CEO brands can build up or bring down corporate brand reputation in significant ways - employee recruitment and retention, investor confidence, customer trust, it's all impacted by the public persona a CEO fosters. On Episode eight of Can You Hear Me?, we're joined by the new CEO of ULTA Beauty, an eight billion-dollar, publicly-traded retailer. Dave Kimbell discusses his own experience and success at ULTA Beauty and his approach to communicating with and on behalf of 40,000 ULTA Beauty associates. We will explore his fresh and unique posts on social media, his commitment to leading with Ulta's core values at the center of every decision, and his emphasis on always elevating the associates of Ulta. Dave CEO's brand style is one we can all learn from.
“Elevating Others and Leading with Heart is Where I Start” - an interview with ULTA Beauty’s new CEO, Dave Kimbell
Can You hear me? Episode 8:
Five Things You Will Learn From This Episode:
Follow Dave KImbell on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/davekimbell/
Follow Rob Johnson on LInkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/rob-johnson-communications-advisor/
Follow Eileen Rochford on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/eileen-rochford/
Learn more about ULTA Beauty https://www.ulta.com/
Learn more about working at ULTA Beauty https://www.glassdoor.com/Overview/Working-at-Ulta-Beauty-EI_IE9466.11,22.htm
Rob Johnson [00:00:57] CEO brands can build up or bring down corporate brand reputation in significant ways - employee recruitment and retention, investor confidence, customer trust, it's all impacted by the public persona a CEO fosters. On Episode eight of Can You Hear Me? we're joined by the new CEO of Ulta Beauty, an eight billion dollar, publicly traded retailer. Dave Kimbell will discuss his own experience and success at Ulta and his approach to communicating with and on behalf of 40,000 Ulta beauty associates. We will explore his fresh and unique posts on social media, his commitment to leading with Ulta's core values at the center of every decision, and his emphasis on always elevating the associates of Ulta. Dave CEO's brand style is one we can all learn from.
I'm Rob Johnson, former TV news anchor and now president of Rob Johnson Communications.
Eileen Rochford [00:02:59] And I'm Eileen Rochford, CEO of the marketing strategy and public relations firm, The Harbinger Group. On our podcast, Rob and I frequently reference the important role C Suite level executives play in building corporate brands and the unique impact a CEO’s brand has on overall corporate reputation. Today, CEO brands have ascended to a level of influence never before seen. We can't talk about communications and marketing without including CEO brands.
Rob Johnson [00:03:25] That's really true. And if you're a CEO leading your company, especially during these uncertain times, having an effective CEO brand is not optional, now it is necessary. It impacts everything from investor confidence to recruitment and retention as well as overall customer trust.
Eileen Rochford [00:03:41] The social presence of a CEO is increasingly important as well. We've seen lots of research just this year that shows, following the pandemic, consumers and job seekers expect a CEO to be very active on social platforms. However, 61% of CEOs still lack a personal brand, according to Domo and CEO.com.
Rob Johnson [00:04:02] So joining us now on Can You Hear Me? Is Ulta Beauty CEO Dave Kimbell, a fellow graduate of DePauw University. He got his MBA from Purdue and started a career in marketing that is prolific, working at places such as Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats and U.S. Cellular before joining Ulta as Chief Marketing Officer, where he ascended to President and as of June to CEO. Dave recently appeared on CNBC Mad Money last week and was the cover story of WWD this month, in which Jenny B. Fine, says he is “looking to combine his innate power of positivity and operational expertise to write the next chapter of growth for America's largest beauty retailer.” Dave, thanks for joining us. Great to have you on Can you hear me?!
Dave Kimbell [00:04:48] Well, thanks, Rob and Eileen. It's an absolute pleasure to be here. And I look forward to our discussion.
Eileen Rochford [00:04:55] It is great to have you here, Dave. And you probably don't know this, but in case you've been trying to sort this out, I'm your stalker. I'm the person who has been following you throughout social media and just admiring everything that you're doing. You really are just a symbol of excellence in that regard. So thanks for all you're doing. I'm really enjoying it. And I know that Rob is, too. But you've captivated and inspired me in so many ways. Especially on LinkedIn, where, again, I'm probably the person that you're always wondering. God, she is always liking my posts. What is up with her? But it's a joy to have you here with us. And the fact that you're willing to share your experiences with our listeners is also something really great. We appreciate it so much. If it's OK with you, I'd really like to start our chat talking about the values and mission of ULTA Beauty. So obviously I'm an outside observer, right? But it's clear to me that your culture is highly values-centered just based on the communications that you share and the media that I've read. And we're really eager to hear from you about how that culture evolved and the role of values within the Ulta brand and overall communications strategy, the role that values play.
