Strong Theory

Adam Beck, CEO of Beck’s Shoes, the fifth-generation-run, 22-store chain, offers guidance for the road ahead.
Beck Family picture in front of tree

Dear Adam, You’re young and there are some things you just can’t know yet. But I don’t want to give it all away—surprise keeps life exciting! There are some things, however, that I wish my younger self to know. So, listen, absorb and take heed.

Mistakes will be made, but have courage. Triumph will be known, but stay humble. Life will be a brilliant blend of beauty and heartache, but you’ll forge an honorable path. In addition to these broad strokes of wisdom, here is some targeted advice that will make your road ahead smoother, a little saner and a whole lot more fulfilling. Dig in.

You are Enough! You’re young, driven and ambitious—that’s great! But don’t lose your youth in the chase for respect. It will come with time, intention and hard work. Be diligent and humble, but hold your ground. You don’t need to comply if it’s in opposition to your authenticity in order to prove your commitment.

Lean on Your People! Listen hard here. Your dad and uncle may have decided to operate singularly but—spoiler alert—you will forge an incredible working relationship with your cousin, Julia Beck Gomez, president/COO. I implore you to lean in and invest in this partnership sooner! Unite the operations, buying, financial and retail sides of the business and work together to continue the Beck family retail legacy.

Brace for Impact! I know this isn’t part of your plan, but you will endure divorce after only four years of marriage. Do your best to focus on the lessons you’ll take from this most difficult experience, and rejoice in the fact that you are blessed with a daughter, Olivia Grace, who is your daily inspiration. Keep focus on your love of family, but maybe take the road to marriage a little slower.

Be Vulnerable! Your dad’s retirement will leave you in a position to take on his responsibilities, but don’t feel as though you must fill his shoes immediately. Have the humility and courage to lean on your uncle for mentorship and guidance. Put down your guard. This skill of vulnerability will serve you well and play a key role in your future success. Open up and be your true self with team members and peers; they’ll respect you more for it. Vulnerability is not weakness.

Invest in Yourself! Take time now to educate yourself and learn more about finance. Start creating metrics of success, so you can see how far Beck’s Shoes has come and can still go! But always remember that work is just one aspect of life. And money is just one measure of success. That “house on the hill” won’t bring ultimate happiness. Keep the house in Ben Lomond, though, and continue spending free time as a volunteer firefighter, stay close to family and invest time into your relationships with your nieces and nephews. Above all, invest in your happiness!

Find Balance! At this point, you and Julia operate 22 stores in six states! Your diligence and hard work is paying off. Your dreams for Beck’s Shoes are coming true! But remember to cultivate balance. Don’t push yourself too hard. Rest and rejuvenation reap productivity and joy. The friendships you’ve built in the shoe industry are amazing. Learn from them and appreciate them. Find the time to go to lunch when these important people visit you. You have nothing to prove to anyone as everyone deserves the occasional break. So, when the opportunity arises, take that 30-day backpacking trip to Europe that you’ve always wanted to do!

Dare to Lead! Start listening to audiobooks and attending leadership conferences. An effective leader does not use fear and discipline to coerce. One day you’ll attend a USRA May Event and be changed by the voices of Bob Infantino and Gary Champion, then leaders of Drydock Footwear Group and Clarks Companies, N.A., respectively. They’ll inspire you to build a team of people and get to know them authentically. It would serve you and your business well if you learned these lessons sooner. You have also coined a phrase that has helped you gain commitment over compliance from your team. The four-pronged approach asks team members: Where were you (past)? Where are you (present)? Where do you want to be (future)? How do you plan to get there?

Make Time for Loved Ones! Pick up grandpa’s calls—every time. He may frustrate you and seem hypercritical at times, but he loves you more than you know. You will be one of the few people he calls in his last months of his life. Others will often remind you how much you’re like him. You’ll miss him more than you can imagine. On that note, remember to thank mom for the countless drives to and from work when you were a teenager starting out in the family business. Someday you’ll take her to Europe and fulfill her dream of seeing the Vatican, but it’ll never feel like enough. Because, when it comes to time, there’s never enough. So, spend it wisely, and make the time for what really counts—loved ones!

Dream Big! Last, but not least, dream big! Dream bigger than you’ve ever thought before! Once you find your balance, pour yourself into your passion! Because dreams do come true. I mean, could you ever imagine that, one day, you’d catapult Beck’s Shoes to $100 million in annual sales! Let your dreams lead the way!

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