“The most successful leaders are ones who’ve been in the trenches” with Ashley Richardson and Fotis Georgiadis

Lead by example — If you want your team to buy-in, you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. The most successful leaders are ones who’ve been in the trenches and understand the value of getting their hands dirty and your team will respect you that much more if you do it, don’t […]

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Lead by example — If you want your team to buy-in, you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. The most successful leaders are ones who’ve been in the trenches and understand the value of getting their hands dirty and your team will respect you that much more if you do it, don’t just say it.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashley Richardson, Chief Operating Officer for Laguna Hills, California-based LOCATE Inventory. LOCATE Inventory launched in early 2017 and Richardson joined the company in May 2018. The company developed a cloud-based inventory and order-management software platform that has proven ideal for small-to-medium sized businesses in the warehouse and e-commerce sectors. LOCATE’s flexibility allows its clients to grow their business without having to trade in their accounting software for a more-costly ERP system. LOCATE was named one of QuickBooks’ Top 10 apps of 2017. Richardson’s knowledge of the ins and outs of selling and marketing an integral piece of software like a restaurant point-of-sale or warehouse/workflow management system have allowed her to bring that value to help design the go-to-market strategy for LOCATE. Richardson’s role is far more dynamic than simply overseeing the company’s day-to-day operations. Her passion for white-glove service, support and problem-solving is a key reason that LOCATE is on track toward profitability. Richardson joined LOCATE after spending eight years (2011–18) with SDCR Business Systems, the world’s largest Aloha Point-of-Sale reseller. Richardson started as a hospitality sales rep and earned a place on NCR’s prestigious President’s Club in each of her first four years. In 2014, she was promoted to director of sales. In that role, she helped SDCR increase its overall sales by more than eight percent, year-over-year. In 2017, SDCR went thru a change in ownership and a year later, Richardson stepped down from her post. She joined LOCATE shortly thereafter. A native of San Diego, California, Richardson was a Dean’s List and President’s List student at Long Beach State University where she was also an All-America, team captain and a four-year starter on the Lady 49ers water polo team. She graduated from LBSU with a degree in communications studies and a master’s in sports management. Richardson, who was a member of the USA’s Youth Team in 1999 and an alternate on the USA’s Junior Team in 2001, continued her water polo career after college. From 2006–08, she played professionally for the Queensland Breakers of the Australian National League. Richardson began her management career in “The Land Down Under,” operating a facility management business (Flash Aquatic Management). It provided the management for an aquatic center in Brisbane, where she owned and operated the Make-a-Splash Swim School from 2009–10. Richardson returned to the States in 2010. Richardson is married to John Deppe. She has a son, Jackson.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It’s really about taking a chance. A friend of mine came to me and said that there was a guy who was running a business who could really use my help, but she wasn’t exactly sure what he did. I kind of laughed and she said maybe you can go have breakfast or lunch with him, so I did, and it turned out that the guy she was talking about was George Keliher, the CEO of our company, LOCATE Inventory. I ended up taking her up on the offer to meet him because you never know what something like that can lead to, so we ended up meeting and he told me about the company and his great team. Eventually after we talked for a while, I finally asked him to give me his elevator pitch and he didn’t have one and it took me back a bit. One thing my father always taught me was to make sure I always had an elevator pitch, because if you ever had 30 seconds with someone, you have to make sure you know what your company brings as far as value to that person, and you just never know where that might go. Anyways when George didn’t have that elevator pitch, I kind of joked and said that if you don’t know how I can help you, then maybe I can help you with your elevator pitch. In all seriousness though, I think the lesson here is that you really just need to take those chances and meetings when you get them because you really never know where they can lead you. Here in this case, George didn’t have his elevator pitch and he wasn’t exactly sure what he was looking for, and I didn’t know anything about inventory management, but now I look back and I’m the COO for a large inventory-management software company, and it’s all because I took a chance.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

We are still very much a startup company. We have 15 full-time employees and we’re very cost-conscious when it comes to our bottom line. But about mid-way through 2018, I knew we needed to take some chances for our company to grow, so we committed some of our resources to partner up with a marketing company to grow our SEO and try to help raise awareness for LOCATE and what exactly it is that we do. We ended up signing a six-month contract with a marketing company down in San Diego, but it quickly went sour as there were repeated mistakes and mis-steps along the way. I was growing frustrated with the lack of attention to detail, so ultimately, we ended up agreeing to mutually part ways. There was a silver lining with that partnership, however, as they had brought on a public relations expert who had previously worked in the NFL. He did some really good work and was getting some very well-placed stories for us, which we were very happy about. So as the one relationship was going sour, we reached out separately and asked the PR contact if he would be interested in continuing to work with us on his own, and he agreed, and we were very happy that he did. With his help, we’ve been featured several times in one of the top business journals in Southern California, and recently we were profiled on the largest website in the agricultural industry as part of a recent partnership with Scale-Tec, so all of that has been very positive for the company.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

