Sacrifice Today, Succeed Tomorrow -A Lesson with Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry

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To maintain a consistent theme across my blog posts, I chose to shine the spotlight again on the fashion industry.  This time, on a particular individual – Angela Ahrendts, who is the current chief executive of British luxury label Burberry.   

Dating back to adolescence, Angela always knew she wanted to be in the fashion industry.  However, it was not smooth sailing for her to get to where she is today.   The day after graduating university, Angela packed up her bags and flew from Indiana  to New York to make her dreams a living reality.  Leaving her primary school sweetheart behind, which  resulted in a 17 year long distance relationship, Angela worked 80 hour weeks to earn her stripes in the New York Fashion scene.  Eventually, her hard work and admirable determination warranted her the well deserved positions of Executive Vice President at Liz Claiborne and President of Donna Karan.  With her career under control and settling down her personal life -married, with 3 kids, a dog and living in a comfortable country home, Angela did not think she would ever reset her life again.  Though somehow, even in a state of high uncertainty, she picked up her life once again and relocated her whole family to England.  Although I am not yet a wife or mother, I can imagine how difficult it must be for both Angela and her family to refamiliarize themselves in a completely new environment just when everything seemed picture perfect. 

Moving was not the hardest part.  It marked the beginning of a tough and strenuous journey to bring Burberry back from the depths of the fashion industry.  When Angela arrived and took on the reins as the new CEO, she found herself amidst disinterested employees and an extremely unfavourable image of Burberry in the public eye.  Determined to revitalize Burberry, Angela did not have many supporters in the first few years she started .   She fired the whole Hong Kong design team within 1 year and closed numerous factories -a decision so shocking  she had to justify  herself in front of parliament for doing so.    

From completely remodelling her life in a foreign country, heading a deteriorating fashion label  and making questionable executive decisions, the tough calls  she has made in both her personal life and career are what has gotten Angela to the pinnacle of her career today.  If it wasn’t for Angela, it would even be questionable as to whether Burberry would still be a successful fashion label today, regardless as a luxury or budget brand. 

 

The insights for me after reading about Angela’s journey can be summarized in a few points:
1.  Hard work and persistence will always pay off if you keep your eye on the prize and keep pushing your limits. 

2.  Sacrifices made today will be worth the success you are deserving of tomorrow. (If #1 above is applied)

3.  There is not anything that cannot be overcome.  Temporary forks in the roads are just challenges to help us realize our real potential and to achieve the next level in our careers we are all capable of.  (If both points above are applied).

 

Alice Liu

University of Toronto

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