source of income. No other sector of employment even approaches such numbers.

It takes a Village: What can you do to help?

Heart of HaitiAs a member of the Everywhere Society I was gifted the Heart of Haiti Metal Waves Texture Tray. All metal items from the Heart of Haiti collection are created using steel oil drums that are hammered and chiseled and sculpted to create unique pieces like the ones you see on Macys.com. When you employ one artist in Haiti, the entire community benefits. Over 500 artists employed benefitting over 3,000 members of their extended family. Macy’s paved the way in helping to rebuild this important sector.

During this holiday season you have a chance to say thank you by giving back and making a difference in the lives of Haitian artisans by ordering your very own Heart of Haiti art piece by visiting http://bit.ly/1vkHSia.

Heart of Haiti can be found and followed on social media at @HeartofHaiti on Twitter and http://www.facebook.com/heartofhaiti on Facebook.

I am a member of the Everywhere Society and they provided me with this product for review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

 

Persistence Over Talent

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We’ve all heard it more than a time or two, “It isn’t what you know you. It’s who you know!” There is no success you can accomplish on your own without purposefully collaborative relationships and integrative skills & resources. In an effort to help you build valuable relationships for your success, I am offering these insights for productive connections.

Correspond within a Week

After meeting a new contact, it is critical to correspond with them in a week’s time. You want to make the connection with you are still on the contact’s mind. It’s very possible that tastemaker may not remember meeting you if you wait too long. Depending on the contact you may decide to follow up with a personal phone call. My preferred correspondence tool is e-mail since it’s less intrusive and gives your contact an opportunity to respond on his or her timeline. If several e-mails have been left unanswered that may be a good time to give them a personal call.

  • What to say?

In my e-mails I typically re-introduce myself and provide a bit of background on where we met and the general theme of our conversation. Prior to engaging the person be clear on what your objectives are so you can properly frame your e-mail or phone call:

o   Is this someone that you want in your overall network but both of you may not provide any immediate value to each other i.e. different industries, etc.

o   This is someone that I can help but currently does not add any immediate value to my network? If this is the case, be clear on the help you want to provide in your first communication.

o   You can help each other. In this is the case, be clear on the type of help you want to provide the person. My recommendation in the first correspondence is to never ask for anything.  Wait until you’ve delivered on your commitment before asking the person to provide a value in return.

o   It’s evident that this contact can help you but don’t know how you can help them. In this scenario, provide tidbits on any subject matter expertise you may have and ask if the tastemaker or someone the tastemaker knows is looking for help in any of those areas. Never lean in with an ask, lean in with a value you can bring.

  • Keep in touch. Send some sort of communication every 3 months

There are many ways to keep up with key contacts in your network. Zach Rinkins, award winning author and public speaker recommends creating a Google alert. For those unfamiliar with Google alerts, this allows you to enter key words and you’ll receive a notification every time there’s mention of the key word search set up in your Google Alert. Also, recommend keeping a contact list and adding a recurring reminder in your calendar to ensure you remain consistent with following up.

I know this may appear to be a bit robotic but it is my belief that every great networker is someone that is clear on the value of their current network, deliberate about building a network with the right people, and spending time with the right people that warrant fostering the relationship.

 

Valuable Lessons Learned in the “Rat Race”: Corporate America Revealed; Part 2

I’m revealing a few more of my corporate confessions:

6. Healthy is the new Sexy: Health Matters

I’ve gained nearly 50 pounds since I entered corporate America in 2005. I have attributed this to limited physical activity at work (sitting behind a desk for hours at a time) and low energy following 10+ hour days. Only recently did I begin to take my health seriously after learning of the impact that weight could have on fertility.

While I view my contributions as significant to my organization, they will not make or break a Fortune 100 company. If I can invest in my job, I can invest in myself by taking an hour each day to exercise. Make time to workout either before work or leave a bit early to workout in the evening. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle should be your #1 priority.

7.  Host with the most/Hostess with the Mostess

It is important to create connections with your organization beyond the cube and water cooler. Consider hosting an annual event that both your professional and personal networks can enjoy. For example, one prior work colleague hosted an annual masquerade ball and another colleague had an “Ugly sweater” party. Most business deals are done outside of the office, so why not create an event to foster relationships and great networking on your own terms?

