Today in our #WonderWomen series, we’re sharing the insights of Beth Butterwick, the current CEO of Karen Millen.
After 25 years of experience in retail – including at Marks & Spencer, Gap Inc., and Bon Marché – Beth has been awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Huddersfield for her services in the sector.
What does a typical day as CEO of Karen Millen look like?
One of the things I love about my work is the diversity, surprise, and challenge each week brings. Aside from Mondays, which is usually a ‘trading meetings’ day, I have no typical day or week. We have 397 locations across 58 countries, so I plan as much time as possible out in our markets with my teams and our partners.
The wonderful thing about retail is that we have so many interesting and diverse functions, so my time could be spent with a coder, a merchandiser, a shop floor assistant, or others. Through speaking to so many different people across the company, I learn new things about our business each week.
What have been the biggest challenges in your role so far?
Against a tricky economic backdrop, turning around a complex business can be challenging, particularly one that operates across 58 countries and 6 continents.
However, a clear vision, a great leadership team, and an ongoing real perspective on our cash flow position keeps me focused on what we need to do.
What advice would you give to an aspiring leader?
Most importantly, you need to have a passion for what you do and believe in yourself. You also need to open yourself up to new ideas and ways of doing things. Surrounding yourself with good, strong colleagues and mentors is one of the best ways to discover new opportunities.
Inevitably with juggling a family you will always have to make choices, but I am a firm believer that it is still possible to have it all.
What do you think is the most important skill for a CEO to have, regardless of gender?
A true leader is usually somebody who has a vision, but is able to course-correct if situations change. It’s about having the intelligence to realise that surrounding yourself with great people (who might have expertise in areas you do not) makes success more tenable.
Fundamentally, being authentic in everything you do is critical – which means being transparent, open, and consistent at all times.
And finally, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is a great moment to stop and think about how to ensure every woman stands tall. It’s a day when we can celebrate all the amazing achievements of many talented women across the globe, build female solidarity, and ensure no woman is left behind.
Most of all, I hope for my 14 year old daughter, my nieces, and all our younger female colleagues at Karen Millen that on this day they are inspired by great role models to pursue their dreams and ambitions.
Find out about Karen Millen’s approach to women in business here.
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