Dave Kimbell [00:06:19] Well, first of all, again, it's great to be here, thanks for for having me. I hope you haven't found everything that's out on social media. We don't have to talk about all that. We'll keep it to the Ulta side of things. But, yeah, thanks for thanks for saying all that. Yeah, great place to start. The mission and values that we have at Ulta Beauty really guide us in everything that we do. It's such a central part to who we are as a company. And it's been the main reason that we've had the success that we've had. We're really proud of what we've done in so many ways across our business and proud of the new products we brought to market, the new experiences that we deliver, the innovation that we bring. But what I'm most proud of is the culture and the team that we have at Ulta Beauty, the fact that we are a values-led organization that really guides our decisions and our thinking across all aspects of our business. There are 40,000 people on Team Ulta beauty across the country and we all work together to try to find new ways to both take care of our guests first and foremost, but also just take care of each other. And that's been true for the history of the company, certainly true over the last 18 months as we've been navigating the disruption and changes and challenges there in all aspects of our lives, both our work lives and our personal lives. And so having that core sense of value and connection and community and family within Ulta beauty has been really the main reason, the secret to our success has been that and we work hard at it. We work hard in really understanding what's going on in all of our associates’ lives, what it's like to work in one of our stores, in our distribution centers, on our various corporate teams. It's been a big focus of mine as I stepped into this role. While I know the company well, I've been with the company for about seven and a half years, I also know we're by no means perfect and there's so many things that we can do to get better and just to make our team’s lives easier and ultimately allow them to serve our guest even better. So we spend a lot of our time, and I spend a lot of my time personally, making sure that we are focused on continuing to protect and advance and improve and evolve our culture. And that's going to be a big part of our focus for a long, long time to come. And then that gets translated. We don't do that just for brand purposes or because we think it'll show up well to our guests. We do it first and foremost because we care for each other, and we care for the environment. We're working in a store, working in a distribution center. You know, it's hard work. Our team loves it. They're happy to be part of Ulta. But we recognize that, you know, they're doing critical work to allow us to deliver against our aspirations. And so we do it because we know the importance of it. And then ultimately, just to create an environment that all of us are happy to come to work every day. I've worked in a lot of companies, several companies, and have experienced a number of great cultures. But one thing I've learned is if you start with kind of just meeting with care and compassion and create an environment that people are accountable and we have to deliver a lot of things. But if we just care for each other, then a lot of other great things come. And then ultimately that gets expressed in how we tell our story, how we communicate our brand, we communicate our employment brand, and attracting new members to our team. But it all really starts in an authentic place that we try to create an environment that we just simply care for each other as humans. And then a lot of great things come out of that.
Rob Johnson [00:10:37] I can hear people clicking on their computers right now, Dave, trying to figure out how can I join something like that, because building that special culture really is important and you're doing a great job at it. I also want to point out that there may be a few people who are listening to us today who know this, but most people do not know that. Dave and I were pledge brothers at Phi Gamma Delta Fiji at DePauw back in the 80s. So all I can say is, thank God there wasn't social media then, but we both have come a long way. Our friendship has meant a lot. And I just want to tell you how proud I am of you for all that you've done, because it's really been remarkable. And now to see you really hit your stride at Ulta with the culture you are creating and sort of getting everybody on the same page is just remarkable. So well done.
Dave Kimbell [00:11:29] Well, thank you. I appreciate that. And I think we're both glad there weren't cell phones in the 80s, Right?! (laughing)
Eileen Rochford [00:11:37] I actually think it's really sad there were no cell phones then because I would have liked to see what you guys were up to! (laughing)
Rob Johnson [00:11:43] What happens in Greencastle stays in Greencastle. Dave, there are so many exciting things happening at Ulta. You have the partnership with Target. You have the initiative to bring in more brands founded by people of color, and working with Modern Salon to style the first transgender cover model. Tell us more about what's new and how you're communicating these developments to your many stakeholders.
