How to Empower Retail Founders & CEOs to Think Beyond Survival Mode

Fractional support services have emerged as a game-changer for these leaders.

There is a collective sense of unease in retail, as nobody really knows what’s coming next. Unsplash

Retail is a scary business. Consumers are spending more cautiously (the luxury industry, in particular, is feeling the effect of the aspirational customer taking a pause), there’s a glut of open jobs in the retail sector (nearly a million), inflation continues, brands struggle to find the right balance between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar channels (and bear the tech investment of omnichannel solutions being demanded by customers), emerging technologies (hello generative AI!) are rapidly changing the game entirely, and the supply chain hasn’t fully recovered from the days of the pandemic. In short, there is a collective sense of unease and nobody really knows what’s coming next.  

As a result, brands and retail leaders feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what direction to take, and where to focus first. Unfortunately, many leaders don’t have the luxury of time to focus or strategize: they are pulled in a million directions, not working to their highest and best purpose.

Why are leaders so distracted?

Talk to any founder or CEO of an independent brand—one that doesn’t have the benefit of the experienced operating infrastructure of a parent or conglomerate holding company—and they will tell you that they spend an outsized amount of time and energy on things other than strategy and really moving the needle for their business. Things like human resources issues, deciphering unintelligible or impractical legal advice, managing vendors, prepping communications to stakeholders, and navigating distribution challenges. All while being kept up at night by their mandate to drive revenue and grow their business.  They don’t have the space to think creatively. They are too distracted, too bogged down, and mired in everyday operational details. Even if they have a great leadership team around them, those leaders are likely suffering from similar limitations—they just don’t have the foundational infrastructure to allow them to step out of the minutiae.  

Fractional support services have emerged as a game-changer for these leaders. Instead of hiring multiple full-time professionals for functions such as legal, human resources, real estate and finance, brands can leverage a shared service platform like ours, which offers access to deeply experienced professionals in the industry. Our company, Fixer, is particularly noteworthy for combining legal and business subject-matter expertise under one roof (we haven’t seen anyone else do it to the same extent in the retail industry).  Key benefits include: 

  • Reclaiming time: We’ve found that this model liberates CEOs from the burden of administrative and operational tasks and allows them to concentrate on strategic initiatives and business growth.  By delegating non-core functions to experienced professionals that have seen and done it all before, CEOs can finally lean into driving innovation and positioning their brands for success. 
  • Tapping into expertise: Beyond alleviating day-to-day operational challenges, the shared service model becomes a vital source of advice, expertise, and operational excellence that empowers CEOs to overcome obstacles and gives them a safe space for thought partnership and ideation that can be immediately actioned into tactical results. By tapping into experts with a wealth of knowledge and industry insights, CEOs are able to make well-informed decisions and address challenges with more confidence.  
  • Unburdening teams: They can also unlock the full potential of their teams – when a team is freed up to focus on core competencies and strategic initiatives, this increased focus on key areas of the business can lead to increased overall performance.
  • Continuous improvement and competitive advantage: By working with multiple clients within the industry and having exposure to many different business models and best practices, shared service providers can share fresh perspectives, insights, and lessons learned from other companies (while maintaining the highest levels of trust and confidentiality), contributing to continuous improvement and learning within the organization, while keeping clients one step ahead.  It’s often harder to see the big picture and the industry landscape from within the organization.
  • Cost-effectiveness: Brands can benefit from economies of scale while receiving top-tier expertise tailored to their specific needs, avoiding the expense of recruitment and training. This aspect is especially valuable for smaller and mid-sized companies with limited budgets—particularly in uncertain economic times such as these. Moreover, when dealing with periods of fluctuating demand, or when facing short-term challenges, companies have the flexibility to engage specific services as and when needed, without committing to long-term contracts or overhead costs.

The impact is real

Fractional support services are not just supplementary resources. We’ve seen the tangible impact they can have. A classic example is Fixer’s work with a successful DTC brand with a relatively young leadership team. They were trying to juggle legal and HR issues (neither of which they had expertise in) while planning their retail strategy, driving sales and managing their core job functions—all while being mindful of budgets. By engaging Fixer, they were able to hand over all of the legal and HR work, giving their founder and C-suite executives a single point of accountable, deeply experienced support, and eliminating the wasted time and energy it was taking to manage these issues themselves.

We supported another client through a complex legal issue, enabling them to tap into insights that the shared service model makes possible. Seeing the value in this, the CEO remarked that “while everything about the situation was unfamiliar territory for us, the Fixer team had been through it all before, and shared their experience and knowledge—to our great benefit and peace of mind.” Another experienced fashion industry CEO, whose brand we support with DE&I/corporate culture, HR, legal, real estate and commercial matters, has shared that “as a business leader, I feel well supported by the depth of experience and knowledge that the Fixer team brings to the table.”  

We are on a mission to give independent brands the access, knowledge, experience, and tactical support to be formidable players in the industry, and to give their founders, CEOs and leaders back the valuable time and energy they need to steer their ships through rocky waters, knowing that they have a deep foundation of support beneath them. However, it’s a two-way street. The critical thread among our clients is their willingness to learn, grow, and adapt. It takes vulnerability and curiosity for leaders to recognize that they need help, and seek it out in an unconventional way. Those are the most fruitful partnerships in a shared services model because in those cases, we’re not just fixing something that’s broken, but we are building something together.

How to Empower Retail Founders & CEOs to Think Beyond Survival Mode