The Joys and Challenges of Taking a Retail Brand Public as a Female CEO With Stephanie Pugliese

Stephanie Pugliese is a seasoned executive, board member, and the former President of the Americas at Under Armour. With over 30 years of retail experience, she has led high-growth international and multichannel brands. Before Under Armour, Stephanie was the CEO and President of Duluth Trading, where she grew the brand from a privately held entrepreneurial small business to an IPO.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Stephanie Pugliese’s path to CEO — and how she grew Duluth Trading into a publicly traded company
  • Tips for undertaking an executive position
  • The importance of showing up and remaining authentic
  • How to optimize your leadership efforts to drive growth for companies
  • Surpassing $100 million in yearly revenue growth
  • How does Stephanie balance her personal and professional life?
  • Humanity’s role in corporate settings

In this episode…

The life and role of a CEO is no cakewalk. When you’re tasked with managing an entire organization’s growth, it can feel almost impossible to prioritize your endeavors, foster team trust, and balance your personal life simultaneously. How can you optimize your leadership to achieve goals for the company and yourself?

Having grown acclaimed brands and companies from the private to the public eye, experienced CEO Stephanie Pugliese has established herself as a respected and versatile leader. When undertaking considerable leadership endeavors, you must be committed to your goals and maintain optimal effort to achieve them. Yet even when trying your hardest, Stephanie says you can’t always give 100% of yourself, but you can make progress by showing up and remaining authentic. Additionally, building rapport with your team is crucial, so consider fostering genuine conversations to create personal connections and demonstrating your professional skills to gain respect.

On this episode of the Up Arrow Podcast, William Harris welcomes Stephanie Pugliese, the former President of the Americas at Under Armour, to talk about how she became a respected CEO. Stephanie shares how to scale past $100 million in annual revenue, the role of authenticity in corporate settings, and how she balances her personal and professional life.

Resources mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is a performance-driven e-commerce marketing agency focused on finding the best opportunities for you to grow and scale your business.

Our paid search, social, and programmatic services have proven to increase traffic and ROAS, allowing you to make more money efficiently.

To learn more, visit www.elumynt.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

Welcome to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris, featuring top business leaders sharing strategies and resources to get to the next level. Now, let's get started with the Show.

William Harris  0:15  

Hey everybody, William Harris here. I'm the founder and CEO of Elumynt, and the host of this podcast where I feature experts in the e-commerce Industry and sharing strategies on how to scale your business and achieve your goals. I'm really excited about the guests that I have here today, Stephanie Pugliese. Stephanie has over 30 years of experience in the retail industry leading teams of high growth International and multichannel companies. And she was previously the president of the Americas at Under Armour, and pivotal in bringing Duluth Trading public. We'll get to that in a little bit. She currently sits on several boards and spends her time advising companies and being with her family. Stephanie, welcome to the Up Arrow Podcast.

Stephanie Pugliese  0:50  

Thank you so much, William, I'm thrilled to be here.

William Harris  0:55  

I wanted to also call out a special shout out to Cindy Marshall, CEO over at Shine strategies, previous guest and another brilliant mind. She's the one who put us in touch. So thank you very much, Cindy.

Stephanie Pugliese  1:06  

And I want to say thank you to Cindy as well. She's a great friend and an absolute inspiration to me.

William Harris  1:13  

Yeah, she really is. Before we get into the good stuff, I do want to announce our sponsor, this episode is brought to you by Elumynt. Elumynt is an award winning advertising agency optimizing e-commerce campaigns around profit. In fact, we've helped 13 of our customers get acquired with one selling for nearly 800,000,001 that recently IP owed. And we were ranked as the 12th fastest growing agency in the world, but Adweek, you can learn more on our website@elumynt.com, which is spelled elumynt.com. That said, let's get into the good stuff. Stephanie, I always like to get a bit of the backstory of where people started, how they got to where they are. So you've done some amazing things from actually bringing a company public. How did you start? And where did you end up getting along the path that gets you to the point where you could be at the head of a company like that?