Dave Kimbell [00:12:08] Well, we're really excited about what we're delivering into the marketplace in so many ways. And we're fortunate that as we've worked through the, you know, the challenges of the last 18 months, we're in some ways even stronger than we were coming into the pandemic and into 2020. And that's because our team has focused on a lot of really important initiatives and aspects of our business to drive growth. Things like our new partnership with Target. Just give us a whole new way to reach our guest and a great partnership with an exciting retailer. We've got a great relationship and we've just started opening those stores and 75 of them open now and up to 100 in the next few weeks in Target stores across the country. So cool new way to expand our business. But the part that I'm probably most proud of and excited about is a lot of efforts. And you mentioned a couple that we have around DE&I just driving more diversity and inclusion and equity across all aspects of our business, both internally within our team, but then using our platform as Ulta beauty and the scale that we have and the fact that we are a big part of the beauty landscape. And so we've got a platform that can help drive cultural change. And we take that role seriously. We're glad to be able to lend our voice in driving positive change in the world around us. So a number of things that we've been focused on, a number of key commitments that we've been at this for a while. It's been a core value of ours, of diversity and inclusion. But I, like probably so many others, experienced the events of 2020 in a way that just made me realize that we're not doing enough and we can do more to get leverage our platform. And we personally as a leader can help drive even more change. So few of those things we're doing. Yeah, you mentioned bringing in more brands that are, you know, founded by people of color. We are doubling the number of black-owned brands we have this year. And that's that's really exciting. Because we've had such success with so many brands and certainly brands from black founders and LatinX founders, Asian founders. And so that drives our business. But it also creates, by leaning into it even more, it creates more economic opportunity. It just it's like a snowball effect. These brands get successful. They are part of the Ulta beauty platform that then helps them drive growth and then it just pays off within the community. And so it's really nice to be part of that. We're also spending a lot more money in a program that we have called Muse, which is designed to amplify the important role that black voices have in society in total and certainly through the lens of beauty. It's been such an important part of the total category. And many of those stories haven't been told. They haven't been told in as big and powerful ways as they should. And so we're spending over twenty million dollars to help bring that to life. And we have some cool new aspects of that to highlight so many people that are doing cool things across the entire landscape. And yeah, you mentioned that the modern salon, the first transgender cover model. That was a neat experience for our team. We have a salons in every store and we have a team of stylist, a pro team that we call them, that are just some of the best leaders in style and salon influence. And they were asked by Modern Salon to shoot this, to bring it to life, and what we were excited about is we have an associate actually in Arizona, a transgendered associate, that we asked to be part of it, that both helped us figure out how to best do this and they were also part of the shoot. And so it's just a great part of the category because beauty is so diverse. We believe everybody is beautiful - this is a key tenet of what we stand for. We're not here to set one perfect way to be beautiful. Everybody's beautiful. We often talk about this idea that you don't come to Ulta Beauty to get beautiful, you come because you already are. And what that means is you can come in and discover beauty on your own terms, whoever you are, however you want to express yourself to the world. That's what we're here to help you do. And so, so many of these efforts are are designed to accelerate that.
Eileen Rochford [00:17:12] I just love everything you just said so much, I don't even know where to start, really. Oh, that's just fantastic. It makes me feel good about shopping at Ulta Beauty. I got to be honest with you. That's amazing.
Dave Kimbell [00:17:27] Well, it's really is a fun part of the category. it's I think through the lens the right thing to do for our team and for society. But it's just the natural part of the category and bigger than just the category. Beauty is so emotionally connected to who everybody is and how they choose to show up and be part of the world around them. And so it's fun that we get to play at least a small part in helping our guests bring that to life.
Eileen Rochford [00:18:05] Oh, I love that. Well, I did a lot of research and so did Rob into things that have been written about you, said about you as a leader and about your style of communications. You've been described by others with some of the following words that I found particularly compelling, enthusiastic, optimistic, creative, empathetic, inquisitive, affable, forward-looking, humble. Those are all great words, by the way. And you're widely known for getting into the DNA of a brand, for demonstrating a deep understanding of consumers needs and aspirations. And through your social posts, it's evident that you personally just relish being out in your stores. And you've mentioned that all of the interacting with your Ulta associates, it seems to give you so much energy. So as outside observers, we can draw our own conclusions about what that says about you as a leader. But we are here to talk somewhat about CEO brands. So I'm curious, how would you describe your own CEO brand and how perhaps it's helping to differentiate Ulta in this category?
