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Opus faculty Patricia Hedberg shares her insights with Twin Cities Business podcast host Allison Kaplan

Leading a Business Through Turmoil

By Patricia Hedberg, Faculty Director of the Executive and Health MBA programs at the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business

Leading through turmoil is challenging. Just ask Claire Powell, who resuscitated a century-old leather goods brand based in St. Paul. As CEO and leader, Claire understood the risks and the possibility of failure in turning the company around. 

How do you prepare yourself to step into a challenging leadership role? The first step is to think strategically. Take the time to step up and think about your role, the business model, and how you can implement changes. Over the last year, Claire has made a lot of difficult decisions. “I’ve tried to always be honest, as kind as I can, as supportive as I can, but not hide anything.” 

J.W. Hulme was enjoying national media buzz around its history of U.S. manufacturing, but unfortunately that hype wasn't adding up to profits. Unable to succeed as a vertically integrated manufacturer, Claire found herself in the challenging position of changing the business model. “We ended up having to make a really difficult decision,” she says. “Are we a manufacturer? Are we a retailer? Are we a brand? Who are we? Ultimately, a business has to sustain itself. It was really a fork in the road moment.” 

Being transparent and listening to people shows them you’re human. When you lead through turmoil, practice self-care to be your best self for others. Not everything may work out as you hope. Failure is a beautiful moment for learning. The idea is that by taking risks, you learn a lot about yourself and how to do it better the next time.

Interested in hearing Claire's story on being an effective leader? Check out the full episode on the “By All Means” podcast with host Allison Kaplan.