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.
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