Dave Kimbell [00:19:31] Well, first, let's say those all nice things to say about me, and hopefully I don't know if that's all true all the time, hopefully, though, I'm showing up and in a positive way. And it's big, it's what I'm intending to do. And I will say I absolutely understand the concept of a CEO brand. And, you know, I've spent my whole career, most of my career in branding and marketing and so I understand all of that really well. I guess I don't really see it exactly, though, as I'm trying to build a brand, because sometimes that can be interpreted as what you're trying to position yourself as or to accomplish something specific or it's as if you're trying to create something, maybe that that you really aren't, because it's what you think you need to be. And so what I really think about is leading through my authentic self and trying to, you know, be myself when I'm trying to lead our company. And I don't think I could do anything otherwise. I think it'd be hard for anybody. It's been my experience anyway. If you aren't authentically excited about the role that you have, authentically committed to caring for others and recognizing the importance of their work and how they influence the total success of the company, then I don't think I could be successful. So, so much of this does just come from what I'm excited about. And fortunately, I'm in a role in a company that I love. And so that makes my job a lot easier. And I'm not sure I could do this job if I didn't really love it and feel a personal connection and enthusiasm, excitement about what we're collectively trying to accomplish. So that's kind of where I start when I think about how I'm trying to do that. I mentioned this earlier, but I shared a framework with our team, as I think about my leadership it starts with, “leading with heart”. It starts there. And that's just the simple idea of being caring, compassionate, inclusive and transparent in what we're trying to do, recognizing that I'm not perfect. None of us are. And so much of what I try to think about from my leadership and what we're doing across the company, I think the culture that we have is let's start there. I mean, even before we get to and like, you know, did you deliver this metric last week or, you know, why did this go wrong? Just start with that, because my experience is, great things happen if you just kind of treat each other with respect and care for each other as humans, even before you start diving into all the things that you can do better. So that's where I start. And then I've got a big focus on teamwork. We describe it as we're one unified team, one Ulta beauty, really focused on working together as a team that does bring different capabilities and skills. But, of course, I mean, it's you know, I'm not the first one to talk about this, but together we're stronger. And that's true across our business. Retail is a complex business to run. And it does require just absolute deep expertise across so many parts from supply chain and how you manage them. And that's harder to manage and move millions of items around the country every day for our IT systems, our marketing approach, our merchandising, our human resources, and in requiring deep expertise across every function in our business but elevated in a way that works together to leverage each other, but then ultimately drive that. And then the other aspect. So heart and then teamwork. And then the third big area for me is that I try to influence through where I'm leading is bold and breakthrough and disruptive and spend part of our history. But any business can't sit still. You can't just say, well, things are working, so let's keep doing it. You always have to be disrupting yourself and driving change and thinking bold and breakthrough. And sometimes it's hard to do because you're so busy. Delivering what you're doing today that it's hard to think of, how can I disrupt myself, how can I do something, you know, really breakthrough? And so we spent a lot of time thinking about that. So those are the three parts: leading with our hearts, acting as a team and then thinking boldly and creatively, this is kind of how I frame it up. And I don't know if it's a brand, but it's certainly how I try to lead and bring my leadership to life.
Rob Johnson [00:24:35] That's very well put, Dave. And I want to kind of take that a step farther right now. We often see you on LinkedIn. And I think that's one area and Eileen referenced it earlier, where you're always shining a light on your colleagues and you just said together we're stronger, giving all the associates at Ulta credit for the work, for their hard work. And Eileen and I have termed it we brand. We had an episode recently about we brand and the me brand. And we talked about you and Tony Hunter from McClatchy Newspapers as being we brand leaders talking about congratulations to this person on our team, that person on our team always, you know, giving the credit elsewhere. And then there's the brand, there's the Richard Branson's or the Mark Cuban's that are very much about them. They're the cult of personality almost. And I don't mean to make that sound bad because they're both very successful businessmen. Was this sort of we brand and that's what we're calling it and you call it something different. Was this based on just the way that your guiding principles in life because you talked about those a little bit, or was it a combination of that with the sector that you're in? Because you said that sort of drives that as well when you're talking about, listen, we really got to focus on our team and the people that are doing great work. And it's not just about me. Is it a combination of the both?
