First Call


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If homegrown executive gina haverly ever had a glass ceiling above her head, she quickly turned it into a window of opportunity.

That’s because the 45-year-old dynamo is something of a dream maker. She hit the pinnacle of her industry in June, when she became luxury retailer Neiman Marcus’ newest vice president and general manager. But retail opportunities have abounded for Haverly since she graduated from Roosevelt High School, which she jokingly refers to as the upper campus of her husband David’s beloved Punahou School.

As it turns out, Punahou would have been lucky to have her. As a 19-year-old University of Hawai‘i student, Haverly already had parlayed a job at Crazy Shirts into a management position. By 20, Waikiki’s Gucci had recruited her to become its youngest department manager, and by her last semester in college, she already was store manager of Ala Moana Banana Republic, the chain’s No. 1 store. By 27, Banana Republic had promoted her to store director, and by 30, she was a district manager, responsible for Hawai‘i and San Francisco, the chain’s flagship district.

Sixteen years later, Haverly was recruited by global big-box retailer Target to open its Hawai‘i market: a job that broadened her retail expertise and made it possible for her to continue her career growth without leaving Hawai‘i. It also helped hone her troubleshooting skills.

Haverly says when Target was recruiting her, leaders informed her that they had been advised by other local consultants that people work at a slower pace in Hawai‘i and that Target would have to lower its productivity and attendance standards for its Hawai‘i stores. Offended by the negative stereotyping of people of her isle home, Haverly set out to wow Target’s global leadership team.

“To expect less than the very best of people is disrespectful,” she says. “The pride, the loyalty and the heart of people here in Hawai‘i are truly the best, and this has translated in every company I have worked for. We have amazing talent here in Hawai‘i, but as a leader, you have to work hard for people and truly invest in their development.”

Haverly knows investing in talent pays big dividends—and she is quick to credit her success to those amazing leaders who have invested in her. These included her supportive husband, David, who works for Alexander & Baldwin, but doesn’t let his robust career stop him from partnering with her to raise their two young children. Another constant source of inspiration has been her mother, Tomi Pohlabel, who single-handedly supported four children on her wages as a medical transcription-ist at The Queen’s Medical Center.

“The person [who] I am today is definitely shaped by my mother, who was very hardworking and selfless. She gave everything to her children and taught us to give back,” Haverly says. “My mom didn’t have an easy life. She was interned in the camps during the war as a child. But the incredible thing is that I never once saw her behave like a victim or show resentment or anger. She had this wonderful, positive outlook. She didn’t believe in entitlement. She believed that you work for what you get, and that you should always dream high.”

Haverly says her mother taught her to approach every work endeavor, even part-time gigs, as if they were her dream job.

“I never intended to have a career in retail, but because of that philosophy, so many years later, here I am,” Haverly says.

While Haverly flew up retail’s corporate ladder, she didn’t cut corners and hit every rung of the ladder with precision. Pride in her work, a respect for higher management and dedication to those still ascending the corporate ladder have been the secret to Haverly’s leadership pace.

“I started my retail career in Crazy Shirts’ smallest Waikiki location. It was slow, and I liked to keep myself busy. So I would read all the company resources. They had a self-guided supervisor program, and I worked my way through the binder,” she says.

At the same time, Haverly says she took it upon herself to redo the store displays so that customers could view T-shirt designs in their entirety.

“Corporate heard about it and visited my store. They took photos of the displays, which became the new company standard. When they found out that I had put myself through supervisor training, they promoted me and asked me to manage their highest-volume store, the International Market Place location,” Haverly says. “I’ve been very fortunate and very lucky throughout my career, and throughout the companies that I have worked for, to have had these wonderful experiences that have taught me so much.”

Colleagues say that assessing and cultivating great talent, and being a champion for people have become distinguishing features of Haverly’s leadership style.

“Although I believe Gina is very results-oriented and enjoys the challenging nature of retail, it has always been about the people she works with. She loves to see her team grow and achieve, and she creates an environment that fosters development,” says David Andreoli, who has known Haverly for about 15 years as a peer general manager, supervisor and friend.

Drew Santos, who started working for Haverly at Banana Republic 15 years ago and followed her to Kailua Target, where he is now general manager, says retail for Haverly means the joy of seeing her team thrive in their roles.

“It’s never been about her self-glory; it’s always been about how proud she is of her team. You want to work for a leader like Gina,” Santos says. “She cares so much about people, their well-being, development and family. She wants to genuinely know who you are as an individual, and is able to support you in any way she can. She is simply amazing!”

Looking back on her lengthy retail career, Haverly says that her proudest accomplishments are all the wonderful careers that she has helped cultivate through the years.

“I believe in the great potential that people possess, and I dream big for them.” In her new role at Neiman Marcus, Haverly says she is focused on learning about the store’s talented people, company culture and wonderful guests. Backfilling the role left vacant by the retirement of Al Tomonari, who came home to Hawai‘i to open Neiman Marcus in 1998, leaves her with big shoes to fill.

“This company and this beautiful store have a wonderful heritage that Mr. Tomonari built; it is my intention to honor that heritage and expect the best from myself and my team,” she says. “Retail is ever-changing, and the senior leaders at Neiman Marcus have incredible vision and strategy for the future. My immediate goal is connecting our people’s hearts and minds to this vision, and teaching the team how to maximize the resources provided to us. That will enable us to provide legendary service to our guests and to each other.”

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