What started off as a “2 to 3 years job” ended up as a 25 years career (and counting) in the retail industry for Chui Mei Foo, more commonly known as Mei, Retail Director of Under Armour (UA) SEA.
Having worked in big brand names such as Adidas, Nike and now UA, Mei can be easily described as a retail veteran. Yet, she humbly admitted that, “I am still learning something new every day.”
One important lesson for her is the need to focus on one’s strengths. “An ex-colleague of mine taught me this. She often says that the retail team i.e. employees, are usually smarter than you. Don’t try to think that you are smarter than them and come up with the dos and don’ts. Instead, work with them and tap on their strengths while playing to yours” she shared.
This is particularly true when it comes to the retail space where it’s highly people-centric and one that puts your people management skills to test.
“Managing Millennials is pretty different from management in the past. Previously, you can simply tell them that it is non-negotiable and complete the task by a specific time. Today, Millennials voice out a lot more. It also involves more coaching and space for them to experiment.” Mei highlighted.
While she agreed that the core needs of Millennials are somewhat similar to their predecessors, Mei recognized that the form of it has changed and she’s constantly learning how to better empower and motivate her team to deliver the best results at UA.
With a smile on her face, Mei emphasized that one key difference is how you take care of your people. “It’s not simply about asking what they want and giving it to them. A good manager needs to look after them while balancing it with the management’s interest.”
Mei also conceded that it is tough to hire good people in this industry. “What I usually look for are personality and attitude. While I had success in the Singapore and Malaysian market, I’m still learning what works in the Thailand market when it comes to hiring” she said with a chuckle.
A fast moving and challenging industry, but definitely one that is constantly fulfilling at various levels even for veterans like Mei at UA. After all, it’s a people business in retail and people can be complicated. Question is, are you game for it?