Stephanie Pugliese  2:03  

Well, thanks for asking, I'll start kind of in the middle, if you will, of of my journey. And that was, as I came out of college, I went to NYU business school years ago. And as I came out of college as a marketing major, I obviously like many students coming out of school, looking for that right position that perfect fit of of a role that I wanted to play in a business, and was looking at several different companies at the time, and had the opportunity to interview and ultimately join Lord and Taylor in their training program. And the very wise 22 year old and me ended up making the decision to join a retail business, and specifically in merchandising and product development. Because it was something that I absolutely loved. I thought it was really interesting to be able to put puzzle pieces together in the business through product marketing, the the profit analysis of the business, but at that point, as important to me was the opportunity to get a really good discount on great clothes. So easy peasy decision, as I said in my early 20s to join the business. And you know, quite honestly loved the idea of what I was going to be doing but wasn't really sure where it was going to lead at that point in time. So I spent my time in training, obviously there shortly after ended up joining Ann Taylor, which was an incredible brand in the in the 90s. I joined Ann Taylor in 1993. When it was fast growing, I was there for about 11 years, and was part of the team that launched loft. As a second brand and tailor. I was also there when we launched our website. So lots of really amazing pieces along the journey. My role went from an assistant buyer and product developer, to a vice president of merchandising when I left and tailor in 2003. And so I had an incredible journey of learning not just product development and merchandising, but also how to lead larger and larger teams, and how to stand on a stage of leaders in in various formats within the organization. And it was just an incredible learning ground overall for that decade. And so in 2003 We were my husband and I were living in New York, just outside of New York City. We were living there when 911 happened. So I'm obviously backtracking a couple of years. I had two daughters Our two daughters, were with us at that point in 2011. And very young. And then in our excuse me in 2001. And then in early 2002, we found out we were expecting our third child. And suddenly I was in this place where I had been working for about, like I said, 1011 years and an incredible business. And found we found ourselves in a different environment, you know, post 911, in New York, I had three, I had three kids, then, as of December of 2002, five and under working, you know, a typical vice president of merchandising kind of world owes, you know, 6070 hours a week and commuting an hour and a half each day. And it just, you know, my eyes just like, when God big and I said, wow, you know, there's a lot going on here. And my husband's family is in Italy. And so we had always spoken about spending time, in Italy, with his family. And it just everything kind of seemed to align at that point in our lives. So we made the decision to move to Southern Italy, with our three young children, we knew that it was a good time to do it, because they were young enough to truly, you know, understand the experience in many ways. Our in laws had the, the opportunity to really get to know them as children, and they were learning another part of their culture. And then we also knew that we would come back, you know, at some point, and the kids would be still young enough that the transition wouldn't be too jarring. So we spent two years in, in southern Italy, we opened a small bookstore in this little town that we lived, which was just an incredible experience. And the reason I mentioned it in context of my career is that it gave me a totally different view of business, from big company, midtown Manhattan, you know, serving consumers over hundreds of stores, to one store super hands on doing everything ourselves, and having really intimate connection with our customers every single day, because they were our neighbors and our friends and our relatives. And so it was, it was a really cool. It was incredible, personally, but it's also just a great evolution from a professional standpoint, and having that kind of big and small, high low, you know, dig down deep and, and, and really build a business. So we did that, as I mentioned, for two years. After that time, we ended up being able to sell the business to, to a local family that we knew. And we moved back to New York, which is, of course, where we had spent most of our time with our kids. Shortly after we moved to New York, I got a call from a the head of human resources at Land's End, because some of my friends from Ann Taylor in the interim had moved to Land's End. And so my name just circulated. And so I joined lens end in fall of 2005. So talk about like cultural like jumps, right. I'm from New York to small town in Italy, back to New York for like a New York minute. No, no pun intended, to Madison, Wisconsin. And we raised our kids, we've raised our kids here in the Midwest, it's been an unbelievable personal journey, which I can talk more about in a little bit, but also, professionally, I was with Land's End, running the women's and men's apparel divisions for a couple of years, about three years, and then got a call from Duluth Trading. And Duluth at the time was a $58 million business when when I first got that call. So you probably you're getting a little bit of a theme here, right, like Ann Taylor big business. Piccoli, sort of easy was our bookstore name, small business in Italy, lands and big business, and then I get a call from a small business and that connection of understanding big business or bigger business, but also having had the experience of being very hands on was a really nice connection point, if you will from for the opportunity at Duluth. And so from a volume perspective, from a dollars and cents perspective, from lens until Duluth, it I got a smaller responsibility, if you will, but overall, the ability to impact so many different aspects of dilutes business from obviously the merchandising and product development, that was my area of responsibility, but also the impact that I could have with Quality Assurance and supply chain marketing, finance, you know, an F PNa. That gave me the ability to not just go deeper in one area, but also start to go broader in terms of the areas of responsibility that I first impacted, and then ultimately ran and was responsible for. So I was at Duluth for a total of 11 years. I, we I, as I mentioned, I joined in fall of 2008. And a little bit of a funny story there. Steve Schlacht, who is the founder of Duluth Trading, he currently is the the company's largest shareholder as a public company, when I joined in 2008, which all of us or many of us can remember, was not a super fun time in business. He looked at me, and he's saying where we're at anywhere, especially retail, you know, and he looked at me and he said, you know, Stephanie, he said, You're either really confident, I'm a little bit crazy. Or you're, you're kind of you enjoy challenges for the fact that you just left a big company and came to a tiny company in 2008. And I said, I looked at him, I said, you know, time will tell, but I think it's a little bit of everything, you know, so we had a, I wouldn't say it was fun. But it was an incredibly strong learning time in those first, that first year to two years of Duluth Trading where we were a small business, we were bootstrapping it, we were building our own future. And we were making decisions for the longevity of the company in the brand. And that was just an unbelievable time for all of us. So we grew the business, we were growing between 20 and 30% a year. And in 2000, early 2015. Steve named me CEO of the company, so obviously, there were interim steps in between head of merchandising, Chief merchandising officer, President, etc. But I was named CEO in the beginning of 2015. And we took the company public in November of that year. So I would say, truly, from a professional standpoint, the absolute highlight of my career so far, was taking a company from truly a private business, no investors, no private equity backing, we were really a family owned private business on to the public stage. You know, as as, as, as their CEO, obviously, as a woman CEO. And I was, at that point, 45 years old. So you know, a fairly young executive in the grand scheme of things, to be doing things and it's a it's definitely a point of pride.

