A CRO’s role is essential for a company's growth, taking on the responsibility for all aspects of driving revenue to the company. But across departments like sales, marketing and customer success, what makes someone an effective CRO, and what does it take to create a highly successful career in this position? To answer these questions, we had the pleasure of interviewing Allison Khurana.
Thank you for doing this with us! How did you get started in your career?
Coming out of college, I started my career in management consulting doing strategy projects for big companies. I loved the part that was solving problems, however, I found that I wanted to work for the clients for longer than three to six months and to be part of their long term strategy. I also found that I was interested in social impact and working for organizations that are not only doing well, but doing greater good.
Since that time, I’ve worked for a range of big and small companies, increasingly getting more toward for-profit, mission-oriented businesses. For me, this really blends the speed and nimbleness of working for a for-profit company with the ability to make an impact on something I really care about from a consumer point of view. GoodBuy Gear really epitomized both of these by offering a culture that is results-oriented while working to help parents create a better future for their families.
Do you have a story about the funniest mistake you made when you first got started, and the lesson you learned?
I’ve made so many! A good one I was just thinking about the other day was when I was at Starwood Hotels. I was in my mid-twenties and I was leading a big project with two steering committees. One steering committee had the CEO and the CFO and the other had a bunch of Senior Vice Presidents—all of whom were super senior and really tenured. But at one point, for whatever reason, I had named my presentations ‘Senior Steering Committee’ and ‘Junior Steering Committee’.
Immediately after I sent the junior one out to the team, our Chief Marketing Officer was like ‘Allison, Junior Steering Committee, what were you thinking?!’ and after that I realized it was really a career-limiting move. Everyone forgave me, but I was not fully thinking through how people take things, and calling a bunch of SVPs ‘junior’ as a twenty five year old is not always the best move. But now I can look back and laugh about it.
According to Global Research, women in C-level positions is fairly low. How did you climb to your position and what was the experience like?
In each role I’ve tried to take the advice of an awesome mentor of mine. Years ago, he said ‘do the best you can in the role you’re in and don’t worry about the future because it will sort itself out if you’re doing your best.” I’ve really tried to take that advice.
My career has taken a lot of turns—I did nonprofit, I did for-profit, I did small companies, I did big companies, I did strategy, I did marketing—but I really just tried to join companies and people I was excited about working for and places where I knew I would have a really positive impact based on my skillset.
What impact can placing women in executive roles have on a company? What might the be struggles and benefits?
I’ve worked at companies that are really male dominated, as well as companies that are more evenly split by gender 50/50, and what I’ve found is this: the more diverse and varied the team is—on any dimension—the better the product because various points of view and experiences are coming into play. And this isn’t always as obvious as gender, it could also be differences in what industry an individual comes from.
It could be people with different life experiences, or people who are very financially and numbers oriented, or those who are more people oriented or more consumer oriented. Having a mix of contributors with different points of view on a senior team really matters, which includes having female leaders. Otherwise, the result is one-sided.
In your personal experience, have female leaders (including yourself) done things differently from their male counterpoints?
If you’re different from the people you’re surrounded by in any dimension—be it gender or something else—you feel a little awkward at first. So part of it is just getting comfortable with yourself and how you’re presenting in a room full of colleagues. You might not be the same as everyone around you, but that doesn't mean the way you are is wrong. It simply means you’re different and making a contribution in a different way. It’s been my continuing journey to get comfortable with who I am and showing up as that.
Can you tell us about a project, person or team you led where you successfully made a big impact?
Since I’ve joined the GoodBuy Gear team as CRO, we’ve made an incredible impact among a nationwide community of families. With every item GoodBuy Gear’s marketing, customer service and operations team sells, we’re actually having twice the social impact. First, we’re saving an item from the landfill, making the environment better for the future generation. But secondly, we’re also giving another family the opportunity to own the best quality baby gear for less. Plus, we’ve pledged to save one million pieces of baby and kid gear from landfills by 2025. How does it get much better than that?
What advice would you give to other women climbing the corporate ladder? What areas would you encourage them to leave their mark?
The biggest advice I’d give anyone is to think about the impact you want to have and then figure out the straightest line to that impact. Otherwise, there’s a million things that can be distracting or get you off track. You’re going to achieve really big things and people will wonder how you did it, when the secret is simple: just stay away from distractions that are interesting to you but not the most important thing to focus on.
I’ll also say as a parent, whether you’re a man or woman, this becomes especially important because it’s the quality of time at work that matters and the quantity of time at home that matters. So it puts pressure on you to be super thoughtful about everything you do inside and outside of your career so you can always show up as your best self.
Based on your experience, what are the Five Things You Need To be a highly effective CRO and why?
- Consumer Orientation: because you need to think all the time about not only what your consumer says they want but knowing what their behavior shows they want too.
- Data & Analytics Savvy: so you’re able to recognize when you’re getting sidetracked by vanity metrics and see under the surface at what’s really going on
- Open minded: particularly in terms of business models and monetization, there’s always another way to monetize something and it’s not always the obvious way. You can unlock a lot when you look at something with curiosity
- Strategic Clarity: because you need the ability to set goals that are aligned with and enable the company’s strategy
- Collaboration: because if you pursue areas of the business that are collaborative that’s where you get can the best results for the company and best traction internally
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would it be?
This is in line with my current work at GoodBuy Gear. I want to inspire every parent to consider recirculating their baby gear before throwing it away. And for parents who shop brand new, I want to instill trust in them that buying recirculated goods can be just as convenient and as high quality as buying new. I want parents to be open to GoodBuy Gear’s business model and mission because it makes the world a better place.