MD of Kaizen Suite, Sara Di Carlo

Name:

Sara Di Carlo

Role:

Managing Director

Company:

The Kaisen Suite

Website:

www.thekaizensuite.com

Time with the company:

3 years

Please introduce yourself & your company

My name is Sara Di Carlo and I’m the founder of The Kaizen Suite.

I help business owners and leaders get un-stuck! Be that in the ideas stage of a start-up or the transition phase of an established business. I help those afraid of implementing change, or just don’t have the confidence to take big action. I move them to thinking big, get them crystal-clear on their vision and align it to their purpose and goals to drive phenomenal growth.

What is your morning routine?

Dare I say it…I wake at 5am!! I consume 2 shots of espresso, meditate and write in my gratitude journal. I then plan the priorities of the day, hit the Peloton, then onto my favourite toy… my Technogym bench. I’m obsessed with it! All by 7am.

Wake the kids, have breakfast with them, then our nanny takes them to school and I start my work day – but not before another shot of espresso 

I never used to be a morning person, but now I LOVE a morning routine, and for someone that maximises every hour, it works for me to front-load my day and have the time to focus on my “me” time, whilst the rest of the house sleeps.

What was your journey that led to your current role?

During my early years I started on the floor and worked my way up. My first Store Management role was at DKNY in Birmingham; I was 21 years old! Never did I feel such a great sense of responsibility to my clients, team and company as I did within this role. I put a lot of pressure on myself because of my young age. I didn’t want to fail, but in fact I did the opposite; we had our biggest years when I took over the leadership of the store. I guess I didn’t know what Imposter Syndrome was at that age. I then went on to Nike, returning to LVMH for a second time for the opening of Louis Vuitton in Birmingham.

Again, I was the youngest Store Manager globally for Louis Vuitton!! But the difference this time was my proven experience as a leader. I had a great team, in fact, they have all gone on to do wonderful things, including one who I brought with me from Nike; he went on to be the VP of Visual Merchandising at Louis Vuitton. LV asked me to move to London to lead, firstly, their Sloane Sq store and then their Selfridges space, and 17 years later I’m still here working in London. I would go on to work for Dunhill for 5 years, working with Kim Jones who I believed then and now is one of the most talented (and nicest) designers of our generation.

I also worked in Burberry with one of the most inspirational leaders I’ve had the pleasure to work for. In Burberry, there was Christopher Bailey and Angela Ahrendts, and then there was also Sara Di Carlo & Riccardo Persona we were such a great partnership. I learnt so much from him, and with the team, we just created HUGE levels of success in all areas of the Global Flagship on Regent St and we had fun along the way. Latterly, I returned back to LVMH for the 3rd time and became the Retail Manager for Celine, looking after the Northern European stores. I was based in the design studio, so witnessing the design process and catching a glimpse of the new collection was the greatest gift I could ask for.

Celine was a wonderful experience and Phoebe Philo is an incredible talent. There’s no compromise in anything she does, from store design to product development. She was the true architect of the movement of women dressing for themselves, and created an empowering uniform for us as females and it is with gratitude I got to be a part of that era.

I left at the end of 2018 shortly after my third daughter was born. It was an incredible year of personal growth. I did an MBA, Prince 2 practitioner qualification and speech writing course. I even learnt to drive; many goals were checked off my list in 2019!!

Along the way I was asked to do some consulting and The Kaizen Suite was born. It is a management consultancy and advisory business, created completely by accident and it has served me well. I have learnt so much during the last 3.5 years, including being open to adapting your services and always looking to identify needs and trends within the market. Don’t be scared to go out on your own. Think of it as an experiment; what’s the worst that can happen? Perhaps not making it happens, and then wondering “what if” was your worst-case scenario.

What is your main responsibility?

I’ve been incredibly fortunate to not have to market myself, as my clients found me through referrals. So, there is already a trust built. The majority of my work is spent meeting with business owners to understand what their pain points are, and then I work with them to navigate through these areas to drive improvement and growth. My business name “Kaizen” is a Japanese business philosophy for continuous improvement, personal efficiency etc. It’s quite fitting for what I do, especially now as the need from my clients have recently shifted to Business Coaching.

What’s the worst part of your job?

NDA’s, I think other management consultants can relate to this!! I do miss being part of a larger team and speaking to clients on the shop floor too. You can learn so much about your business from a 10-minute chat with a client. Being a retailer, some things never leave you. Being a business owner can be quite lonely for someone that loves people!

What is / are your most memorable work moment?

I have so many!! From meeting Marc Jacob in a lift at our LV HQ in Paris, to giving roles to candidates that other companies wrote off for zero experience that went on to become our best employees. From going to the LV and Celine runways shows, to visiting the workshops where the products are produced and observing the artisans with so much pride painting the seams or packing the product into boxes. I won LVMH Leader of The Year the same year I had set up 2 homes for terminally ill refugee children living in Turkey, so they didn’t have to live in camps. Memorable work extends beyond my day job to my wider purposes and passions.

What advice would you give to anyone interested in the same profession?

Firstly, (and I say this with love) there are many people who work in retail that say they want to “get out of retail” and I encourage them wholeheartedly to do that. Because I want them to be happy and attach a purpose to their professional life as well as their personal life, and let’s face it, if you don’t want to be there, your customers and colleagues know it before you do.

Secondly, retail needs to continue to be a place for great people who are happy to serve, who go above and beyond and who wake up every day looking forward to selling, who are invested in learning the 360 of their business and a passion for the product. We can’t afford in this industry to have a few unhappy people mis-represent the great work of other sales professionals.

In an age where we are perceived to be competing against e-commerce, what makes a customer return to bricks and mortar is YOU and that also means following up when you promise to do so.

I love an employee that loves their job. Often, they have a side-hustle or purpose, and I believe that keeps them creative, happy, focused and that the 2 can co-exist. Know you CAN do everything; it doesn’t have to be either/or.

Retail is a rewarding career. It’s not for everyone, but if you are open, curious and on-board with the changing face of retail you will have a great career. No matter how many successes I had there were also bumps in the road. You have to remain pragmatic, steadfast and learn from your experiences. Be patient! I see so many employees in a rush to get somewhere, chasing a title or salary and the end results are knowledge/ skill gaps! Really master your role to move successfully on to the next one.

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A few words about the article author

Dwayne Ferguson is the director of Digital360.mobi and head of Digital at Outside The Box Recruitment.

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