William Harris  13:01  

Yes, it should be. Yeah. So then

Stephanie Pugliese  13:04  

just to kind of round all of this out, and we'll we can go from there. You know, in fall or summer, I guess, of 2019. I got a call from a recruiter that I knew very well. And he said, Hey, just check it in. And I said, Hey, not interested. You know, that's kind of how the conversation started. And he said, It's Under Armour. And I said, Oh, okay, now I have to listen, you know, out of respect for our friendship, but also out of just incredible respect and admiration for the brand that Under Armour is and and the connectivity that that brand has to athletes, to their consumers. And so I started a dialogue with Under Armour. I had, you know, several meetings, as you would imagine, with the executive teams there, and ultimately made the probably the hardest decision of my career, to leave Duluth to move to underarmor as the president of the Americas in the fall of 2019. And I did it for a couple of reasons. Number one was the brand of Under Armour is legacy and something to be very proud of. And also the opportunity to dilute tradings about $700 million of revenue. The Division I ran it Under Armour was a little over $4 billion. It was international and it had multi channel if you will, facets to with distributor relationships as well as obviously pretty classic wholesale relationships, but things that I hadn't yet done in my career. And so I knew it would be a learning experience. I knew it would be a challenge. And I knew that I would enjoy the intelligence of the people around me and the the ability to grow and help that business grow and do new things. So that's kind of how it all has evolved over time. I think, William, the thing that I would probably one last sentence, and then I'll pause and we can chat about whatever kind of stopped your fancy. And that is, I think the the biggest thing for me that has been as important, if not more important, quite frankly, than the trajectory of growth in my career has been the ability to also really pay attention and lean in to what's personally incredibly important to me, which is my family. You know, I mentioned obviously, the time we spent in Italy, and being able to be with my children when they were small. The one of the wonderful things about moving from Land's End to Duluth, and in a smaller environment was that I had the ability to control my time a little bit more if Duluth, particularly when we were a smaller business. And so I could prioritize my family at times that were really important to all of us. And I think, you know, at the end of the day, I have been incredibly blessed and fortunate with everything that I've been able to personally achieve, but also hopefully, inspire and help others to achieve achieve. But I've also been able to do it without feeling like my family has suffered, you know, or or been second best, because they definitely happen.

William Harris  16:32  

Yeah. And I'm glad you called that out, because I was going to call you out on this as well. A lot of the I always ask people, what's the biggest thing that you could find success out of being on the on the podcast, and a lot of people have various different things, and they're all very good. But that's, that's literally what you caught up with was for people to be able to get a sense that it's possible to have a classic version of success, while being a real person and devoting time to family and joyful pursuits. I think that's huge. And so, like you said, you just listed off so many things that are wildly impressive. And you would expect that the person who is behind many of those wildly successful endeavors has suffered personally and with their family. And no doubt there were significantly tough times balancing that. And I want to get into some of those things here. But you you manage to say, how do I make sure that I can find that balance? And I think that that's a really cool thing to do. Thank you. Yeah, I think so. Go ahead.

Stephanie Pugliese  17:40  

No, no, go you go. Well, okay. So

William Harris  17:41  

if it Okay, so if I was going to like dig into this, then there's, there's two aspects of that we want to talk about, which is one, the professional side of how do you achieve these things? And then the personal side of how do you continue to be a human being. And so if I was going to lean into it on the professional side, what there's, there's obviously something in your brain, there are there are talents and things like that, that you have, but there's something that caused you to be the type of person who I at least perceive was saying, I want to take that on. I want to take that challenge. I'm not afraid of that challenge and digging into it, but what would you ascribe your ability to be able to go from, you know, where you were to be the CEO? What, what attributes or what things allowed you to be able to be that person? Yeah,

