Let me say this right out in front. I like Shirley Price. In fact, just about everyone likes Shirley. She is gentle, friendly, warm and open. How then did someone with these personality traits come to be the COO of one of our largest toy companies?I wanted to find that out so I sat Shirley down for a conversation. Here is what I learned:
Talk to Shirley any amount of time and you realize that you simply cannot fully understand how Shirley came to run Funrise without understanding the person who hired her; Arnie Rubin. Arnie is one of those rare individuals who have somehow managed to be respected and loved by his peers; not so easy in a sharp elbowed community like the toy industry.
Shirley (she was the company’s first employee) is careful to explain that Arnie’s intention from the beginning was to create a “work hard / play hard” environment that was empowering to those who worked within it. His way of encouraging was to allow his employees to make their own decisions and learn from the experience.
Obviously, Shirley was the kind of employee Arnie was seeking and Funrise was the kind of company with which Shirley wanted to stay. She has been there since its inception in 1987 with her only prior experience working in a bank (which she hated).That tells us a great deal about Arnie but what about Shirley. What makes her tick?
The most prominent element appears to be her belief in the concept of the servant leader. This lifestyle calls upon her to live her beliefs so that her counterparts can emulate rather than just hear what she wants. Bottom line she believes that to be a great coach you have to live what you teach.
Then I asked her the big question: “How did you feel about following a legend like Arnie?”
“With some trepidation,” she responded. She went on to explain that Arnie is a great product person and she does not feel she has that strength in kind. And then she said, and this gave me my clearest insight into Shirley, that that was why she knew she had to surround herself with great product people. She had to fill in her gap.
Shirley has, what I like to call, “confident humility.”It is that wonderful ability to surround oneself with strong, capable people who compliment us without threatening us.
I then asked Shirley how she felt about being one of the few females in the toy industry who is in the top position. Shirley feels that the toy industry is simply an extension of society at large in which there are