NEW YORK, United States — Having first established itself as an artistic leader in the New York jewellery industry in the 1980s and 1990s, the David Yurman company has grown today to include 49 wholly owned retail locations across the US, France and Canada.
Despite its impressive self-funded growth, the business remains family-run, combining the long-term strategy and brand guardianship that is synonymous with private ownership, with an agile, entrepreneurial culture. Thanks to a female co-founder in the form of Sybil Yurman, who started the business with her husband in 1980, the company has always adopted an approach that’s distinct from its male-dominated industry. Today, that attitude lives on, with 80 percent of its leadership roles filled by women.
Actively championing individuals who think differently and empowering them to take the risks necessary to learn and optimise their operations, the business’ familial, trusting culture has enabled it to onboard new talent and skill sets, as well as accelerate the careers of talented employees. Executives, VPs and managers are specifically instructed not to micro-manage their juniors or their projects and to identify “future rock stars” for development.
Now, BoF sits down with Carol Pennelli, president of David Yurman, to hear more.
What defines the company culture at David Yurman?
We are a family of creatives. Creativity drives our performance and by performance, I mean employee performance as much as I mean business performance. We really encourage our employees to be very curious, to be independent thinkers, to be rule breakers and not to follow convention. We want them to develop their own ideas and spirit for the brand and the business that can potentially move the proverbial needle.
The Yurman family has a very good instinct and an unwavering point of view from both a design and culture perspective in terms of being inclusive, being collaborative and the importance of listening to cross-functional partners about our development and business. As a result, the employees have a great deal of drive and passion.
How has it evolved in recent years?
In my tenure here, I’ve really been interested in increasing employee engagement and participation. So, every month, we have one of the executives host something we call a “Lunch and Learn.” Employees sign up, we buy lunch for everybody and an executive talks about his or her career path and what they do.
With something as simple as this, the employees are so excited to learn about other areas of the business that they did not know about. It’s creating interest for people to participate, or even move to other parts of the organisation, to have the chance to be part of that team — something that they may have never thought of before.
How do you nurture a collaborative culture?
We’re constantly in these 360 meetings talking about how to break the mould, what’s going to drive our success and performance, what our customers and clients respond to. I think we’re such a client-driven organisation and we believe in loyalty and nurturing our client, and our employees really participate in that. They care about that.
It’s important to us to trust and encourage individuals to express themselves.
We create an environment of recognition and reward — everything from participating in charitable giving through our pretty robust charitable arm, to investing in our employees through development and training and educational materials. Learning and development is an integral part of the success of the business, the employees here and in our stores.
How do you develop talent through the company?
I chair the senior leadership committee, and in this forum, we address a broad scope of topics, one of which is typically talent. Where we have open divisions or where we have turnover that we need to address, we talk about the high performers within our lower-level management teams that we want to groom and elevate through either apprenticeships or coaching and mentoring — assigning them to someone who can nurture their particular skill set. This makes new possibilities for people to migrate across the organisation.
As a family business with multi-generational involvement, we provide a strong sense of stability to the employees by reinvesting in the company and reinvesting in the people. It’s important to us to trust and encourage individuals to express themselves in various departments and in different ways.
How do you create a controlled environment for employees to take risks?
I very much believe in empowerment and not micro-managing our employees or leadership. We focus on sharing rather than delegating. We value accountability and reward people that take on risk. We champion individuals willing to think differently and we empower them to take risks necessary to learn and optimise their respective operations. For example, somebody may not have international experience and development experience, but they’re invited to participate and play a role in our global group, simply because of their curiosity and their interest and passion for it.
We value accountability and reward people that take on risk.
I really encourage the leadership team to make employees feel safe, while also encouraging them to speak up and have a voice. At the end of the day, it is a business and they have to be accountable and we have to measure that.
What skill sets are you looking to unlock new opportunities at David Yurman?
I think, while CVs and resumes and relative experience are important, we also very much believe in giving people a chance and taking a leap of faith. It could be somebody who is working in the arts and we give them a chance to become part of our design team; to somebody who has no CAD experience and we send them to a course and they become part of this incredibly creative team of designers here. This also applies to people in our retail stores. Very often, we’ll hire people from hospitality and other sectors who simply bring a different point of view and a new, fresh perspective to the customer experience.
I think so much revolves around individuals’ emotional intelligence and their connectivity to the world, to our culture, to what’s happening in business and art and fashion and travel. We have many passion points here that drive our marketing and communication strategy and we encourage our employees to participate in that. Our jewellery is about an emotional connection since it often is such a personal purchase, whether buying for yourself or as a gift. We really encourage the thought process around how to affect that customer experience and encourage our employees to participate in that, whether they have experience in retail or not.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by David Yurman as part of a BoF Careers partnership. To explore careers at David Yurman, please click here.