Learning to respond to “On the Fly” out of your comfort zone challenges your career growth
If handled successfully stepping out of your comfort zone can instill confidence within yourself and your employer. Here’s part one of my two part piece of an actual situation where I had to step out and up.
The fashion industry in which I work, is a very volatile market not only because people’s fashion sense changes on a whim, but also because retailers tend to lag behind in their ability to stay ahead of the curve in today’s fast paced world of fashion that is also becoming a digital and social media enhanced environment.
I continue to find myself in unusual and unexpected scenarios that challenge me with on the fly responses that at the end of the day provide me with a resume of work that sometimes surprises me. You never know what you can do until push comes to shove and you just have to jump in and deal.
We recently received an incredible opportunity to pitch our company’s services to a major Columbus, Ohio based fashion brand that is undergoing some major changes. They reached out to us suddenly and unexpectedly asking us to make a full presentation of our company’s manufacturing abilities as well as providing a trend presentation geared specifically to their brand for both guys and girls product.
It seemed a bit unusual that this company would reach out to us out of the blue, but within a week or so, their CEO who had launched the brand’s signature style and outlook in the early ‘90’s made the announcement that he would be retiring. He had built the company up in it’s hey-day, but had not really adjusted with changing business trends and the company was struggling to compete with successful fast fashion jr. retailers.
It all of a sudden made perfect sense why we had been asked to come out to work with their sourcing, merchant, and design teams. The pieces all came together. They needed to make some changes and they were looking for new resources to help them stay competitive in today’s fast fashion market. We would have a great opportunity to be a part of this rebuilding of their brand.
Planning and Strategy must be laid out and clear to all team members for a successful pitch—
As the Design Director, my tasks for meetings of this nature are to prepare brand appropriate product—styles that are about volume purchases vs. fashion purchases and a “theme “ and color palette that is trend and brand right, supporting presentation materials to show overarching fashion trends that work with the company’s vision, and additional supporting materials that speak to how our company caters to fast fashion in regards to production—how we stock core materials that can be put on the production line immediately to turn goods in under 30 days plus shipping time from overseas.
This is typically a clear cut process but this time we would be making a large presentation to show for both guys and girls and since we knew their company was in such flux as to how they wanted to go forward with their brand identity, I wanted to be sure that we sensitively addressed the elephant in the room as to how they could be more fashion forward but also be cognizant to the challenges that they would face in moving the needle too quickly.
It really required a lot of intense research and product development with my design team to create the appropriate product to fill the voids in their product assortment. And as we were developing and pulling together our presentation, our CEO and myself were not always on the same page as to what we should be presenting. Leading into the weekend prior to the meeting, we were still in dispute about what we should be presenting and it was not helping us to gel as a team and be comfortable in how to make the presentation.
I was nervous coming into our last working day, Monday—that we had not made more progress in reaching a consensus. My many years of experience already told me that if we couldn’t reach a happy place with our company’s vision for them, we wouldn’t have a smooth meeting. It’s important to be on the same page supporting each of your team member’s comments during the meeting and as of Friday—that had not yet been established.
Unexpected Challenges that force you to deal with the unknown—
Next page: Step 1—Get Past Your Fears and Think Thru Things Methodically