Stephanie Pugliese  18:33  

that's a, that's a really good question. And, you know, I'll be honest with you and saying that I think some of it is just intrinsic, you know, to some people that, that yearning and that goal setting and that wanting more, that said, I think I'm there are some times we lose, especially now with so much virtual work and social media and so much of the kind of, I'll say, digital world, when I say digital, I don't mean, you know, like websites and SEO and all that stuff. But but so much of the time that's spent not necessarily face to face, but is in your own like bubble, right as as you're interacting with, whether it's media or other people, so in digitally, and I think sometimes what happens is we lose, like the basics of things. And the basics are, honestly I worked really hard. I do work really hard. And I find I think the intrinsic thing is I find joy in it more than burden, and that might not be true for everyone. But at the end of the day, I I believe in the responsibility of it. If you take on a role, a project, a group kind of task, if you will, then you are accountable and responsible to bring your best to it. It doesn't mean that you're going to be 100% every single day. But it does mean that you show up. And that's what I do I show up for things, I raised my hand, I, you know, take on a project if need be. And sometimes if not need be, I guess people in my, in my circle might say, but I think there's there's that value in just showing up and doing what you say you're going to do. And I also think that when you're doing that, or at least when I'm doing that, let's you know, kind of keep it to what I know, right is I'm also open and I guess you could use the word humble enough to know that I am usually not the smartest person in the room. And usually, and almost definitely not the expert of most of the things going on. So I'm a real observer of other people. And I'm inspired by what they do. I remember, early, early on in my career when I was at Intel, and I was probably, I don't know, 2324 years old, there was a woman who was my partner in supply chain. And not only was she an expert in production, right, and the factory base and all the things that from a skill set, she needed to be an expert in. She also was poised and calm and prepared. And you know, I still remember her name Stacy. I still remember Stacy's desk, where and this was pre you know, laptops, iPads, iPhones, everything. She had all of her folders lined up with all of the tabs in order that had the lineup of what she needed to do that week. And that that ability to be organized to be disciplined, and persevere stuck with me from her. So it's that that ability to bring your best, but also know that there's better to be had if you're observant, and you're humble in the face of other people's expertise. And I think that's, that's probably at the core of, of, of what's most important in terms of my success.

William Harris  22:41  

That's brilliant. And I like that you called out the ability to show up, it reminds me of a story. I may have even told us on the podcast before and I apologize if anybody's hearing this for the second time. But it's a fun story. If I haven't told it. buddy of mine, Eric sward tells the story of when he was new to medical sales. And he he's gets on the airplane cuz he's flying out to go meet his boss, and he's writing down some notes. And his pen explodes. So he's got ink all over this brand new suit, I don't even think he had the tags off of the suit yet kind of thing. And then it keeps going on and he takes another pen out. That one also explodes. I don't know he's got to, you know, do a better job with pen selection here on an airplane. He lands and he goes to get a cup of coffee because he's kind of like, man, it's kind of like a bummer day. But like, I gotta get there. And so he grabs a cup of coffee. And sure enough, he goes to drink the coffee cup lids not on all the way. So he goes to drink the coffee spills, coffee himself jumps back out of like, oh, what's going on rips a hole in the back of his pants. And so he doesn't have time to go do anything about it shows up to the meeting to meet his boss. And you know, a little bit almost like this. You know, what is it? Will Smith in the pursuit of happiness moment where it's kind of like shows up without a shirt on basically, right? Yeah, I mean, he's got a shirt on, but his boss is like, what happened to you? He goes, one thing you need to know about me. I will always show up. That's it right? If you can show up. That's huge. Yep.

Stephanie Pugliese  24:06  

Yeah. You know, it's funny. You were telling us right? And I was thinking about, you know, the, the, what we were just talking about with that balance of professional and family, but there's also professional and human. Right. And they shouldn't necessarily be opposed, but sometimes they feel like they are. But you know, a story that I gosh, I haven't thought of in a long time is when I was at Ann Taylor. I was actually at and Taylor when all three of my children were born. And I remember when my first daughter who's now 26 was tiny. I mean, I was just back from maternity leave. So maybe she was six months old or so. And I was one of the very few women now and Taylor as you would imagine was a company full of women and But I was one of maybe five that had some very small children or had just had a baby. And just back from maternity leave. And I remember, it was just one of those new mom moments, you know, and I walk into a room into a meeting, and I'm like, I'm here. Let's go. And we're starting. And God bless Beth, one of my good friends, she leans over to me, she was a merchant as well. And she goes, your sweaters on back right inside out. And I was like, Oh, my God. And I just, I looked down, and I see all the seams, you know, the sweater just like, right there. And I just went, I like, Guys, my sweaters on Inside Out. Based on how my morning was with my six month old baby, I'm lucky I even have a sweater on today. Give me a minute, I'll be right back. And I went to the ladies room, flip this letter and came back. But it was not only that showing up right after a crazy morning, but it was also the ability to just say, it is what it is. I'm a human being I was the vice president at that point, you know, and I was just like it, what are you gonna do, but here's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna laugh. I'm going to show you that I'm actually a human being. And I'm going to come back, and I'm still going to show up. And those are the moments that I think like actually create so much connection with with teams of people. That that they actually are infinitely more important than like a silly story might seem.

William Harris  26:41  

Yep. wholeheartedly agree with you, I got goosebumps hearing you tell that story, because I could just imagine it. But I love that. And so if I was going to push from there, so it's like, these are the characteristics there. What about some of the tactics? You mentioned? You know, when you came to Duluth Trading, it was still small under under $70 million? I think at the time you mentioned and what are some of the things that you were able to do over the course of those 1112 years? To get them to the point where you were able to bring them public? What is the what is the shortcut? Or how do you how do you maximize what you're doing professionally?

