How Brewer continues to grow the company and balance family life with her husband and two children
Rosalind Brewer didn't just become the first female president and CEO of Sam's Club, part of the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. group, in 2012: She has thrived in the role. Two years in, Brewer continues to grow the company and balance family life with her husband and two children.
"I don't want to leave something the way I assumed it," says Brewer, who Forbes ranks among the world's 50 most powerful women. "I want to make a difference in everything that I do." The Columbus Urban League recently brought Brewer to town for its annual Empowerment Day, and we talked with her on family, expectations and more.
You're a mom, wife and businesswoman: How do you juggle it all?
I try to set priorities. I realize that I can't do it all. I find out what's important to me and to the business, and I have to prioritize. It takes almost every day to do that though. And learning how to say no. That I still fight with. Every now and then, my heart gets in the way and I can't help it.
How did you deal with the pressure and expectation of the title when you assumed your role?
What helped me was that I was naïve about it. When you work like we do in retail, my head was down and focused and I really didn't realize it at first. When we began to talk about the position, it didn't hit me until I saw it on CNN and it started coming across the ticker tape. I said, "Why are they reacting this way?" Because I hadn't put that together. I hadn't focused on that at all. But now, I am very proud of it. But at the same time I do feel a sense of responsibility and a great opportunity to make a difference. I try to use it to the advantage of the company, because I think it's a great testament that the company was ready to do this. It really made me more confident about the company I work for.
How can women become more involved and have their voices heard in the workplace?
We need to make sure that women get closer to managing the business, and so I'd like to see more women migrate from staff roles into managing what's called the profit and loss statement. So, get closer to the money. The closer to the money you are, the better you're going to influence the decisions that are made around the company.
What makes a good leader?
One very basic quality is listening. I never want to stop the learning process, and so you're only going to do well at that if you're listening to the folks around you in an advisory mode. I think the second great quality is to lead by example, to set the tone. One of the most important examples is to have high integrity. People will follow you because they trust you. You have to earn leadership. It's just not sitting on the table every day.
Best business tip you can offer?
Lead with your gut. Usually my gut doesn't steer me wrong. It's that initial reaction to something that's likely the right reaction. Then I usually follow it up with numbers and all the other things that are important. But my gut usually tells me what to do next.
What's your favorite way to unwind after a long day?
I'm hooked on Scandal. I enjoy reading. I love a great cup of hot green tea and a book. That's living, and that's great.