In this new career series presented by Thread Hunters, Country Road digital manager, Paul Conti reveals why "done is better than perfect" in retail.
How did you get your start in the industry?
The short answer is, by accident.
I’d been working in store at Country Road for a few years while studying, when I took a role managing internal store comms and customer service on social media.
When the brand decided to start advertising on social, we did the one thing you’re not meant to do – and gave me, the young kid who understood how hashtags work, the keys to our social accounts.
Thankfully it worked out. I had a great team around me, and we used a 6-month trial to prove the incremental value that social could offer to the business.
Since then I’ve grown with Country Road, which was a single brand when I started and is now a group of five iconic Australian retailers, alongside our sister brand, David Jones.
It’s given me the opportunity to continually learn and expand my role, which is why I’m still at Country Road 15 years later and loving what I do.
What does your day-to-day look like?
These days I have a pretty broad portfolio that keeps my day-to-day varied.
My role covers Country Road’s digital marketing channels, website optimisation, our rewards program, insights and strategic new initiatives for the brand, which means I’m always working on something new and exciting.
I also manage a small team, so making sure they’re supported and doing my best to give them the same opportunities to learn and grow that I’ve been afforded throughout my career is a key focus every day.
What is one piece of business advice you’ve been given that sticks with you today?
I’ve been given great advice over the years, from some very talented people — but for some reason a poster I saw during a tour of Facebook’s Menlo Park campus has always stuck with me.
“Done is better than perfect.”
As a perfectionist in an incredibly fast-paced industry, I sometimes need to remind myself not to let perfect be the enemy of great.
What are the challenges in your role and how do you overcome them?
Retail is a fast-paced, competitive game at the best of times.
Add to that a constantly evolving digital landscape and the occasional curveball – like a global pandemic – and my role can quickly become a thunderstorm of competing projects and ideas.
The simple answer is prioritisation.
It can be very easy to slip into a toxic cycle of late nights and early mornings, trying to do everything on your list instead of focusing on whatever will make the biggest impact to the business — which is a mistake I’ve made once before.
Caretaking three roles during a transition period, I ran myself into the ground and needed a month off work to recover from shingles, vertigo and bell’s palsy. That was a valuable lesson.
What project stands out as a highlight in your career?
Last year I was given the opportunity to lead a project that saw Country Road exit all Myer locations nationally, with an imperative to transfer customers to our own sales channels and cover lost sales from those who didn’t.
It was an incredibly complex and ambitious project — and I was about 80% sure I’d end up fired.
But in the end it was an incredibly valuable experience that allowed me to step outside of my comfort zone, develop a new set of skills and continue to advance my career.
What were the biggest challenges in the early days of your career?
I grew up with digital, and I think it took longer that it should for businesses to recognise the scope of its potential and value.
Too often it was treated as a side project, rather than a key pillar of a comprehensive marketing and customer approach.
In the early days it took numerous lift tests, studies and proof points to get those messages across internally — particularly that digital drives an even greater return in store than it does online — and lots, and lots of repetition to land them.