Patti Hester is chief strategist, e-commerce and distribution at Platinum Circle Partners, a company that specializes in logistics information management and transportation solutions. Patti is also an associate member of the Women in Retail Leadership Circle. This interview I conducted recently with Patti will help us to get to her know a little better.

Women in Retail Leadership Circle: Have you always worked in retail marketing?
Patti Hester:
My career in marketing, e-commerce and distribution is the culmination of decades working in the corporate world with clients that span all industries. I started my career straight out of college working for Airborne/DHL. It was a tremendous opportunity that challenged me to provide custom solutions to businesses of all types — from banks on Wall Street to national retailers to chocolate manufacturers.

To this day I smile when I think about out my first apartment in New York City. I have very fond memories and realize how truly fortunate I was to start my career with such exposure to varied opportunities in one of the greatest cities in the world.

I then transitioned to Boston Scientific with roles in sales and marketing management. One of the most memorable periods of my professional career was managing the Southern region for Boston Scientific. I was a young woman from New York moving to Atlanta to manage a team of southern gentlemen. On paper we couldn’t have been more different. Talk about a fish out of water. Yet together we accomplished and sustained record success.

I left Boston Scientific for career advancement with Medtronic. I enjoyed great success managing sales and business development teams in the Northeast. After many years of an incredibly high-paced work environment, one day while driving down the Long Island Expressway I had one of those “ah-ha” moments, realizing I needed a healthier work/life balance and a new challenge.

E-commerce distribution and consulting is the culmination of a varied career in corporate America. I still get deep satisfaction helping clients find custom solutions to challenges, which result in competitive advantages that support their growth.

WIR: Who has influenced you the most in your career … in life?
It’s hard to name a single most important influencer in my life, but my most significant influencers are those that have inspired me and challenged me to grow professionally and personally.

I’ve had several mentors to learn from at various stages of my career. One, in particular, was a fellow executive at Medtronic. She was unapologetically herself and extremely competent with boundless energy. It was refreshing to have another woman I could relate to and who inspired me. She later created a business making best use of her skills and experience. She still inspires me today. I’ve followed her lead by going out on my own and offering value specific to my experience, abilities and interests.

The other significant influencers in my life have come from places I didn’t expect. I often think back and reflect on how much laughter and enjoyment we shared while succeeding with my team in Atlanta microsoft project alternative. Despite our differences, we had to keep an open mind, earn trust and confidence, and from there we learned from each other and accomplished more than we imagined. Twenty years later I still receive thank-you notes from my team for believing in them and fostering their careers. Truth is, they believed in me and taught me life lessons as well. Leadership is about people and making sure your team is inspired while removing obstacles to their success, and believing their success is beyond what they’ve envisioned for themselves. I maintain that philosophy in working with clients today.

WIR: What are some of the retail trends you’re hearing about from your customers?
As it relates to e-commerce and distribution, competition continues to rush in with brick-and-mortar as well as new companies trying to grab their slice of the massive e-commerce pie. A forecast by Forrester Research suggests that online spending in the U.S. will exceed $500 billion per year by 2020.

Some of our retail “big box” clients continue to lose ground to e-commerce companies. This brings additional challenges as well as opportunities related to logistics and delivery. Retailers need to fully embrace e-commerce and find creative ways to differentiate their online presence.

Clients are hearing increased requests for same-day delivery, which in the past was primarily reserved for the high-end luxury retail market. now offers free same-day delivery with any purchase over $35 to its Prime members in 30 cities across the United States. Wal-Mart is working on same-day delivery agreements with Uber and Lyft. This is an emerging shipping trend for 2017 and beyond.

I have an increasing number of “subscription based” clients, a new trend. Anything that’s consumed regularly is an opportunity for this model. Consumers prefer the convenience and personalization that many of these businesses provide.

Clients continue to face the challenge of increased delivery service demands from consumers vs. ever-present cost increases from UPS, FedEx and USPS. “Free” shipping is now the norm and expectation to remain competitive, and “fast” shipping is increasing in demand. Shipping costs matter. An astounding 61 percent of cart abandonments are due to shipping costs. Consumers abandon carts if they believe they can find the same product from an alternative source with discounted or free shipping. It’s important for retailers to understand the psychology of their customers and not to underestimate the immediacy and real-time nature of buying online. Increasingly, customers also want quick and easy returns in addition to free and fast shipping. This is a rapidly growing and changing e-commerce market with a low barrier to entry.

WIR: If you could give our audience one piece of advice you’ve learned the hard way, what would it be?
 Be open to the unexpected, take calculated risks , and don’t stay in one place or job too long if it doesn’t challenge you or inspire you in some way. Find work that feeds your passion. My biggest advice to women is to not apologize for saying what needs to be said; just make sure you read your audience and communicate in a way so you will be heard.

I would also encourage people to seek out advocates and champions — networking is key. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, as that’s what people appreciate and are drawn to. And remember to keep that work/life balance in check! It’s important to have self-awareness about alignment of what you stand for and where you’re headed. For a number of years my life was unbalanced, with extraordinary time and attention to work. Once I consciously put my personal life first, amazing things happened. I met my husband, founded a nonprofit for homeless children and life became even more fulfilling.

WIR: Tell me a little about your personal life. How do you relax? Have fun?
I’m married with two teenage stepsons, ages 13 and 15. We have a 14-year-old pit-terrier mix that’s a loyal and loving companion.

Family, close friends and giving back are an integral part of my life. It’s been said so many times, but it’s so true — the more you give, the more you get. You asked in an earlier question as to who some of my biggest influencers have been, I should have included my parents, my husband and family in that answer, including my 13-year old stepson, who has special needs. He lights up the world around him with boundless joy, love and acceptance, and challenges me in ways I never imagined.

I have the usual hobbies such as exercising, traveling and my husband would answer “planning.” New experiences are enriching. One of my biggest sources of relaxation and fulfillment are creative outlets, whether it be interior design, cooking, gardening or creative problem solving with clients. I find creativity is the thing that inspires me and leads me to possibilities and opportunities in life.