Women across Canada are kicking butt in the workforce, all while maintaining their cool and doing the things in life they enjoy. “Motivation Monday: How she does it” is a news series where we profile notable women working in various fields to find out how they juggle work-life, balance. For this installment, we chatted with Lori Bacon, president of Canadian swimwear retailer Swimco, at their first Ontario store location at Square One.
Your mom founded Swimco in 1975, when did you take over as president?
My mom retired about 23 years ago now and that’s when I took over. It was just a hobby she had on the side and it become a little business that started in our basement, and later moved into an office and eventually started growing. I just happened to get into the business when I finished university. She wanted some help and I said yes, but it was never a plan to get into working with my mom. At the time, it was all team sales, strictly selling swimsuits for swim teams, mostly mail-order. Then in 1983, we opened our first store. Now we’re about 250 employees and operate over 25 stores.
Can you describe what you do in your position as president?
In my daily life, I work with the marketing director, sales director and the merchandise manager. So that involves the product, the selling and the marketing, and those three elements really work together, while the four of us sort of hold hands. Then, anytime the team needs someone to be a representative for the company, I do that as well. So any kind of speaking arrangements, public relations and more, where I talk a lot about our biggest purpose, which is helping people feel confident.
So what does a typical day look like for you starting from the moment you wake up?
Well I’m trying to meditate every morning and I really like it. I think I’m at a stage in my career where things aren’t too crazy, my kids are older now 25 and 28, and now I have the luxury to get up in the morning and do my thing. Then I go to work with my dog - she comes with me everyday - and we have 40 people in our office. I get a real charge walking in and seeing everyone there, what’s going on, and what’s being created. I have meetings throughout the day and then I like to end the day with some kind of exercise like Yoga or swimming. When I think about work-life, balance, I feel very lucky that I have good people in key positions that I can lean on.
Can you think of any challenges you've faced as a working woman throughout your career?
Oh ya! It’s challenges and it’s learning experiences, and the two are the same. One of my biggest challenges came five years ago when we bought another company that was called Swimwear Etc. Our biggest challenge was to, what we called, ‘Swimco-ise’ the new stores, and that takes time. We jokingly called it our MBA year and not jokingly said it was a two year program. It really took two years to really feel like we weren't chasing our tales or fighting fires. It was finally business as usual.
While things were in this phase of transition, how did you deal with these challenges?
A lot of it was communication. We created sister stores so each new store was paired up with an existing store, so the two managers had someone to lean on and ask questions. And also, just holding people to standards was important.
And was there anyone that you leaned on while things were so chaotic?
I did! I’m a member of an organization called The Women’s President Organization (WPO), and it was very helpful to have this group of women. There’s a local chapter in cities all across Canada and the U.S., and the rest of the world. You can’t go out for lunch with your girlfriends and say 'listen to my problems', 'listen to my stress', 'here’s what I’m facing', because you just can’t tell them that can’t of stuff, nor sometimes can they understand it. So what you have in this group is women business-owners who in some cases have been through similar circumstances or experiences, and you just share experiences. You also leave thinking ‘god I thought I had a lot of problems’ (laughs). You know, you think I’m not alone! So that was really helpful. It was great to be able to talk about things.
Do you have any tricks to share that have helped you juggle work-life, balance?
I think you can be your own worst enemy. Once you've gone through all the swirling where you just get so tired and your head never stops, and you don’t have time to workout, and you don’t have time to eat, and then you get sick, you start to recognize that you’re not at your best. That’s often a sign that you need more help. I use to work a lot and we didn't have a lot of people on the team, and I loved it, and that’s the problem. You can only keep it going for so long until you figure out what assistance you need.
And now that you have more time for yourself, how do you like to unwind?
My husband and I like to spend time with our kids. We have a place in British Columbia, so summers we spend quite a bit of time there. So family time is great whenever we can get it. I also have my routine of workouts, walks, runs and a little bit of other things that don’t do so well (laughs). Just for the fun of it! It feels so good at the end of the day.
Choose one: wine or cocktails? Why?
I’m a wine girl! We just got back from Nashville actually and it was great after a day of exploring to find a place that serves a good glass of wine.
And what is the best advice you have ever received?
I think it would be don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and to open up. Don’t think you have to know everything. It’s ok, you don’t, and once you realize that it’s a big relief.
Do you know someone we should feature in this segment? Send an email to [email protected]