LOCATE is definitely a ‘family business.’ We have a set of identical twin brothers who work for us, along with their older brother, and two of their wives, so there is a lot of family here. The funniest mistake I made when I first started was getting them all mixed up, especially the twins, who really are just about identical. They all realized this and we have a glass coffee table in the middle of our office, so one day, they sat me down and grabbed a handful of white-board markers and drew out almost like a family tree, or more like a web, of how everyone came together and how everyone knew each other in the company right there on the glass table. It was just kind of funny because I was new and trying to figure out how everyone knew everyone, and how everyone was connected, so I learned about LOCATE’s seven degrees of separation on our coffee table with a bunch of white board markers. And of course, now we’re all like one big giant happy family.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We have a really young and talented team, our median age is probably in the early 30s, and the fact that we created a cloud-based, value-add, mid-market light ERP system for the inventory space in less than three years, and that we now have close to 1,000 licensed users is what makes us stand out. While we may be young, we have some of the best of the best young minds working in our building. And even with that youth, a great thing about our company too is that we all share a moral compass that points in the same direction. We all agree that our customers always come first and that too has helped make us stand out.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

As a matter of fact, we are. Right now, we’re working on breaking into the international market with a LOCATE model that can be used in countries around the globe. We’re going to be starting with the UK, and then we’re going to move into Australia and New Zealand, and we’ll also be developing a model for Canada as well. The Australia integration is especially personal for me because I lived in Australia for five years, so that takes on a special meaning. Just starting to break into that international marketplace is something that’s really exciting for the company as a whole, and then being able to watch the team work collectively, and see how they go about the research and development is really inspiring for me personally.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Lead by example and set a great example for others to follow in your footsteps. A great leader is someone who can bring a team together and foster great communication and collaboration within the team. You don’t want to have silos. Of course, there are going to be times when you have a small group of decision-makers making key decisions, but for the most part, it really comes down to communication and inclusion for the team as a whole, especially with a smaller-sized company like LOCATE. Being able to have everyone working together and pointing in the same direction is to me what makes a great leader.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

A key to leading and managing a large team is to find key influencers within your team. Find good leaders who instill cooperation and teamwork, and for someone like me with a sports background, I kind of equate it to finding good team captains. Those people may not be the best athletes or performers, but they’re the people who are best able to get along with everybody and they possess those traits that you want in a leader. So when looking for people to manage a large team, I like to look for people that influence hard work, good behavior, good decision-making and great customer service.

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?

Cassie Hoag from MAP Consulting is the first person who comes to mind. She is not only a friend, but she’s a mentor and someone who I really look up to. She is all that, plus a business coach and a life coach. It’s so nice to have someone I trust who I can call for things like ‘how should I do this or how should I handle that.’

Prior to working for LOCATE, we had a large family business, and my father passed away unexpectedly right in the midst of a major acquisition. At that time, I really needed a rock that I could trust and it was Cassie who helped us get through it. She has always been very cool, calm and collected, and at that time especially, she was the glue that helped us all stay together, and for that I will forever be grateful.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I don’t know if this qualifies as goodness to the world, but the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) is a cause that’s very near and dear to me. My husband and I recently got married and while planning the wedding, we both kind of realized that we had plenty of blenders and other housewares, so instead of having our guests at the wedding bring gifts, we instead asked them to make a donation to the SPCA. Believe it or not, we raised more than $5,000 in cash, checks, gift cards and donations. We were amazed at everyone’s generosity. My husband just went in recently to drop off the donation and the woman at the SPCA’s first reaction was “Oh my god.” Needless to say, they were both ecstatic and very appreciative, and we felt great about the decision.

What are your “5 Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Be a mentor — I try to do a lot of mentoring and engagement with the community. I’ve really tried to do this in particular with my alma mater — Cal State Long Beach — and the students and student-athletes at the school. Using my experience and my network to help them succeed is something I’m very passionate about because I had a lot of great mentors who helped me along the way.

Be an active listener — As I mentioned above, being a good listener is important when building a team because every one of your team members feels as though they have a voice and that is important for building camaraderie.

Include everyone — Similar to being an active listener, it’s about involving your whole team in everything you do. Nobody wants to feel left out or as though they don’t have a voice. Empowering your team is one of the most important things you can do.

Lead by example — If you want your team to buy-in, you can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. The most successful leaders are ones who’ve been in the trenches and understand the value of getting their hands dirty and your team will respect you that much more if you do it, don’t just say it.

Give people the time of day — I say this because you never know who’s sitting next to you, or behind you, or what the next meeting might hold. I wasn’t sure at first if I was going to take a meeting with George Keliher (LOCATE’s CEO), but I did and now here I am as the Chief Operating Officer for an amazing company.

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. 🙂

I have always wanted to create a women’s empowerment movement, particularly for women who have recently had a life-changing experience that’s altered their career path. What I’d like to do is get all these women together and take their skills — whether it’s marketing, management, social media, or whatever it may be — and taking their expertise and experience, and offer it to companies in the nonprofit world who don’t have the resources to hire staffs to fill those needs. This way, maybe someone who has a nonprofit and can’t afford to hire someone for an area of need, can draw from our group to help their organization.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Stay true to your moral compass.” I just use this to think of how would I wanted to be treated if I were an employee or customer. I always try to keep my business and moral ethics in line.

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 🙂

Dallas Mavericks Owner and Shark Tank Host Mark Cuban — I really respect his entrepreneurial side and I also like the fact that he took a lot of risks. His quotes, ‘sweat equity is the most valuable equity there is’ and ‘know your business’ are sayings of his that have always resonated with me. I’ve always looked up to him, to the point that I actually reached out and tried to connect with him personally, but he’s right, you have to stay focused and believe in yourself and trust your own abilities and judgement.

Thank you for joining us!

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