Simple message of trial, error ... and success

Former H&D CEO stresses perseverance during women's leadership conference talk

Former Harry & David Chief Executive Officer Kay Hong told women gathered for a leadership conference on Friday that measuring success in American culture often gets mired in whether a person reaches goals.

"I don't personally buy that," she said.

Hong, an executive with the firm Alvarez and Marsal who led Harry & David out of bankruptcy last year, was in Medford to speak to more than 200 women at the Rogue Valley's first Women's Leadership Conference.

Hong offered advice for females in the workforce, those returning to the workforce, or those preparing to graduate and enter the workforce for the first time.

Much of her talk was devoted to the measurement of success, which she said she doesn't equate with reaching goals. Success is better measured, she said, by such things as whether a woman enjoys her work and is good at what she does.

To be successful on the job a woman must like who she works with, Hong said, noting that no matter the outward appearance of a job, if the employee despises her co-workers, then it "sucks."

Compensation, of course, is a factor. Hong said a woman must ask herself if she is being compensated fairly, adding that compensation does not just relate to salary.

Hong, 39, related her own experiences before being named the chief executive officer and chief restructuring officer of Harry & David about two years ago, in February 2011.

She said luck figured in much of her journey. She worked as a consultant in the telecommunications industry out of college, but after her company was bought out, she decided to attend business school at Harvard. She described business schools as places that attract "people who have no idea what they want to do."

After business school, she joined a satellite company, which "was not successful." Looking for work, she began asking people what they thought she would be good at. A friend mentioned Alvarez and Marsal, informing her then that, "By the way, they work with bankrupt companies."

It proved to be the job where she would find her greatest success. Harry and David employees apparently agree — 38 of its employees attended the conference, and one said during a question and answer session that some in the company regard her as the "strongest leader they've ever worked with."

Margueritte Hickman, a division chief and fire marshal with Ashland Fire & Rescue, said response to news of the conference showed how much it was needed. Initial projections were for 100 attendees. But that filled quickly, and she and other organizers decided to open it up, capping it at 220.

She said numerous women on a waiting list had asked in the days preceding the conference whether they could get in.

"Obviously, there's a need for this conference (in the valley)," she said, adding it was a chance to network and engage in work topics specific to women, such as balancing work and family life.

In addition to Hong's talk, the day was scheduled to feature a keynote address from Barbara Tyler, a real estate professional, and nine breakout sessions.

Those wishing to follow Tweets from the conference can search #13wlc on Twitter. More information can be found at

Vince Tweddell is a freelance writer living in Talent. Reach him at

Reader Reaction
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Rules. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or fill out this form. New comments are only accepted for two weeks from the date of publication.