When hiring for a position or electing a representative we all look at one thing first; what is the person’s experience? As a former senior executive who has hired my fair share of staff, I always consider the resume or list of achievements as basic information. The most essential element in creating a dynamic, functioning, high producing team is finding skill sets that complement each other and gaps in other team members skill sets. I never needed a team with 5 power forwards. I needed a good mix of skill, talent, but mostly a desire to get down to hard work.
In my 15 years of corporate experience I all too often met people who were in positions because they sounded like the right choice, but they generally never were the ones willing to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Electing someone is not that different from hiring a person for your team. I think the voters should look at what they think are the most pressing issues of the current day, and decide which candidate can address those issues.
Do I have 15 years of volunteer experience in South Orange? No. Before I lived in South Orange, I was involved in a different way. I spent 8 years driving from NYC to Pennsylvania every weekend to help my mother care for my father who had Parkinson’s, during my 30s. This is not your typical volunteer situation. But it taught me empathy, humility, and that service is both a calling and of the utmost importance. After my father passed away, I have looked for ways to rededicate the time I spent with him and bring that empathy, and drive to “do the work” to where I live.
Bridging and bringing people together to share in the community is what I have always done; either by being a good neighbor, being part of the neighborhood organization, being part of my community at my local mosques, volunteering with my alma matter Philadelphia University, being on the board of the Newstead Association or volunteering now in SOMa with several of our local activist groups. I make myself part of the community wherever I go. I believe the most important values for a Village Trustee are dedication, empathy, and commitment. I have those in droves. But I also have one thing that sets me apart, and makes me the right candidate for the right moment.
What does being a retail executive mean?
You will hear me say I have 15 years of corporate retail development, business development, merchandising, buying, licensing, branding and contractual negotiation experience. My last full time role in corporate, I was the Vice President of Licensing and Global Business Development for PGA legend Greg Norman. I reported to the CEO and managed a multi-million dollar, complex and large network of partners around the world. But what does that mean?
Retail Development – I have shopped and walked a large number of the major and smaller malls and town centers (think what South Orange downtown could be) of the world. My fit bit had to stop clocking me, that’s how many miles of stores I visited. My job was to scout store locations for major brands, ensure the right partners were managing those brands overseas, negotiate those deals, ensure the climate (think South Orange downtown versus another) would be successful and then partner with the brand to ensure they had the right product assortment and branding message to make it a success.
Business Development – I was responsible for developing 3-5 year vision plans that involved strategic analysis of opportunities and risks for the brand. Each plan was multi-layered, articulated strategy and laid out a plan for execution, and were all attached to a P&L to ensure that these were financially sound.
Merchandising/Buying – I was responsible for signing off on every buy made by every partner across the world, reviewing if the mix and quantities were in line with the brand and financial plans in that region.
Licensing – I was responsible for managing existing partnerships and also securing new ones.
Contractual Negotiations – I negotiated every contract. Some were with smaller privately held companies, others with huge multi-unit publically traded conglomerates. I negotiated directly with the Chairmans, CEO’s and Senior Vice Presidents of each organization. I have negotiated agreements written in Korean and Japanese, dealing with the nuances of translated language and cultural differences, but always successfully bridging the gap and building lasting relationships that improved the agreements and gave both parties a sense of trust.
What are your goals for South Orange? Who do you think we are? How can we get there?
My goals for South Orange are to bring a strong retail development vision to our downtown development and with community input strategize, plan and then develop the downtown. My goal is to recognize that our town, like everything in life, is changing and has changed by nature of the younger families who have moved in the last 3-5 years. Those families have expressed time and time again, that they want a downtown with enough anchor brands to stabilize the foot traffic for our locally grown business and less vacant storefronts. They want people in government who have recently had the experience of trekking three children under 5 or 6 around and navigating our downtown with a stroller, or with an elderly grandparent in a walker. Those families left the city for a town they want to be a part of, connect to, and eat, shop and play in. I can help get us there. My goal is to be transparent. I normally hate “selling myself.” But I would love the opportunity to sell South Orange, and utilize that stability to help us achieve the infrastructure related goals we all have.
Sometimes you need someone with institutional knowledge, and we are fortunate to have members of the Board with significant institutional knowledge. But sometimes, and I believe this is one of those times, you need someone who has lead the charge in everything she has done, someone who shows up, every single day, for her neighbor, her family and throughout her career, to roll up her sleeves and get to work. Vote for Nureed Saeed on May 9th, and let’s get the right experience in for our current challenges.