Michael Larson

Who are you, and what do you do?

My name is Michael Larson, I graduated from the University of Montana Business School in 2016 and I am the Shoe Department manager for Dillard’s in Reno, Nevada.

What has been one insight or lesson that has been most helpful in your career?

Accepting failure and learning from it, at the end of the day we all fail and we all make mistakes. The key is to learn from these failures and use them to help you make more informed decisions later on. I heard this statement from more people than I can count and always dismissed it.

What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress.

My biggest mistake is freaking out over taking a promotion or a new position. I overthink it and tell myself that “I am not good enough” or “I don’t know enough” to do the job, but you have to start somewhere. The top people in their fields today at some point didn’t know what they were doing. Don’t let fear keep you from doing what is best for you.

Project forward ten years. How will your industry or field be fundamentally different then? What opportunities do you see?

This is a tough question with the uncertainty of retail in even the near future. With my experience in the industry, I can tell you that a lot of stores are going to have to turn their focus from price to service. Right now every retailer you see in the news struggling to survive has a model based around the “Best Price.” When you start looking into who is surviving and why it has nothing to do with price but experience. Retail stores are already looking at this but I believe they aren’t looking at it the right way. Bright lights and colorful displays are great and all but to get someone in your store and to get them coming back is all in the service and attention they get. There isn’t a single product out there you can’t get online, but the service is what keeps people away or brings them back in.

What are some bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

“Fake it tell you make it.” I hate this saying with a passion, if you have to fake it, you aren’t being genuine and people can sniff that out. You might be able to get away with it for a while but at some point, it will catch up to you.

In the last two years, what have you become better at saying no to?

I have personally gotten a lot better at saying no to working well past what is necessary. I work on a salary system and I guess could be called a workaholic and it took a real toll on me mentally. I wouldn’t say that I got better at telling my employer no but telling myself to take a break or to actually take my days off away from work.

What is the one book you recommend most often and why?

The Coaching Habit” by Michael Bungay Stanier. I have it downloaded as an audiobook and will often listen to it even at work. Helped me with my own management style by explaining different ways to approach situations from coaching to getting your team motivated. It is a great read if you ever get into any position of managing a team of people.

What advice would you give a smart and ambitious recent college graduate? What advice should they ignore?

View every opportunity, good and bad, as a chance to learn and invest in people. One of my favorite bosses always told me “If you invest in your people they will always give great returns.” An amazing sales team will only go above and beyond with no questions asked if their boss does the same for them. As for what advice to ignore, don’t ignore any of it. It is just advice, that’s it, nothing is set in stone and it’s nothing you have to follow. Take advice with a grain of salt and make your own decision.

What is your favorite quote, one you aim to live by?

“Courage is the art of being the only one who knows you’re scared to death.”