Why you need to ‘learn, unlearn, and relearn’: Erica Berchtold, The Iconic


Inside Retail: You’ve worked for a few big businesses, what have been some of the key leadership lessons you’ve picked up over the course of your career? Erica Berchtold: It’s funny, there’s personal attributes that I like to live by, and demonstrate and lead by example. Things like humility, curiosity, courage and resilience, and also always being open to learning. There’s that quote, ‘the illiterate of the 21st century won’t be those that can’t r

t read or write, but can’t learn, unlearn and relearn’.

Part of the reason why I came to The Iconic was to do exactly that. I’d worked in bricks-and-mortar for over 20 years, and what I wanted to do was to unlearn and relearn about what retail is for pureplays.

An old boss of mine, Peter Birtles, had a big impact as well. I remember once we were thinking about whether we should be part of a member association or something, and we were tossing up whether it was worth spending the money, and he told me, ‘Erica, as you get bigger, you should make sure you give back more – to the industry, and the category that you play in’. And I thought that’s a really good way to be, to have a sense of humility and generosity in your spirit, and try to give back.

IR: Where do you go for career advice?

EB: When you know me you realise I do love to sit down and have a good chat, so I’ve got a handful of people. That might be my ex-bosses, I recently had a chat with Katie Page from Harvey Norman, and Peter Birtles that I just mentioned.

But it can be anyone. In my travels, I meet people in my local area who can be really helpful to me as well. One of those people is a lady called Bobbie Mahlab, who founded something called Mentor Walks – she lives in my area, we ran into one another, and she has a great mentor and support network. She then introduced me to Naomi Simpson, who created Red Balloon, and those two have now convinced me to join Chief Executive Women, so now I’ll be doing that, and I think that will be a really rewarding and supportive professional network for me as well.

So, for me it’s less about having one person who you go to for advice. You can learn things from all manner of people that you meet, and sometimes it’s the least obvious people that can give you the best advice.

IR: As a CEO you have to be across a lot of things: Do you have any work hacks or routines you use to get things done?

EB: I do make time on a Friday to respond to emails and follow up on meetings, and my aim is that at the end of the day my inbox will be zero. But I try to never have more than 20 or 30 emails in my inbox at once, I try to stay on top of that. People once taught me to get my thoughts out of my head and document them, so I use Tasks in my calendar to keep my thoughts in check.

But I’m open to suggestions, if anyone has anything clever to share with me?

IR: Do you have any hobbies or anything that you do outside of work to help you unwind, and to keep focused while you do work?

EB: I do like going to the gym, or running or walking. Mental fitness is very linked to physical fitness, and you really need to take care of both, and so a few things I like doing outside of work tend to be physical, but they actually help out mentally a lot.

In saying that, I love binge watching TV shows. I never get to watch shows at regular times, but sometimes I just need my brain to switch off and not have to always be on. One of my latest TV series is ‘Only Murders in the Building’, with Martin Short and Steve Martin, and it’s hilarious. I never thought I would become a Selena Gomez fan at this point of my life, but she’s in it, and she’s great. It’s so ridiculous, but it’s so good to escape and have a bit of fun.

It’s harder for me to read at the moment, because I have two young kids and I’m often so tired, but I do try to listen to podcasts and things as well. I tend to listen to business-y podcasts, there’s one by Alan Alda called Clear+Vivid which is amazing and thought provoking, and then there’s my lighthearted, totally ridiculous stuff. You’ve got to give your brain some relief every now and again, you can’t always be trying to educate yourself.

It’s okay to have a bit of a laugh and have some fun.


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