Former Kenneth Cole chief executive officer Jill Granoff spoke to MBA students Thursday night as part of LIM College’s CEO Roundtable Series.
Granoff broke the ice by telling first- and second-year graduate students that as a “born-and-bred New Yorker, if I talk too fast, slow me down.”
She also told the audience that she married her high school sweetheart and is the mother of two sons. Her point was that as an individual with a successful career, good marriage and family, one can have it all — even though she acknowledged, “You don’t get much sleep.”
Granoff is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Duke University and received her MBA from Columbia University. After a stint as a management consultant at A.T. Kearney Inc., she went on to hold senior managerial posts at The Estée Lauder Cos. Inc., Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Liz Claiborne before heading to Kenneth Cole Productions.
Granoff provided the students with her top 10 “do” list, based on what she’s learned from her career experiences, as they get ready to ponder their career paths:
1) Ask for what you want;
2) Start with the end in mind;
3) Deliver results;
4) Focus on what’s important;
5) Be adaptable and flexible;
6) Be positive;
7) Work for people you respect;
8) Surround yourself with good people;
9) Treat people respectfully, and
10) Give back.
During the question-and-answer session, Granoff advised the students to go after the leaders in the sector that they want to focus on, whether it’s footwear, apparel or accessories.
“If the companies are leaders, they’re probably doing well and are hiring,” she said.
She also told them to be selective in their internships.
One question posed was whether Granoff would consider starting her own company. Her advice for the future MBA graduates was that they should know what they’re good at. “I’m really good at commercializing a proven concern to take it to the next level, whether it is through channel expansion or layering on products,” she explained of her career choices. Finally, for those who might want to work in a senior capacity at a public firm, Granoff told them that when dealing with Wall Street and the press, she was essentially “managing expectations.”
“I was managing for the long term,” she said, explaining if the firm’s quarterly results weren’t stellar and the following quarter might be similar, she would explain the reasons why and how that fit into the long-range plan. “That’s how you gain credibility,” she concluded.