July 08, 2007

In Honor Of The Title Of 'Director'

I am proclaiming Monday, July 9 as "Director" day. If your job title is "Director" of anything, this day is for you!

In a post Sarbanes-Oxley world (thanks Enron), the title of Director has to be the most challenging one for a professional employee to hold.

From my earliest days at Lands' End, I wanted to be a Circulation Director. I saw that position as one that played a significant role in the direction of the business.

Eventually, I became a Circulation Director. Elements of the job were intoxicating. It was great fun to put together a circulation plan that showed increased sales and increased profit on a merchandise productivity decrease of ten percent!

Post Sarbanes-Oxley, being a Director wasn't as much fun. In big organizations, the Director reports to a Divisional Vice President. The Divisional Vice President reports to a Vice President. The Vice President reports to a Senior Vice President. The Senior Vice President reports to an Executive Vice President. The Executive Vice President reports to a Chief "X" Officer. The Chief "X" Officer (fill in any role for the 'x') reports to the Chief Executive Officer. The Chief Executive Officer manages day-to-day responsibilities as assigned by the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors ultimately manage the business on behalf of Shareholders. Shareholders frequently demand a short-term return on investment, requiring a lot of strategic direction from the "C-Level" suite.

The Chief Executive Officer and the Chief Financial Officer have to sign-off on SEC-mandated reporting. This magnitude of accountability requires hands-on control of the business that didn't exist five or ten or fifteen years ago.

This stretches the role of a Director. In the past, the Director managed budgets, and set strategy for his/her area of responsibility. Over the past five years, these responsibilities migrated up the pyramid, closer to the Chief "X" Officers.

Conversely, the Director had to provide a satisfying work environment for his/her direct reports. The Director had to grow talent among Manager and Analyst level staff members. As a result, the job description of your average Director was redefined in a way that was not complementary to the career needs of the Director.

Over the past five years, the Director was pinned-down in a no-win career growth situation. If one of the VP-level individuals left the company to pursue other interests, it was trendy to hire a Vice President from a competing organization. These leaders brought new ideas, leadership, and vision to your organization.

That's the way things had been over the past five years.

Today, Director-level professionals have great opportunities to shape multichannel organizations. Many executive-level individuals lack the online experience necessary to drive multichannel sales and profit. A Director with circulation and online marketing experience may be the most valuable individual in any multichannel marketing organization --- able to combine the tools of the past with new marketing techniques to increase the success of your business.

If your job title is Director, then today, July 9, 2007 is a day dedicated to YOU!

If you are a Marketing Director at a multichannel retailer, this might be one of the best times in the history of direct marketing to make a significant contribution to your business. I think the stars have aligned in a positive way.

It's a good time to demonstrate leadership. And if your company won't recognize you for your efforts, there are hundreds of multichannel organizations that will. The future is bright for Director-level individuals who possess multichannel skills.