Stephanie Pugliese  27:21  

Yeah, that well, let me take the maximize, because I'm not sure that there are shortcuts quite honestly, you know, I think so for me, what has been really important, super important that Duluth, because it was such a small team, that every role was incredibly visible, right. But I would say that, even in really large companies, these things are critical. Number one was that I can I connected immediately with people. And I got to know the team as quickly as I possibly could, starting with the people that were reporting directly to me, and then just kind of branching out from there and making sure that I had some personal interaction or connection with everybody that that I was going to be working with, and particularly those who I was leading. I did that at Duluth, the very first in fact, the first, I'll call it day that I was at Duluth was actually a focus group dinner with my team. And so we, we connected quickly. And in a, it was professional, obviously, because there was a focus group, but it was also a little bit more casual of a setting. When I went to underarmor. The first thing I did before I stepped foot in the office was had dinner with the team and made sure that I said, you know, what's your favorite thing? What's your what's your favorite color? Do you have kids? Are you you know, have you traveled whatever it might be that let them know that I was a human being. The second thing that I think is is really important, particularly as you enter into leadership situations, is showing that you are skilled and competent. And that's part of that showing up right is allowing people to see that you're there. And that you're also calm confident in the communication in the conversation that you're having. If you don't know a fact that's okay. But you're confident enough to ask the question, because you know, you're going to need that to lead. So it's personal connection, then competency, if you will. And then the third piece of it is ultimately taking the two of those things and allowing your team you know, my exam Active coach Judy has said to me on a number of occasions, a primary goal for a leader is to give oxygen to the team. And that is that is a responsibility of a leader. So if you can create that personal connection, and then show them that you know what you're doing, then you can create oxygen, you know, and space for them to really thrive and show you what they know how to do. That just snowballs into an incredible opportunity, and then ultimately results. So an example of that, like, some of that is real kind of, I would say, classic leadership, if you will, in terms of, you know, setting accountabilities letting people work through it, etc. But some of it is actually having fun with it. And, and what I mean by that, William is that, so at Duluth, one of the hallmarks of the Duluth brand was fun, and funny, and quirky, you know, and, and for you an out of the box, right. And so one of the things that that I would do with a team on the product team and on the creative team, is we'd have the presentation, we'd look at the line, we'd understand, we'd know that we're going to buy, you know, a million of these and have a million of those, and whatever it might be in all the real important and logical things. And then after we got through that, I'd look at our product development team. And I'd say, Okay, what's in the closet, on the rack behind the rack that you really like, and you think is super cool, but you're a little worried about it, and it might be a little out there, let's see it. And I do the same thing with a creative team, like, tell me the line, tell me the creative copy line that made all of you guys sit and like, fall off your chairs, laughing. But you didn't present it. Because you were a little worried that you know, whatever it might be, and let's just enjoy it for a minute. And that gives, what that does is allow people to play in the proverbial sandbox, right? But then when you when you say things like that, and when you give people that freedom, you expand the size of that playing field. And you can grow things in in unexpected ways. And so that's so so kind of to circle back, it's like, everybody's a person, and everybody brings their own unique skills, talents, needs, whatever it might be, we all have to believe that we're competent. And if we're not, we got to build some skill sets, right? And then all of us get this incredible opportunity to show off our stuff and and work as a united unit to grow a business exponentially. And that's, that's what I think is, is most important in terms of like the path, if you will, that I have tried to follow as a leader.

William Harris  33:13  

You said so many, just brilliant things they're starting off with like the relationship piece, I want to hit on that. It reminds me of a quote from Josh McDowell, where he says Rules without relationship leads to rebellion. And if we take that from a business perspective, and a lot of times he's talking more parental, but if you take that to a business perspective, I think is similar thing is true, where it's like, if you don't have that relationship with your team, there's no way you can get the best energy and productivity out of somebody. And so I think that that's so wise that that's where you start. And then to keep going, though, where you go with this, but that idea of allowing people to have fun, it reminds me of on one of the other episodes, there was Robert Gilbreath, who was the President over at ShipStation talked about how fun was an absolutely critical piece of the business as well. And I think to your point, if we, if we don't have fun with what we're doing, we can't be as effective as what we're doing. And to your point what you said earlier, which was you found working hard to be enjoyable. And I think that that's can be true for a lot of other people, but you have to foster that in the environment.

Stephanie Pugliese  34:24  

Yes. And, you know, everyone's everyone's definition of what makes work enjoyable, is different. Right? Some and and, and they might and we might all have the same elements, but they might be even in a different priority order. So, you know, one of the things kind of swinging back again to like that, that intrinsic, like a one of the things that I value is knowing that we are progressing, you know, and that our work is resulting in maybe not all Wait is exactly what we hoped for to do, or not in the same timeline, but we're progressing. And we're hitting goals. For me, that is a motivator. For other people, the motivation might be that they know that they are first and foremost, helping their colleagues do their best work, both of them are absolutely validated. And I would bet the both of them would be on both of our lists, but it's in different orders. And sometimes it's in different orders at different times. So you know, having having the ability to understand, and it's not there, there's lots of tools out there that you can say, Okay, tell me in your priority order, what motivates you what you know, and then you can do personality assessments and all that stuff. But I think sometimes it's just, it's just talking to people. And knowing that, you know, knowing that one of my colleagues daughter's is getting married, you know, on a weekend, and we've got a huge project coming up, for example. So I look around and say, Hey, let me take half of what you were working on, because I know you are going to work here till Friday night at 7pm. And your daughter's getting married Saturday. But if I take half of it, could you work till Wednesday, and then take Thursday, Friday off, or work through till Thursday and take Friday off, and I'll cover for you. It's those moments that for for her, for example, that priority was our family in that moment. And then the following month, it might be something totally different. But if you're connected with your team, you can have those moments and pivot if you will, in a way that's most valuable to them. Let's