I hope this not only helps those in the proverbial rat race but aspiring entrepreneurs.

 

Valuable Lessons Learned in the “Rat Race”: Corporate America Revealed

I’ve been blessed to work for a few multi-national Fortune 100 companies including Procter & Gamble, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs & Co. During my nearly ten years at some of the nation’s most elite firms, I learned great lessons and insights about life, business, and everything in between. In my pursuit of success in corporate America, I found that the game-changers were well versed in a different code: one that was unwritten. I made it my business to glean the lessons along the way and found these invaluable few to be most essential in the proverbial rat race. Here are my first five corporate confessions revealed:

1. Strategically target companies/roles based on a personal ROI

I can’t lie to you. After college, my goal was to land a job at a reputable company with the most competitive salary. Gaining needed skills and experiences to help me achieve my long-term career goals was the furthest thing from my mind. I didn’t operate with a destination mindset. Yes, total compensation is definitely a factor when selecting the right employer, but challenge yourself to think beyond the now.  Ask yourself, ‘Will this position or the next role help me develop a vital skill set and/or network?’ ‘How will my time investment in this industry yield a return that benefits my bigger personal plan?’  

2. Project P.I.E. (Performance, Image, and Exposure)

Immediately following my first promotion at my first full time job, I quickly realized that though results were important, your personal brand equity and exposure could carry more weight in determining career trajectory.  Delivering exceptional business results is a baseline expectation after a certain point in your career. Physical appearance or image can also be a distinguishing factor for managers in differentiating equally talented high potential candidates. Senior executives can ‘hold your weight’ in the Big Boy club. For example, at one company, it would be a feat to find anyone overweight past the Director level. Additionally, I learned that exposure to key decision makers and influencers across the organization were imperative in the ‘natural selection’ process. Without the right exposure, you could easily be overlooked for crucible roles, promotions, expatriate assignments, etc.

3. A Toast to the Sky: Take Flight

The extent of my travel prior to joining Corporate America was restricted to family trips to Haiti and a few US domestic excursions. I’ve been able to travel to Switzerland, Germany, Mexico, and Colombia, just to name a few, all sponsored by my employers. Take advantage of every chance to experience something new. Balance the business with personal cultural experiences. You have a unique opportunity to see the global community up close and personal. Why miss out on a sponsored culturally enriching experience?  To be clear, a business need must exist to support your international travel. However, if international travel is important to you, be strategic in seeking out roles and opportunities that help scratch that itch.

4. Be a TALENT Scout

I’ve had several mentors and sponsors throughout my career but never considered leveraging those relationships for outside counsel on non-work related projects. I was in the process of starting a business and wanted to create a board of advisors. My initial list of prospective advisors excluded my corporate America relationships. Seek out mentors & sponsors that not only help advance your professional career, but also have valuable insight and networks to help advance your personal mission. Be sure to target only those you can trust. A gentleman’s handshake will not suffice. Everyone with whom I engage on a personal project must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. This sets the tone for future discussions, clearly articulates that all information shared is confidential, and expresses the legal repercussions for breach.

5. Single ladies/Single men: Get a work husband or wife

I was single (no serious relationships) the majority of my professional career. I consider myself an extrovert and can pretty much connect with all people regardless of sex, age, background, or ethnic group. Now, imagine my surprise when Suzie at the water cooler gave me the cold truth: I wasn’t getting invited to the non-work/personal dinners with the tastemakers from the company. The truth hurts. I learned the unspoken rule over dinner with one of my sponsors. Few are successful at shattering the corporate America glass ceiling while flying solo. In her words, “No wife will ever invite a single, full figured BLACK woman with tons of personality to spend time with her and her husband—EVER. However, since marriage was one area of my life that I couldn’t control, I secured a work husband. A work husband or wife is someone who attends professional gatherings with you. There is no personal attraction between the two of you, and most importantly, he or she makes you look good. I was never dishonest about my relationship with my work husband and never introduced him as a boyfriend. However, the wives were more comfortable and no longer viewed me as a ‘threat’ and the invitations began rolling in for non-work related social gatherings.

I hope the advice shared above helps you through your Corporate America journey.