Embrace fear rather than allow it to paralyze you. There’s a quote in Dune that says, “Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.” How much more all of us could accomplish if we abandoned fear.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Frank Hamlin, Executive Vice President and Chief Customer Officer for GameStop. He was appointed to this position in June of 2019. As CCO, Frank is responsible for defining and driving the company’s overall customer-centric initiatives as it relates to Marketing, customer loyalty, the omnichannel business, strategy and innovation. He previously served as GameStop’s Chief Marketing Officer, where he oversaw all aspects of strategic marketing, as well as leading cross-functional teams in delivering consumer- and brand-centric strategies, pursuing new business opportunities, and driving new customer acquisitions and brand affinity programs to help make video game culture come to life in every neighborhood. Frank brings more than 25 years in retail marketing, strategy, customer loyalty and e-commerce expertise to GameStop. Frank returned to GameStop in 2018, after having served as CMO from 2014 to 2016. In the interim, he was Executive Vice President and CMO for Tailored Brands, the parent of Men’s Wearhouse, Jos. A Bank, and Joseph Abboud, among others. Frank is an avid music hobbyist, and presently serves on the Board of Directors of Tuesday Morning, a public upscale retailer that specializes in name-brand closeout merchandise.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My whole life, I’ve been trying to reconcile my right brain with my left brain. Even from a young age, I very much enjoyed studio art. Interestingly, however, I excelled in math and science — far and away my best subjects. I went to college to be an architect, thinking that was the perfect marriage of art and science. Through a prerequisite intro to the arts class that was required for my architecture degree, I found my way into music. On a whim, I changed paths and declared a music composition major. Upon graduating with one of the most liberal of the liberal arts, I entered the world to discover that digital and database marketing are also the perfect marriage of art and science, and thus a compelling fit for me. I’m a big believer in serendipity and letting things come to you, and I just followed the path as it presented itself, rather than setting a goal and attempting to achieve it.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
GameStop has undergone a tremendous amount of change. Recently, our twenty-year-veteran former CFO, Rob Lloyd retired. Rob has a heart of gold and really became a key part of GameStop’s desire to contribute heavily to relevant causes. Upon retiring, Rob asked me to take on his role in championing for Make-A-Wish. Humbled by this meaningful turn of events, I’m excited to carry the flame that Rob lit.
Can you share a mistake or lesson you learned when you were first starting out in your career?
My first real job out of college was in the record business in Nashville, Tenn., working for Arista Records — the label that launched the careers of Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, and Brad Paisley to name a few. Early on, the biggest mistake I made was assuming the world owed me something rather than I needed to contribute to the world. Our label head, to this day one of the greatest mentors I’ve ever had in business, told me to “let things come to you and then you’ll get your seat at the table.” Based on his advice, I was surprised when I was accepted into Harvard Business School, and ever since that moment have been following my heart instead of my head.
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
Nearly four years ago, GameStop made a commitment to use the power of gaming for good. We wanted to increase our charitable impact on our communities by raising $20 million by 2020. Since then, we have logged a number of volunteer hours and launched several in-store campaigns supporting autism-related organizations, Make-A-Wish America, Children’s Miracle Network and our own employee assistance charity fund. Our latest “Give Back to the Brave” campaign in support of veterans-related organizations pushed us beyond our fundraising goal. GameStop exceeded $20 million in donations four months ahead of our 2020 goal. This achievement was made possible by our associates’ dedication to passionately give back to the community and those in need.
Can you tell me a story about these efforts that stands out to you?
It makes me smile to know that every year, hundreds of Make-A-Wish children enter our stores nationwide and are greeted by passionate store associates ready to help make their wishes come true. Since 2007, GameStop has been a go-to place for wish kids who love gaming. We help grant epic gaming wishes every day, giving kids renewed strength and confidence to fight harder against their illnesses, and honestly, giving them a moment of pure joy where they are not defined by their illnesses. That’s powerful!
Are there three things the society can do help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Through the GameStop program, Wish Power, we are taking our wish-granting efforts to the next level by ensuring even more Make-A-Wish children receive epic gaming wishes. There are an estimated 27,000 children who may be eligible for a wish each year. Unfortunately, Make-A-Wish is currently only able to grant half of these. The good news is that customer donations can close this gap. Every donation helps create life-changing wishes and helps Make-A-Wish get closer to fulfilling wishes for all eligible children. Anyone can be a hero for these fearless kids by donating: during checkout in-store, in the PowerUp Rewards Center, or by donating during charity streams in support of Make-A-Wish.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Listen, listen, and listen some more. To your employees, to your peers, to your bosses, to your customers, to your vendors and to all other stakeholders. Reflect. Look for moments of inspiration. Then, mix that cocktail of listening, reflection, and inspiration to set a vision and pursue that vision with the utmost of passion. But it all starts with listening.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Embrace fear rather than allow it to paralyze you. There’s a quote in Dune that says, “Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.” How much more all of us could accomplish if we abandoned fear.
- The emperor has no clothes. My first semester of business school, I was a complete wallflower — a type B music major surrounded by a bunch of type A investment bankers and management consultants. A wise professor of mine who taught quantitative decision-making told me to go re-read my Hans Christian Andersen. He was right, the Emperor is truly naked.
- The less I think about me the happier I am. Giving is the greatest gift.
- Life is a journey, not a destination. Goal setting is important, but things happen that are outside of your control. Having the serenity to accept those things is as important if not more important than having the courage to change the things for which you have the power to change. The wisdom in telling the difference is the hardest part.
- The common element in all of your dysfunctional relationships is you. Start with the person in the mirror.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Realization that the problem with the world is trying to reconcile the individual with the group. Everybody wants peace, but nobody wants to surrender. I heard a podcast where Michael Lewis’ son told him, “don’t choose sides unless it’s my side.” That’s the problem with the world. I don’t know how you reconcile the individual with the group, but database marketing has taught me that averages are evil, and stereotyping customers is not nearly as profitable as understanding each consumer as an individual.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My dad is a complete character and the hero of my life. From a young age, he always told me, “Son, you’re your own damn fault.” As a child, I thought it was harsh. As a teenager I resented it beyond belief. As an adult, I realize he’s 100% right. Self-awareness is the key that unlocks the ability to self-actualize.
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This was very meaningful, thank you so much!