Multi-tasking is a myth. Concentrate on one thing at a time so you don’t miss important details. Being present is important. If you’re with your kids, be present with them and enjoy that quality time. If you’re in a business meeting, be present there and stop checking your social media accounts. You can excel in ALL areas of your life as long as you are able to put the right energy, at the right time, into each of them.
As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kalina Gendel, Chief Operating Officer at The Gendel Girls, the family behind Breezies, one of QVC’s most successful intimates brands. In her role, Kalina oversees everyday operations, quality control, and overall business strategy. While her focus is on fashion and sales, her true passion lies in analytics and logistics.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I started college, I was determined to venture out on a new path and pursue accounting. After graduation, I realized I couldn’t fight what was ingrained in my DNA and passed down in my blood: fashion, sales, and marketing. My career CHOSE me.
Once I immersed myself in this crazy world of bras, panties, and TV, I finally felt at home. I embraced my strengths and realized I was handed down incredible assets from my mother/boss to help guide me on my career path.
It is incredible to work with a team of entrepreneurs each day where we can see the impact our changes make on pleasing our customers. Making our customers happy is our number one goal; when she is happy, everyone benefits.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since working at Gendel Girls?
I have yet to find another person who works with their parents, siblings, AND ex-husband…
My boss called me one day and told me she was going to hire my ex-husband. For the first time in my life, I was speechless. How could she do this to me? How could she tell me this and expect me not to bat an eye? I hung up, paused and really thought about it. My ex called me a few minutes later and asked me what I thought about the proposition. I was obviously hesitant, but also knew he had the right knowledge to head the new project we were trying to get off the ground. While this situation isn’t “normal” for most people, neither is working for my mother, alongside my sisters, in the family business. People have called me everything from brave to crazy for agreeing to work alongside my ex-husband without putting up a fight. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t all about me. It was about what was right for the business, and what was best for my boss/mom. I had to take myself and our personal relationship out of the equation.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We are a family business — one of the few families who sell together on-air on QVC. When my mother first brought me into the business, it was something that hadn’t been done before. But she saw the need to bring on the next generation, and to continue evolving her business by injecting a youthful perspective. Now it is my mother and her three daughters, and we all have our own areas of concentration in the business. Our brainstorming sessions are candid and cover a lot of ground with four distinct and different personalities.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are always working on the next best thing. Our primary focus is keeping our customers happy, and we’d go to the ends of the earth to do so. We have an amazing new t-shirt bra coming in May, and so many other new styles we are perfecting for later this fall and winter.
What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?
The best thing you can do is support others on your team and in your industry as a whole. Nothing grows as a single entity in a vacuum. Supporting others and their successes is imperative for your growth as well. Putting out negative energy and highlighting others’ failures only leads to bad karma, in my opinion. Good energy comes back to those who give it freely.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a team?
Working with my mom and two sisters can be challenging just as much as it is rewarding. We all have strong personalities and competitive spirits, but our shared focus has always been our customer. We have been able to pinpoint our different strengths; this gives us the ability to get the very best out of everyone. Our shared mission is what unifies us and our distinct areas where we excel help to make our team well-rounded and unstoppable. Open communication is key, delegating gives others purpose, and managing expectations allows humans to be human.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am grateful for my mother every minute of the day. She has always pushed me to be the best version of myself, and she continues to show me and my sisters how important it is to challenge yourself on an ongoing basis. We must strive to learn, grow, and evolve to achieve success.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
All of the Gendel Girls understand it is not only our right to give back to society, but it is our obligation to help wherever and whenever we can. Whether it is gathering toys and donations for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia/CHOP, raising awareness for epilepsy and autism, or volunteering at our local homeless shelter, we know that giving back to society is not only gratuitous, but mandatory for society progression.
What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Try to think of challenges more like opportunities. There are times when I’ve felt ridiculously overwhelmed, but each challenge I’ve overcome has become another building block in my foundation. Every single victory in my career has come from a series of setbacks. I’ve come to learn that setbacks frequently make up a good portion of getting to the end destination, and THAT IS OK. Embrace the discomfort and use it as a learning experience.
- Multi-tasking is a myth. Concentrate on one thing at a time so you don’t miss important details. Being present is important. If you’re with your kids, be present with them and enjoy that quality time. If you’re in a business meeting, be present there and stop checking your social media accounts. You can excel in ALL areas of your life as long as you are able to put the right energy, at the right time, into each of them.
- Keep moving forward. It sounds simple and obvious, but we have all gotten stuck in a rut at some point in our lives. But don’t stay stuck. What happened yesterday is now in the past, and it is there to learn from. You have today and tomorrow to make each moment its very best. When I feel like giving up, I think about the story of the phoenix. The phoenix rises from the ashes; it is said to be reborn after igniting into flames. Renewal of spirit, mindset, and energy are all possible when you commit to yourself. The only person who needs to love you is you, you need to replace self-loathing with learning and discovering.
- Write down your goals. The most important thing I have done in my life and encourage other people to do is make goals: 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, etc. I write them down and make checklists of anything I can do to achieve each goal. It may sound crazy to write down a goal you have for yourself 10 years from now, but writing it down is the first step to actualizing it.
- It is ok not to be a ‘yes man.’ Companies, industries, and civilizations don’t evolve or grow with complacency or staying stagnant. Challenging others is a way to keep the momentum moving forward, make changes happen and propel us into the future. The greatest events in history and in businesses never came from a constant state of ‘status quo.’
You are a person of great 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. 🙂
As a family and as a business, we have multiple organizations we support: autism awareness, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the epilepsy foundation, breast cancer awareness, and local homeless shelters. With that said, there are organizations and foundations all over the world in need of donations, volunteers, and other types of support. We all have something we can give, whether it’s time, money, supplies, labor, etc. It is our obligation to give back and to serve our communities in some way. Everyone needs to find a way to give back. In order to bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I’d inspire a movement to encourage every capable individual on this planet to find one or more ways to help others. If we all contribute in some way to help those in need, we will collectively improve the world we live in.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
True happiness is living in the now, not regretting yesterday or wishing for tomorrow. It’s taken me a long time to realize I have everything I need. I used to concentrate on what I wanted, not on what I had. I now take the time each day to look around, appreciate the people who surround me, and find pleasure in the small things. Hearing my kids’ voices, enjoying a good cup of coffee, smelling a really good candle inspires complete euphoria.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I’d love to grab coffee with Tiger Woods. He has faced incredible adversity very publicly, but did not play the victim in his mistakes nor did he stagnate in negativity. Tiger slowly built himself back up, yet didn’t make a show or a spectacle of his quest to improve. He remained out of the public eye, working on himself and itching for that comeback. And he did it. He came back not only proving himself to the world as an unstoppable force, but more importantly, he proved it to himself.