William Harris  36:46  

imagine that you have a company that's doing let's say 25 30 million. And let's say that they also feel like they've got the team alignment that we're talking about here. What are some other things that they need to have in place in order for them to push past that 100 million? Mark? Oh,

Stephanie Pugliese  37:05  

that's a that's a really good question. I think the I think from it, I'll call it tactical, although it's really much more longer term strategic. Some of the big questions that and I'm going to stick in, in kind of my wheelhouse of retail, and branding. You know, some of the big questions that I would ask the team are, how, how are you connecting with consumers? What are your so so not, there's two kind of facets of that, right? One is the kind of visceral emotional, I want to be part of this brand connection. And then another is really, truly access. So So do you have, do you have opportunity in both of those areas, and is one a little bit bigger than the other meaning, hey, we have everybody they know and love us. But the only place they can get us to get our product is from our website, well, maybe that creates an opportunity for growth around different points of distribution, right? Whether that is opening retail stores, or putting a platform on social media, you know, being Instagram shoppable, or, or going wholesale, or going international, or whatever those things are, but that's more, that's kind of one facet. Right? And that's really, truly a kind of channel play, if you will. The other piece of it, of course, as I mentioned, is that visceral connection, because the other piece that you could look at and say, Okay, well people know us, but they just kind of know us, they don't know and love us. And so that might create some different actions around brand, marketing, telling the story in a different way telling it in a different in a to a different audience. So there's different plays on where you're, in essence, it's where are we going to get the growth from. And then ultimately, you know, especially in the CEO or the presidency. For me, the biggest job I had in terms of creating the roadmap for growth, was understanding where the growth can come from, and applying the resources to that. And that's not just so for example, at Duluth. At one point in time, we recognize that stores were going to become an important part of where we were going. So not only are you aligning resources like catbacks to growing stores, but you're also saying okay, then I need some talented individuals to be thinking about site selection, or somebody that understands visual merchandising or whatever it might be. So you're in essence, kind of Deciding the path that you're going to take, and then rolling or directing energy, money, people talent in that direction. And so that's that's how I would look at a growth path for a company whether honestly, whether it's 35, trying to get to 100 100 Trying to get to a billion or a billion trying to get to 3 billion, you know, it's it's all really very similar, and not easy, super easy for me to just describe it really difficult to like to, first of all, decide the belief of you know, where that growth is going to come from. And also then, truly create creating that operating plan to do it.

William Harris  40:43  

Yeah, but I think you're spot on with even just that idea of, Do customers know you? And do they really know you? Right? Like, reminds me of, what was it the Spanish? Let's see if I can do this on the fly. But like, you know, sub air versus cuando se, right. It's like to know of versus Yes. No. Rice?

Stephanie Pugliese  41:03  

Yes. Yeah. It's that's so funny. I never really thought about that. Like, because I speak Italian with my, you know, my, my family and everything. And in Italian, it's the same thing. There's two verbs for to know. And in English, it's only one. But I think we both put the right emphasis on Do you know, or do you know it? Yeah, that's how you do it in English, I guess.

William Harris  41:29  

So let's get into it. And I liked that you just brought up Spanish here. Because I think that's a good segue into like, the personal side here as well. So Italian. And so when we were talking before, it's like, how do you be a human being? Let's just say in this kind of a context, how do you make sure that you're finding this time for family, for friends for personal pursuits and stuff like that? Yeah.