Dave Kimbell [00:25:57] Yeah, maybe it's a combination. I really recognize that there are a lot of things that I can't do or that I'm not an expert at or, you know, I don't have all the answers by any stretch. If I all of a sudden had to go in and operate one of our stores like our amazing teams do every day, I don't think I'd be very good at it. I do have a lot to learn. And so for me, it's a recognition that it's all of us together, whatever your role is in the company. I just have a lot of respect and care for everyone because I know it takes all of us. We have thirteen hundred stores, so there's 1300 store managers across the country and then they're teams that are every day doing amazing things to deliver for our guest. I can't do that or our executive team can't do that. It is about we. it's about all of us coming together. We'll be successful if everybody in the company feels like they've got great opportunity to thrive and to be part of something bigger. And so it comes naturally. And so when I do highlight people in-store visits or anyplace else in the company, I guess I mean it. I mean, I really do mean and I see when I go into a store or into one of our distribution centers or spend time with our corporate teams, I'm not there to find, you know, things that are wrong. Like, This isn't right or why aren't we doing this? I'm there first and foremost to thank them for what they're doing every day, because I know young people are doing their absolute best to deliver a great experience. And I'm there to learn and to learn what we can be doing, how I and the rest of the leadership team can help them be more effective in taking care of their teams and take care of their guest. And so for me, it's I know I don't have all the answers and the best way to get the ideas is to learn from everybody else. And so that's why I do it. That's why I try when I'm in stores to highlight the work of our team. I just really sincerely mean it. And I think it's great to then be able to share, you know, most of what I do, you know, share on LinkedIn and Instagram is meant for Ulta beauty, for our folks. I know other people see it and I'm glad about that. But that's who I'm really talking to, is the ultra beauty team. And they and I think it's great that I'm able to share in a store in Keith, Ohio the great work that's happening. And what in that case, manager Lindsay and Savannah working there, are just doing awesome work. And so I just love to be able to highlight great people whenever I have the chance to.
Eileen Rochford [00:29:07] I just love that you do that so selflessly, that's terrific, really just an outstanding example for other CEOs, in my opinion.
Dave Kimbell [00:29:15] But I know we'll say it's and it's fun. I just it's fun. I mean, I enjoy spending time. because there is you know, I honestly can't think of a time where I've gone in and met with people that I've come out really depressed.
Eileen Rochford [00:29:34] It’s invigorating.
Dave Kimbell [00:29:37] I love it. You know, our team is great and with such a variety of people across the company I learn from all of them.
Eileen Rochford [00:29:46] Oh, that's terrific. Well, you're doing a great job, like I said, I mean, just from my own observation. But I'm curious, something that I hear from CEOs often in my line of work, you know, consulting on things like use of social media, I often hear them express their reluctance to be active out there on social media. And largely it's because they have this perception that it's requiring a lot of time and a large amount of effort. But to me, you know, I've started holding you up as this incredible example to many of them, Dave just so you know, again, fangirl, because you do make it look easy. And one hundred percent authentic, no doubt about that. So I'm curious how you're managing to just fit it in. You have a highly demanding schedule, I can only assume, you know, with the post that you hold. So can you give us a little color on how you do it so that others might learn from you?
