Laura Ravo is the chief operating officer of Strand Books, a landmark bookstore in New York City. She also has been a Women in Retail Leadership Circle member for almost two years. We asked Laura some rapid-fire questions so you can get to know her better!
1. What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
“Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” by Emmanuel Acho. It’s as provocative as the title suggests, and a guide in understanding systemic racism in America and how you can use your voice to make a difference.
2. What’s a tip you have for productively leading a team while working from home?
Communication is the key. So many decisions were made in the office in quick, impromptu conversations. We must keep that rhythm going in a virtual world to maintain the cohesiveness of the team.
3. What’s a mistake you made early on in your career?
Believing that I had to do everything alone. The power really lies in the collective and using all of the resources you have at your disposal to make good decisions.
4. What’s the toughest part of being in charge?
May I reframe the question? The toughest part of leading is the accountability and responsibility of having lives in your care — more so in these unprecedented times. There’s no handbook for this one.
5. What’s the best way you motivate team members?
To trust and empower teams to be the best they can be. We’re all going to skin our knees sometimes, but the growth is in how we dust ourselves off, learn the lessons, and keep moving forward.
6. What woman inspires you right now and why?
My dear friend, Nykeba King. She was recently promoted to lead diversity and inclusion for The Body Shop. She’s an activist, a humanitarian, a force for good in this world and one of the smartest women I know. She’s changing the world every day.
7. What are you looking forward to the most for retail in 2021?
Reinventing the in-store experience. From personally interacting with customers over the last few months, they still very much long for the magic and intimacy of being in stores. It’s our job to bring that to life in a different and meaningful way.
8. What’s one thing you look for when interviewing a job candidate?
I actually have two: passion and compassion. What you do matters and how you do it matters even more.
9. What’s something that you learned about yourself in 2020?
I’m at my best when I’m in service to others.
10. What’s your favorite podcast?
I’m currently loving Armchair Expert with Dax Shepard. He is raw, real, vulnerable and just hilarious.
11. What values are most important to you as a leader?
Authenticity, servant leadership, and integrity.
12. What’s the most important thing people should know about you?
I do what I say I’m going to do.
13. How would you describe yourself in a single sentence?
I’m a delicate balance of grit and grace.
14. What’s your favorite app?
Spotify. There’s always music or a podcast playing as a soundtrack to my life.
15. What do you do to recharge?
Meditation and exercise keep me grounded.
16. What’s your biggest accomplishment?
During the pandemic, I wrote a book on retail leadership, “The Power of Grit and Grace.”
17. What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Support and encourage each other along the way. There’s enough success and opportunity to go around for all of us. And if you’re lucky enough to get through the door first, hold that door open for others.
18. What gets you up in the morning?
Literally, it’s my puggle Bianca. Her morning chow time is 6 a.m. sharp!
19. How would you describe your leadership style?
Love ‘em hard and hold them accountable.