Stephanie Pugliese  41:56  

So there's two things, and I was thinking about this. And that is, number one, let me just stay for a minute in the work environment. And that is, I actually think that being in a work environment that makes you proud that you have, you know, there's there's kind of the cliche of the culture fit, but then you feel like it's the right place for you, if that makes sense. Even if the work is hard, even if it's a challenging time, even if business is a little rough for a while, but that the work environment is one that while you're working hard, you're still getting energized by because I think a lot of people especially you know, I speak sometimes at UW Madison here, in my hometown here. And a lot of students will say, How do I find the right fit? And I think that right fit, you know, it when you feel more energized by as opposed to more tired from work. And so I start with that a little bit, William, because obviously, we were just kind of, we've been talking a lot about work. But I think that when you're drained by a work environment, the personal side gets harder. And so I do think when you talk about balance, there's something to be said about the work environment as well. Now, that said, a lot of people talk about balance, like, shut the door to the office, you know, open the door to the home, and how do you do that? And I think, for me, what, what I've found is when I was younger, you know, like really young in my career, pre fam pre marriage, pre kids. Um, you know, I had fun going out with my husband, then boyfriend at the time with friends. And I would just get that refreshment, you know, just by being social, right? Then as my children were little, the balance really became just knowing that I was going home at the end of the day, to this wonderful group of three spectacular kids. And just the joy that they brought me was enough to create the balance. Now that you know, my kids are now 2023 and 26. So my husband and I are pretty much empty nesters. And so the balance has has evolved, right? It goes in phases to a little bit more obviously, spending time with my husband and enjoying that time, but also a little bit more personal and individual. And what I try to do every day is even if it's just for a couple of minutes, something that is routine For me, the routine is cup of espresso, sometimes to, on a bad day, it might be three in the morning. But it's definitely like my little cup of espresso. And I have a line a day journal, it's like this big. And you get this much writing, it's like three little lines. And it's this little blue book that's lasted, I've had actually since the beginning of 2020. So going on almost four years, I've been writing in the same thing, it goes everywhere with me, doesn't matter if I'm taking a one day trip a 10 day trip or at home, I have it close. And I just write a couple of lines, you know, sometimes it is, wow, have discovered a new restaurant had a great dinner. And sometimes it is, holy cow, I have a huge project, do super anxious, you know, but it's just those moments that that moment that I can just connect with what just happened or what's going on. And then lately, I've added to it, I read excerpts from a book called The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday. And if you haven't heard of it, I would, I will gift it to you, I love it so much. And it's basically just a, you know, a concept today, a quote from from one of the stoics. And then he writes kind of the the modern application, if you will, and just kind of sets my mind in in a cool place. And I'll tell you funny, like, the little journal goes everywhere with me, the daily stoic is a little bit bigger. So sometimes I don't want to carry it with me. But when I know I'm going away and don't want to carry it, I literally take pictures of the days, the pages that I'll be away, so that I can still read them every day. And that routine, I think, has is is more important than the couple of minutes a day that it actually takes me to do. And it's totally worth it. So that's my, that's my everyday thing. I mean, I'm also like, I love to garden, I swim, I cook, uh, you know, like all of that fun stuff, too. But if I had to say one thing that I would absolutely hate to give up, it would be that routine I just described.

William Harris  47:26  

One, I think there's a benefit to that, like you said, there's anchor points along your day, then where things allow you to feel like there's some kind of control and whatever chaos might be around because there's there's times where there is chaos. But if there's the anchor point throughout that I think that gives that opportunity. And the thing that I love about what you talked about with The Daily Stoic, so I do file Ryan Holiday on tick tock. So a lot of people talk about how their tick tock feed is garbage, whatever mine ends up being a lot of, you know, daily Stoics, and comedians and things like that. And so it's very interesting, but a lot of, you know, the quotes from Marcus Aurelius. And, you know, there's a lot of just brilliant stuff. And I think some of the things that you've told me, throughout, this helps me to see that in your life, where let's just say, you talked about the joy of coming home to your three kids, that was one of the ways that you were able to find the joy when you're younger. But I guarantee that there was a moment when your sweater was on backwards, that it might not have felt as joyful, because it could have, you could allow it to feel chaotic as well. But in those situations, I think that's where like, let's just say like the stoic approach, looks at this and recognizes that this is a, this is a part of where you are, this is a season. And those seasons don't last forever. And so sometimes it can feel I think we're very myopic about maybe the situations that we're in, and we're wanting things to be changed within three weeks or three months. And it might be three years or three decades for certain things to take place, too. And so I appreciate that. Yeah.

Stephanie Pugliese  48:54  

And you know, it's interesting, when you were talking about like, when my kids were little, and then the stoic because I really only most recently have started really being interested in the stoic philosophy and, you know, journaling, etc. But, and I'm gonna totally butcher this, this quote, but Steve Jobs had said at one point that it's really when you look backwards, that you see all the connected points that have led to where you are today. And I think that's, that's one of the wonderful benefits of, you know, getting older, is you get to look back at a longer and richer life behind you, and, and kind of make those connections. But the other thing that I would say, and I know it's it's easier for me to say now that some of this is in the past, than perhaps when I was living through it. But all of the chaos and all of the hard times and all of the, you know, couple of hours of sleep when you have small kids and you're working full time and all of that stuff have, like, all of those things, we're building blocks to what came after. And, and I couldn't be doing what I am doing today, and have the perspective that I have today, had I not gone through some of those challenges, you know, and and I say I right, yes. Like, everybody has a team, you know, my husband has been, like beside me every step of the way, I used to say all the time, he is my, you know, safe place to land, here's my calm. Um, you know, and, and I have incredible friends that sometimes had to pick up my kids at school, or, you know, helped me with the bake sales or whatever it might be. And like, totally, all of that stuff is so important. And I think the reason I mentioned it is, not only does it build the building blocks of your life, right, having all of these experience both good and challenging, but the other piece of it is, you also have to, we talk a lot about gratitude, or at least I talk a lot about gratitude. But the point of gratitude is, first of all, that it's it's a positive, wonderful connecting, feeling and emotion. But the other piece of it is, it also makes you like, it puts you kind of in your space, the right place to say, yeah, it was tough, but I don't do it all by myself. So like, just sure back up a little bit on the whining, complaining, tough, whatever it might be, that you might be gone through and realize that you've got a lot of people around you that are supporting and helping and it makes it feel a little bit less individual, and daunting as just a singular person when you know, that you're one of many.

