2017 Distinguished Business Awards - Businesswoman of the Year: Lara Lee

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Lara Lee joined Orchard Supply Hardware (Orchard) in April 2016 as the senior vice president of marketing and merchandising and was later promoted to president in December of the same year.

As president she is charged with leading the company and its more than 5,400 associates who serve customers throughout the state of California, in Portland, Oregon, and in South and Central Florida.

Prior to joining Orchard, Lee joined Lowe’s as senior vice president, customer experience design in 2013. In the role, she was responsible for translating business strategies into customer-centric experiences that delivered value to home improvement customers and to Lowe’s. 

Lee has driven customer-centric business transformation for more than 20 years and served as chief innovation and operating officer at global design and innovation firm Continuum. Lee also spent 15 years at Harley-Davidson, building the international business, launching new ventures and running a division that designed and monetized customer experiences.

Lee holds a bachelor’s degree in Chinese language from Brown University, a master’s degree in international studies from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in multinational management from the Wharton School.

Q&A

Share your thoughts on what it means to receive this award?

It’s an honor to receive this award on behalf of more than 5,400 Orchard Supply Hardware Associates who work diligently to help our neighbors keep their homes humming and create beautiful outdoor spaces. More than 85 years ago, Orchard Supply Hardware opened as a small co-op in San Jose. Since our humble beginning, we’ve continued to innovate and grow along with our hometown. Our focus remains on our customers and we look forward to continuing to serve them in neighborhoods fromSan Jose to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Why is it important for the business community, and the work that it does, to be highlighted annually by The SVO?

This is a wonderful opportunity for business professionals throughout the Silicon Valley to come together and remember why we are here: to meet the needs of our customers and put them in the center of every decision we make. As technology changes and businesses grow, one thing remains the same – our need to genuinely care about our customers and work diligently to meet their needs. As someone relatively new to the area, this is an excellent opportunity for me to meet others who live and work in our great city of San Jose and build bridges with other professionals.

Share words of advice that someone gave you at the beginning of your career?

Be yourself. Otherwise, you’ll spend too much time managing your image instead of creating genuine relationships with those around you. Do the right things for the right reasons. Have conviction but be open to other perspectives and learning from experience.

Share words of advice to give to those aspiring to be future Distinguished Business Award recipients?

Genuinely care about who you serve and do everything with purpose.