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'Act now and ask for forgiveness later': Heather Smartt on comfort zones, EQ, resilience and overthinking.

Julia Bernert

Published on 11.04.2024

Heather Smartt joined Goldstar 6 months ago as the new Global Head of Merchandising. With more than 17 years of experience in the promotional products industry, she has previously worked at Polyconcept in various locations worldwide. In our interview she shares personal experiences and talks about factors that shape success at an early stage of one’s career.

Heather, please describe what your profession is.

Heather Smartt: I am the Global Director for Product Development, Merchandising and Sustainability at Goldstar. My top objectives include advancing manufacturing alternatives, expanding product categories, and enhancing global product design.

How is Goldstar pushing the sustainability issue?

Heather Smartt: “At Goldstar, we have initiated Sustainability development goals that involve a 3-year road map focusing on carbon neutrality and LCA Testing of all our products. We will be conducting several external audits which include FSC, GRS and RCS. Recently in 2023, we successfully removed problematic plastics from our collection and packaging, cut our overall use of virgin plastics by 54 percent and started sourcing paper fibre materials from forests that are held to strict environmental, social, and economic standards. We established our Greenwashing Guidelines that have been implemented globally as well as our Green Team which is an internal structure, with senior leadership, that meets regularly to drive change action through the company, ensuring a wider buy-in and cooperation at all levels, to secure achievements and progress integrated sustainability and CSR projects that align to our three core sustainability pillars – People, Planet and Product.

What do you consider to be leadership competence?

Heather Smartt: Aside from a clear strategy and vision, I believe having emotional intelligence is essential to leading and building successful organizations. Having a high EQ enables us, as leaders, to handle interpersonal relationships skillfully and empathetically which only fosters an organization and its growth. Leadership is about guiding people to a common goal.

What is the best piece of professional advice you have ever received? (And from whom?)

Heather Smartt: Early in my career, I would overthink and deliberate decisions. I would go back and forth and back and forth; I always proceeded with extreme caution. My best friend and industry veteran, Michelle Armstrong, Alphabroder, would say to me, Act now and ask for forgiveness later. As a leader, I must remind myself to step into my power. With hundreds of decisions a day at my doorstep, it is better to act decisively with the best interest of the business in mind than to overanalyze and risk delay and objections.

Comfort Zone or Danger Zone – Where do you feel more comfortable? Where do you achieve more?

Heather Smartt: There should be a balance of both. Leadership requires stability and firmness. But to take organizations to the next level, you need to push innovation and take calculated risks. The comfort zone is a pleasant place, but nothing ever grows there.

From your point of view: What should women look for in their career planning to prepare them for a top position?

Heather Smartt: “Surround yourself with a group of diverse thinkers and absorb as much as possible. In my beginnings, I was lucky to find a strong group of female leaders who took me under their wing and invited me to have a seat at the table with strategic leaders. These individuals are still my closest working relationships today. As a sign of appreciation, I always try to pay it forward with the next generation.”

What are you particularly proud of when you look back on your career so far?

Heather Smartt: My resilience. I have lived and worked around the world – in China, The Netherlands, Portugal, and the USA. Aside from the US, I have had to navigate cultural and language barriers to succeed.  I’ve had my ass kicked, taken wrong turns – literally, and had to prove myself time and time again to new leaders/colleagues and peers. I have accepted each person as a teacher and each experience as a lesson. So far, I’ve figured it out… every single time.”

What motivates you every day?

Heather Smartt: I’m disciplined and self-motivated by nature, but I do love this industry and its people naturally and whole-heartedly. I’m continuously motivated by colleagues and teammates as we collaborate and work together every day to deliver the best possible customer experience. It’s not hard to get out of bed and work hard when I’m with individuals that share the same vision and dreams.