Angela Ahrendts on transitioning to Apple

Angela Ahrendts on transitioning to Apple

Apple's new senior vice president of online and retail stores, Angela Ahrendts has a huge task ahead of her. Apple has built an amazing, industry-leading shopping experience, but what doesn't evolve inevitably fades away. There are new markets to open, including China, new products in the pipeline, including rumors of larger iPhone 6 and iWatch on the horizon, and new initiatives to further surprise and delight customers. Before she can tackle the future, however, Ahrendts has to handle the present day transition. So, how's she doing that? Here's what she had to say on LinkedIn:

I am by no means an expert at these transitions, but I've always tried to be consistent in how I run, exit and begin in a new business. I thought I would share a few professional and personal insights which are helping me adapt to a new sector, culture and country. (Silicon Valley can feel like a country unto itself!) [...] So remember, first impressions are truly lasting and if you want to overthink anything, overthink how others are perceiving you and your leadership. Are they quickly lining up to follow you? This could single-handedly determine the speed of your assimilation and the company's success.

The advice between the [...] is pretty damn good too, so read all of it. I transitioned from product marketing to media and it was quite the adjustment. Ahrendts is transitioning to one of the biggest roles on the planet, but it looks like she's more than well equipped to handle it with savvy and grace.

What are you most looking forward to in the new era of Apple online and retail stores?

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Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Angela Ahrendts on transitioning to Apple


I'm eager to hear impressions of Ahrendts as time goes on. Retail is an important part of Apple's success and isn't easy to build a good relationship with retail employees.

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Well, while we're here, let's go a bit deeper. This is near and dear to my heart. Angela's LinkedIn post addresses what was rumored to be John Browett's shortfall: assimilation. She is making it clear that her goal is to get people to relate to her and accept her while "staying in her lane" and not taking on incredible amounts of change just because she can. This is quite a bit different than Browett's strategy of hack and slash to fit Apple Retail to fit his ideas.

Aside from Tim Cook's position I don't think there is any harder job at an executive level than leading retail. Think about it: you have to run an organization unto itself that is the front-line experience for your customers but you don't get a direct say in hiring, firing, or experience. All of this is done on smaller levels than you could even hope to control. You can only create rules, goals, and attempt to establish a culture.

That is where most retail organizations fail. Lets be honest: your average retail employee is not the most highly educated or experienced individual. If the hiring process is working right you'll mostly have a set of emotionally intelligent, hard working people - but that is the most you can hope for. Quite frankly you're not going to be paying enough to get more than that. We've all had poor retail experiences and we know that often times it is hard to even hit THAT bar. The culture has to encourage those employees to not turn on your company and your customers.

It is a lot easier than some people would ever guess to hate who you work for, hate the customers as a result, and still be successful in your job. All an employee has to do is hit a goal and they will be continue to be employed. That is the easy part of keeping a job. Making a good environment where people actually respect what they do is something else entirely.

As head of retail you need to be emotionally sensitive and strict, flexible but demanding, and communicative towards a shared goal. If the people rungs below her don't feel she and Apple are their side she and Apple lose. Then she has to run the business, too.

Angela Ahrendts' advantage is that by all accounts Apple has a culture of pride that she can try and disseminate down to the employees in her end of the business. Not everyone will pick up on it, but hopefully most will. Her challenge is to grow and change the business as she believes it should be done without creating a culture of fear, exclusion, and goal hitting. The only goal in an Apple store should be the experience - and she should share in it with the people under her.