Dave Kimbell [00:30:50] Right. Well, I do first I do enjoy it. I think LinkedIn in particular, it's one of the reasons I spend time there is it's a great tool to again, have direct dialog with the team. Without that, I wouldn't be as connected on an individual basis with as many people as I'm able to through that tool. So I think it's great. And so many of the Ulta beauty associates use it. They're always you know, any time I pull that up right now, there'd be more posts about, hey, we had this great event or hired this new person and she's off to a great start or look we just celebrated the fifth year anniversary of this stylist. There are so many things that I just love to see. And and I'm glad to have the opportunity to, at least in a small way, congratulate them, thank them, celebrate what they're doing. And so I think it's a great tool. I love it. I wish I had more time to do it. I don't you know, it's not like I can do it every day and and spend as much because there's a lot on there. So I just I guess I do it as much as I can because I learn a lot. I see ideas, I get ideas, I'm able to recognize the team and I just find ways to fit it into my day. I don't have a lot of help there's some and I can talk about that, but it's most of it I'm doing myself because it's not just again, it's not like I'm trying to create this persona of caring. I wouldn't learn if I wasn't doing it myself and spending time just seeing what people are talking about, celebrating the great things that are happening across the country. And so I just find moments that I can spend even five or ten minutes and congratulate somebody. then I do when I'm out at or there's something cool that happens across, you know, any aspect of our business. I try to highlight all those things so more people can see it and recognize and celebrate those things together, celebrate individuals that are doing cool things and in different aspects. So I don't know if I've got this perfect methodology. I just work it into my cadence. And I don't do it every single day. But I try to get on and do that as frequently as I can. And then I see Instagram as a similar in some ways. But I use that tool because it isn't as business focus to occasionally highlight other things that are going on in my life. Whether I posted something about my family being together on Fourth of July and again in the audience, there still is our team. But, you know, it's just a chance for them to get to know me a little bit better and see what is happening outside of the work I'm doing within Ulta beauty. And so that's important, too, that we get to know each other a little bit. So I see them as a little different, but I try to manage them and spend time when I can. And every time I do it, I know I always learn something.
Rob Johnson [00:34:15] Well, and listen, you have a great partner and your lovely wife, Becky, who's who I've known for almost as long as I've known you and Audra and Dawson. Now your kids are in college now. That's a really good delineation of saying, hey, my professional postings are going to be on LinkedIn and my personal ones are going to be on Instagram because, you know, you do it because you care about them and you love them.Aat the end of the day, people do like the fact that, hey, that guy, you know, he's a human being. He's not some sort of robot. Those things matter.
So you ascended to the top job as CEO of Ulta through the marketing ranks and the prior CEO of Ulta was a marketer as well. This is really fascinating to Eileen and me, because it's not that it doesn't happen. It just doesn't happen that often. So how did this happen for you? I outlined your marketing career early on in this discussion, and it is you've worked at some unbelievable places. How does that translate from being the marketer to, you know, heading up a huge company, a billion dollar company like Ulta?
Dave Kimbell [00:35:25] Well, I guess I'd say all of us marketers think, well, that's perfectly natural. Why would that even be a question? Of course, marketers. Right. So, you know, as I talked to my friends and people I've worked with in marketing. Yeah, there's interest in that. And that opportunity to take the next step. And it's one I'm just grateful to have had. I'd say it probably starts in where I started my marketing career after business school. I was in banking before business school and decided to make a career shift into marketing, even though I didn't know that much about it. But, I was fortunate to have an opportunity at Procter Gamble, which was a great experience. And I learned so much as it's a great training ground and a great company and has added so much to my life and really set me on the path that I'm on today. I actually started there in beauty, not by choice. When you become an intern there, it's not like they gave you hey which one do you want to do they kind of slot you in. And I got slotted into beauty, which was great because beauty is a great category to learn how to connect with consumers because of the emotional connection that it has. So this path started at P&G. At P&G, I was surrounded by just amazing people at all levels, certainly all the way through with leadership. That set a great role model for me that marketing is critical because it's how you connect with consumers and understand consumer behavior. For consumer oriented businesses like Ulta or P&G or Pepsi or so many others, Your success is dependent on your ability to understand how consumers behave, what's important to them, and how you tailor your experience to meet their needs in the moment. And so for me, it wasn't strange or unusual to have marketers grow in their careers to take on broader general management or total business leadership. As that was the norm. It's what I kind of started in and saw. But you're right it isn't typical and does not happen often outside of packaged goods. And so as I moved into other categories, and certainly, it isn't the case all that often or regularly in retail. But what I think we saw here at Ulta and I'm grateful for both for Mary, my predecessor, and for the board in recognizing that the consumer mindset, understanding consumer behavior and the experiences that I had, gave me a platform to then expand into more general management to be able to understand how all the parts fit together, not just what our TV ad is going to be or what, you know, social post we're going to do. Those are critical. I don't want to undersell the importance of that. But beyond that, to see how all the parts fit together in a true general management way, a supply chain and finance and H.R. and I.T. and all legal and all the aspects of our business come together. And so I've just been on a journey to continue to expand, certainly rooted in consumer, but expanding my understanding of the total company operations. And that's been a big focus of mine since then, you know, gradually moving a bit further away from the day to day operations of marketing. We have an awesome team doing great work there to think about the whole company, I think it set me up to step into that role, so starts with the consumer understanding, but then being able to expand into a total general manager mindset is something I've been working on a long time. And I'm grateful that the board saw that in me and had the confidence to give me this opportunity.