William Harris  51:53  

So Stephanie, you've also talked about even just, let's just say, humanity in emotion within the business context, I think that's something that doesn't get talked about a lot. How do you feel that plays out? And examples? Maybe even on TV or things like that, that you've seen?

Stephanie Pugliese  52:11  

Yeah. You know, I think it's, I think it's so interesting, I think there's this, this kind of misperception strange perception of emotion in our code in public, right, and we're obviously talking about the workplace right here, that emotion is weakness, or it is negative, or it's distracting, or a detractor from the work that needs to get done. And, you know, I think it's really interesting, because, in my experience, and I've seen it with other executives, as well, it's not just how I approach is when you can create the connection through emotion. And emotion is about kind of getting to the core of humanity, right, when somebody is excited, or happy or sad, or frustrated, or whatever it might be having the ability to react and work and, and understand those emotions, ultimately, I have found makes people work harder in a more unified way. And I think some of the things that that are really difficult right now and give, I'll call it a motion a bad name, is when you see on the news today, things like, Congressman threatening to fight witnesses in, you know, in a court of law, or, or, you know, newscasters, you know, degrading people that they're interviewing, and using, kind of undermining emotion that really gives this whole idea of connectivity, a really bad name. And I think when you think about emotion and the value of, of the humanity of a situation, that's the emotion that we're talking about, that's the connection that we're talking about, not the pounding the fist of that, you know, old time, you know, executive that's just beaten it into the team. It's actually a an inclusive way of working as opposed to XClusive.

William Harris  54:24  

Yeah, I think you you've nailed it on the head. I think that there's so much energy and value that can come from emotion that we don't talk about. And I appreciate that you bring that up. That's a really important topic.

Stephanie Pugliese  54:37  

No, thank you for asking about it. We're getting

William Harris  54:39  

close to the end of our time. And so I had one more question. That's just completely unrelated but fun. And I think you said because it shows off your personality. Some, sometimes we talk about cars and favorite cars. And you said your favorite car, the car that you drive the most that you enjoy, is not what you would think of as like a typical Go CEO car No, what car are you driving and why? Okay,

Stephanie Pugliese  55:04  

I am driving a 2016 Volkswagen Beetle. And I love this car so much a couple of things. Number one, we had a beetle when my oldest daughter Rosie was born, and we were living in New York. So we needed a tiny little car that we could get around in. But also we could find a place to park. So it's got nostalgia. It's not the same car, we had to sell that one, but it's got a nostalgia piece of it. But it's also like those, you know, when I'm just tooling around in my beetle, and plan Simon and Garfunkel or pink on on Spotify, I'm just having a happy time. And it Yeah, it just is light hearted and fun. And I don't know, I at age 53 feel pretty darn cool in it. So it's my favorite thing.

William Harris  55:57  

Good for you. You're gonna sing a Simon and Garfunkel song for us right now,

Stephanie Pugliese  56:00  

I am not. And that is really out of respect for everybody's ears.

William Harris  56:09  

Stephanie, it's been absolutely amazing talking to you today, I think that you've, I think, helped people to see some of the core concepts of what it takes to build to go from, you know, like burgeoning business to being able to get to the point where they're, you know, going public, or just growing in significant ways. But still being able to find that success and still be able to have time for family and time for personal pursuits. If you were gonna give one more piece of advice, what what would you say to the listeners?

Stephanie Pugliese  56:43  

I would say number one. First and foremost, you're not alone. And all of the experiences that you have, whether it's a challenging personal experience, a tough business problem that you're trying to solve a team situation, that there is so many people that have been through it before and or are going through it at that point in time, that if you keep your ears open, and you stay observant, and you really just stay true to yourself in terms of honesty, integrity, connection with others, you will get through it, and your team will be better for it. And you'll learn a tremendous amount to create those next building blocks for the next time that you have a problem to solve or, or something good to celebrate.

William Harris  57:33  

Yeah, beautiful. If people would love to follow you connect with you in some way. What's the base best way for them to do that?

Stephanie Pugliese  57:42  

I'm on LinkedIn. So and I paid pretty close attention to it. So happy to connect with anyone there.

William Harris  57:50  

Awesome. Stephanie, again, I can't thank you enough for taking the time out of your day to share your wisdom and your knowledge with us and your time. It's been very, very helpful for me personally, and I think for a lot of people who are listening. Thank you

Stephanie Pugliese  58:02  

so much. I am so grateful that we connected and that we were able to do this.

William Harris  58:08  

Thank you, everybody else. Have a great rest of your day.

Outro  58:12  

Thanks for listening to the Up Arrow Podcast with William Harris. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.

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