Jenny Ming, president and chief executive officer of Charlotte Russe and former president of Old Navy, spoke to undergraduate students on Thursday evening at Popovich Hall about the importance of team management and communication in executive leadership. The session was titled “View from the Top: A Conversation with Jenny Ming.” The talk was part of The Center for Management Communication Expert’s Speaker Series and was moderated by James Owens, professor of clinical management communication at USC.
The event was structured in a question and answer format, beginning with general overarching questions from Professor Owens. When asked about the role that communication plays in her management of Charlotte Russe, Ming repeatedly emphasized the importance and necessity of good communication in creating a successful business model and pleasant working environment.
“Communication is the most important aspect of business, and I am not just saying that,” Ming said. “Being a leader, you can think all you want, but if you can’t share your ideas, they don’t get done. Communication is key in being successful as a leader, but I want to not just be the leader of the team, I want to be part of the team.”
Additionally, Ming explained her methods of successfully executing a business model that would lead to ongoing company success.
“I always think of a business as a startup, turnaround, and growth. Even when Old Navy was a $3 billion company I still thought of it as a startup,” Ming said. “Turn-around is important to keep in mind because sometimes you need to switch around a business model. And growth because I’m always thinking about how we can leverage size and grow bigger.”
In 1994, Ming was part of the executive team that launched Gap Inc.’s Old Navy division, later becoming its president in 1999. After she left Old Navy in 2006, the company generated $6 billion in sales. Since 2009, Ming has been the president and CEO of Charlotte Russe, a clothing company specifically catering to young women. Ming also advises companies such as Levi Strauss & Co. and Barney’s New York.
Once the session was open to the rest of the room, the topics switched from a conversation on Ming’s own experience to her advice for recent college graduates entering the job market.
“A lot of jobs are opportunistic, not planned,” Ming said. “It is important to take a lot of risks in your life. When you are too comfortable, it is time to move on. I worked 20 years at Gap but in different positions. It is important to keep asking yourself, ‘Am I happy with where I am?’”
Bryanna Wallace, a freshman majoring in business administration, found the event to be worthwhile and educational.
“Jenny provided great insight into the business world and how communication has an influence on that,” Wallace said. “She also talked about how it is important to have an open mind and view your company as always evolving. It was also just great being in her presence because Charlotte Russe is my favorite store.”
Helene Burghoff, a freshman majoring in economics, said she appreciated Ming’s talk as a way to learn outside of the classroom to get in touch with the business world during the academic year.
“I think the talk was really interesting,” Burghoff said. “Marshall always has so many events like this one, and it’s good because you can learn about these things in class, but it’s much more beneficial to learn it through listening to these people.”