Eileen Rochford [00:39:35] Well, to hear you explain it, it makes perfect sense, maybe more marketers need to ascend to the CEO post!
Dave Kimbell [00:39:45] And we're fortunate that there's a board here again, my predecessor, Mary, blazed the trail here at Ulta for me, I hear it all the time. And I think it's common that people say, oh, this marketer, they're just about, you know, pretty ads and, you know, they have to go figure out the next Tic-Toc. And that's critical. So I'm not downplaying the importance of that. But sometimes you get boxed into that and people don't see the ability to connect dots across the organization. And so it's important, you know, when I talk to others in companies where that isn't as known, it's really encouraging them to find ways to make sure you're connected to the operational side of the business, lean into, in our case store operations. Like I said, I didn't grow up running stores, but I've worked hard to try to understand how they work so I can best support them in my role. And and so it's I've been blessed in the fact that I didn't have to fight some of those perceptions because of what we've been thinking here at Ulta. But I know many others, I talked to many other CMO's that are challenged with that perception. And, it takes work to prove and demonstrate that there's more to a marketer than just the marketing. It’s the total business that matters.
Rob Johnson [00:41:16] That's a really great point, because I see not all the time, but on on pretty frequent occasion that the money folks, the financial people in a business are like marketing, they did this or that or they sort of put them in a box and they try to sort of limit what they feel is there their influence. And so, it's nice to see somebody that had that overcome that and be able to be somebody who could understand all parts of the business and was seen by his peers, by the board as somebody who saw that so well done.
Eileen Rochford [00:41:49] That's great advice and inspiration. So, let's stay on that advice topic for just a second. I'm really curious what guidance advice you might have to share with CEOs out there who are struggling with communicating authentically, particularly on social media. And I hear that a lot. So, what might you tell them?
Dave Kimbell [00:42:15] Well, first, I guess I've been CEO since June 2nd, so I hesitate to act as an authority that I can give a lot of advice to CEOs. In fact, I'm spending time trying to learn from so many others across different industries to understand how they are managing the complex world that we're in and help me grow as a leader and understand the unique dynamics of that. But I will say maybe broadly about leadership and how you lead authentically. What I share with my team and other leaders that I know, so much of it is authentic leadership. I think back at Pepsi in leadership development, I got introduced to the theory and the concept of authentic leadership and just really making sure you understand what's most important to you, what your values are, what makes you excited and what you're really good at, but also what you're not so great at or you've got opportunity to improve. And I know there's many areas there. And so I wouldn't profess to be the absolute expert in authentic leadership. There's many that have written books and done that. But that concept, that simple concept of just being true to who you are has served me well, at least. And I've seen it in others that I've worked with. The people that I've worked for that I’ve been most inspired by are those that just, you know, lead authentically, aren't trying to be something, that they're not, trying to, you know, either hide deficiencies or make up commitment or passion or enthusiasm for any aspect of what they're doing. It's hard to do, maybe can do it for a little while, but it's hard to really sustain that over career. And frankly, you know, any time I've been tempted to try that, I found it just doesn't seem to work, at least for me. And it's not all that much fun.So I'd say the advice that I give to any leader at any level is just really take the time to focus, understand where your core values are, what gets you excited, where you can be authentically, legitimately passionate and enthusiastic. And when you have that, so many other good things come along because, you know, often it's not the technical experience of a leader. An IT leader that just knows the technical aspects inside and out of how to operate our point of sale system or something, that is often there,. But it's the less tangible aspects of leadership, the human connection, the authenticity that I think all of us are working on. I know I am, but for me, it's where it all starts. And I encourage other leaders to just make sure they do that.
