Shechtman and Comstock had known each
other for years, but their friendship began in
earnest in 2011 when GE agreed to sponsor a
curated “experience” at Story.
Beth Comstock: Rachel is the most extroverted person you’ll ever meet. This is a
person whose passion is to [make] cold calls.
Rachel Shechtman: I don’t use the word
mentor, but I have lots of smart friends who
give me advice. Beth and I went out to brunch
and had a Bloody Mary, and the only time
I’ve ever asked someone [for guidance was
when] we were walking out of brunch and I
was like, “Is it okay if sometimes I reach out
to you to go for a walk? Because you have
such a different perspective and experience
than I do, and I really value your input.” I
didn’t know that I’d be gaining a friend.
Comstock: I was intrigued by [Story’s]
business model. It was retail, which I knew
very little about. But the sponsorship piece I
knew. We were trying to do more consumer-facing “maker movement” activities. Linda
Boff (GE’s executive director, marketing
communications, at the time), Rachel, and
I cooked up this experience.
Shechtman: That story, specifically, was one of the biggest “aha”
moments in my career. Eighty
percent of our space was interactive. There was a 3-D printer and
You had a 9-year-old seeing a
3-D printer for the first time
and hipsters etching MetroCard
holders on the laser cutter. It was
like, if there are all these online
business models, why the hell
are retailers still talking about
sales per square foot? Why aren’t we looking
at “experience per square foot”?
After 27 years at GE, Comstock retired at the
end of 2017, along with several other high-profile executives. After leaving GE, she spent
her time finishing Imagine It Forward, a book
about managing change amid uncertainty.
Comstock: I didn’t realize how much work
the book would be; I basically had to start a
mini-company to help me get it together. It’s
very lonely to be on your own. Recently, we
were on a walk, and Rachel was like, “Now
you know what I feel like! This is what an
entrepreneur’s path is.”
Shechtman: It might not feel natural or
comfortable, but you have to talk about it
because it’s just going to eat away at you,
and that loneliness turns into resentment.
Or I should say: It does for me.
Comstock: Rachel’s an open book. That
would be one of the things I’ve really admired about her. She puts it out there: ideas,
her feelings. I have learned a lot from that,
and I’ve tried to open myself up more.
Shechtman: I can take things personally
are unlikely confidantes. Shechtman reimagined
retail with Story, a Manhattan boutique she
founded that presents themed installations, or
“stories,” many of which are sponsored by companies. Comstock ascended to the top of General
Electric, becoming its first female vice chair and
one of the most powerful leaders in business.
Recently, the two experienced something
of a role reversal. Comstock left GE during a management shake-up, while Shechtman went
corporate: Earlier this year, she sold Story to
Macy’s and became its brand experience officer.
Here, the pair discuss the benefits (and risks)
of corporate-entrepreneurial collaborations,
and what they’ve learned from each other.
HOME TO WN Winchester, Virginia
GUILTY PLEASURES French fries
and The Daily Mail
“Helping GE mean ‘Green Energy’
for a while.”
RACHEL SHECHTMAN AND BETH COMSTOCK