SHOP TALK

THEY AP­PRE­CI­ATE EACH OTHER’S DIF­FER­ENCES, AND THEY KNOW THEIR OWN STRENGTHS AND SHORT­COM­INGS. BETH COM­STOCK AND RACHEL SHECHT­MAN SHOW US WHAT SUC­CESS­FUL COL­LAB­O­RA­TION CAN LOOK LIKE.

Fast Company - - R. - BY STEPHANIE ME­HTA PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY JESSIE ENGLISH

Shecht­man and Com­stock had known each other for years, but their friend­ship be­gan in earnest in 2011 when GE agreed to spon­sor a cu­rated “ex­pe­ri­ence” at Story.

Beth Com­stock: Rachel is the most ex­tro­verted per­son you’ll ever meet. This is a per­son whose pas­sion is to [make] cold calls.

Rachel Shecht­man: I don’t use the word men­tor, but I have lots of smart friends who give me ad­vice. Beth and I went out to brunch and had a Bloody Mary, and the only time I’ve ever asked some­one [for guid­ance was when] we were walk­ing out of brunch and I was like, “Is it okay if some­times I reach out to you to go for a walk? Be­cause you have such a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive and ex­pe­ri­ence than I do, and I re­ally value your in­put.” I didn’t know that I’d be gain­ing a friend.

Com­stock: I was in­trigued by [Story’s] busi­ness model. It was re­tail, which I knew very lit­tle about. But the spon­sor­ship piece I knew. We were try­ing to do more con­sumer­fac­ing “maker move­ment” ac­tiv­i­ties. Linda Boff (GE’S ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, mar­ket­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions, at the time), Rachel, and I cooked up this ex­pe­ri­ence.

Shecht­man: That story, specif­i­cally, was one of the big­gest “aha” mo­ments in my ca­reer. Eighty per­cent of our space was in­ter­ac­tive. There was a 3-D printer and in­jec­tion-mold­ing ma­chines. You had a 9-year-old see­ing a 3-D printer for the first time and hip­sters etch­ing Metro­card hold­ers on the laser cut­ter. It was like, if there are all th­ese on­line busi­ness mod­els, why the hell are re­tail­ers still talk­ing about sales per square foot? Why aren’t we look­ing at “ex­pe­ri­ence per square foot”?

Af­ter 27 years at GE, Com­stock re­tired at the end of 2017, along with sev­eral other high­pro­file ex­ec­u­tives. Af­ter leav­ing GE, she spent her time fin­ish­ing Imag­ine It For­ward, a book about man­ag­ing change amid un­cer­tainty.

Com­stock: I didn’t re­al­ize how much work the book would be; I ba­si­cally had to start a mini-com­pany to help me get it to­gether. It’s very lonely to be on your own. Re­cently, we were on a walk, and Rachel was like, “Now you know what I feel like! This is what an en­tre­pre­neur’s path is.”

Shecht­man: It might not feel nat­u­ral or com­fort­able, but you have to talk about it be­cause it’s just go­ing to eat away at you, and that lone­li­ness turns into re­sent­ment. Or I should say: It does for me.

Com­stock: Rachel’s an open book. That would be one of the things I’ve re­ally ad­mired about her. She puts it out there: ideas, her feel­ings. I have learned a lot from that, and I’ve tried to open my­self up more.

Shecht­man: I can take things per­son­ally

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