I was part of a cross-functional, global team that helped one of Europe’s largest beauty and perfumery retailers develop and implement a new store strategy and operating model. The project was notable because of our flexible, hybrid approach, which allowed me and my teammates to seamlessly address our personal needs and still achieve a great result for our client, including annual EBITDA improvements of more than €100 million.

Setting boundaries and expectations from the start

At AlixPartners, our teams follow a set process at the start of each engagement that helps facilitate discussions on a range of topics related to staffing and project management—from individual working styles and development goals to planned time off and personal priorities to client expectations. The process helps the team align on expectations for how the project will flow, while promoting flexibility, collaboration, inclusion, and personal growth.

Having these conversations up front on this project was important because several of us had personal needs that we needed to attend to. Two team members, for example, had children during the engagement, and they were able to work remotely from home prior to the birth and after their parental leave. Another was visiting their parents and chose to work remotely for the week leading up to the trip to reduce the risk of catching COVID. Others had small children home from school because of the pandemic and preferred to work in the office or client site more frequently.

To supplement these initial discussions, we had biweekly “pulse checks” in which we explicitly did not talk about project content but about our collaboration and workloads and what we could do to further improve everyone’s experience.

Through proactive communication, we could seamlessly accommodate these life priorities without missing a beat on the project deliverables, and everyone appreciated the extra flexibility.

Increasing flexibility; improving client service 

There are clear benefits to having a supportive and collaborative team culture—happier people do better work! But as projects that include a mix of client site, in-office, and remote work become more common, another benefit is being able to bring in experts from around the globe. In this case, we leveraged some of our firm’s US-based retail experts to provide deep dives and workshops on specific topics, which was greatly appreciated by our client! The way they are now collaborating between decentral and central purchasing organizations would have never been imagined or achieved without the help from our experts from around the globe.