Rob Johnson [00:45:37] It is good advice, Dave, we talked earlier about bringing in more brands founded by people of color and kind of an offshoot of that, what are you doing on the DEI front at Ulta? Because that is front and center as an issue at so many companies today, not to only speak thoughtfully about it, but to make sure that people from all backgrounds have a seat at the table where the big decisions are being made with what kind of efforts going on there?
Dave Kimbell [00:46:05] Yeah, well, it is critical, as I mentioned earlier, it's something we've been focused on for a long time, but have worked hard in this moment that we're in to ensure that we're doing everything we can, that we're fully leveraging the platform that we have. so what I see it as, you know, the multiple aspects externally creating an experience for our guest that is truly welcoming and inviting and just encouraging for everyone to come in. I talked about this idea that we firmly believe that everybody is beautiful and that starts in our stores. And if somebody were to walk into one of our stores and they didn't feel welcome or they felt like they were being judged somehow, that's not acceptable to me or the rest of the leadership team. And again, we're not perfect. We want to create an environment that everybody, any unconscious bias, any even unintended actions that would create something that would make people feel uncomfortable or not fully welcomed and encouraged to actively take part in everything that Ulta beauty - that is like a absolute firm focus for all of us. And that takes work. It takes effort because we have 40,000 people that work for ULTA, again 1300 stores. So I want my ultimate goal and we're not there and is probably just going to take us continuing to work on it, but have ultimate goal is every single guest interaction. That person that guest walks out feeling just great about that experience, whoever they are, whatever their background is, whatever their experiences are. And so that level of diversity is really important. So externally, we focus on doing that. And then there's things we surround externally and just how we tell the stories, what we bring to life in our marketing and other aspects of the brands we carry that are fully reflective and fully, fully reflective of the world around us and just awesome, diverse voices that influence the beauty category and shape what we're doing. And then internally we just we spend a lot of time making sure, and we pushed even harder on this, to make sure that we're creating an environment, that everyone has an opportunity to grow their careers again, whoever they are, whatever their background. One of the great things about retail is it's a great place to grow your career. We have so many people that came in at an entry level position in one of our stores and have grown up to lead the store, lead a district, lead a region. It's just a great career path for people that love working in a retail environment. And I am committed to making sure that we're making that an opportunity for absolutely everybody and that if there's any barriers in the way that would suggest the opportunity isn't there for certain groups, we're breaking those down. And so, we spend a lot of time as a leadership team. You know, we're fortunate that we do have good representation across the board where we're 93% of our company is women. So, we've got very obviously a very strong representation, you know, predominantly of female employee base, which is great.And then we've got broad diversity of people of color across all aspects and all parts of our business. But we know we can keep driving opportunities for everyone to grow their careers. And it's a big focus for us to make sure that we're doing that every day.
Eileen Rochford [00:49:57] What I like hearing so much is that despite the fact that you're so diverse to begin with, particularly being a dominantly female employee company, you're still striving to do more. And that's just exceptional, really. That's just fantastic.
Dave Kimbell [00:50:18] Thank you for saying that. But we have to I mean, it's a mandate both if I feel it. Our team expects it. If we're going to continue to attract great people, we have to be a great place. It's the right thing to do for the world around us, but it's also the right thing to business. So we're committed to it.
Eileen Rochford [00:50:41] And that's evident, right, that’s the best part - that you really mean it.
Rob Johnson [00:50:46] Hey, Dave, thanks so much for being with us today. Just hearing you talk about Ulta, hearing you talk about your experience, you've opened a lot of eyes and I'm sure that other C-suite folks that are listening to this got some really great advice today.
Dave Kimbell [00:51:02] Well, Thank you, Rob. Thank you Eileen. It's been an absolute pleasure to talk to you and I'm glad to have the opportunity to share a little bit about what we're up to. We're excited about the path ahead for Ulta beauty and just grateful for what our teams are doing every day and look forward to continuing to drive even more change in the world around us.
Rob Johnson [00:51:23] Continued success! So that will do it for another edition of Can You Hear Me? A special thanks to Dave Kimbell from Ulta Beauty for being our guest today and to you all for listening. I'm Rob Johnson with Rob Johnson Communications.
Eileen Rochford [00:52:08] And I'm Eileen Rochford of The Harbinger Group. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Can You Hear Me? We hope that you'll join us next time you can listen to us anywhere you get your podcasts, Apple, Spotify, Google podcasts and more.