September 29, 2023

🔒 Jill Timm’s path to battle-tested management as Kohl’s CFO 





The primary three years of Jill Timm’s position as chief monetary officer of Kohl’s Corp. have been removed from conventional.

Headlined by a world pandemic, adopted by two tried board takeovers, some would possibly name it baptism by hearth. Standing on a basis of expertise, Timm took these challenges in stride.

“Having 20 years of expertise right here helped me really feel very assured to make selections – and also you didn’t have time to second guess your self,” she mentioned, recalling the pandemic’s onset when Kohl’s was compelled to quickly shut down its total retailer base, finally contributing to a loss $163 million in 2020.

Timm joined the Menomonee Falls-based retailer in 1999 as a senior monetary analyst and labored her means up by way of the corporate’s finance division earlier than changing into CFO in November 2019.

Navigating the pandemic proper out of the gate ready her for a special but equally as tumultuous battle towards a bunch of activist buyers who tried to take management of Kohl’s board in 2021, and once more in 2022. Whereas each campaigns resulted in shareholders voting in favor of the corporate’s incumbent management, the expertise proved to be a take a look at of energy.

“I needed to be actually assured in what I knew was the precise reply, in what we have been shifting ahead with,” Timm mentioned. “I’m a a lot stronger particular person and extra assured chief due to it.” 

Over the course of Timm’s profession, Kohl’s has expanded from a Midwestern division retailer chain with solely 200 areas to a nationwide omnichannel retailer with 1,171 shops in 49 states and a $5 billion e-commerce enterprise.

With every part of development, Timm discovered new alternatives to advance her profession, all whereas preserving tempo with a quickly altering retail panorama and continuously evolving shopper calls for. Timm says she thrives on this fast-pace, high-pressure atmosphere: It’s a key a part of what made Kohl’s a “nice match” firstly of her profession and why she’s nonetheless on the firm 24 years later.

Steering the ship

As we speak, Timm sits amongst 9 executives who at present make up a comparatively new C-suite at Kohl’s. Six of these – together with CEO Tom Kingsbury and president and COO Dave Alves – took their respective posts inside simply the previous yr. Along with her confirmed monitor report as CFO, constructing on 24 years of institutional information about Kohl’s and the attire retail business at massive, Timm has claimed her place as a pacesetter amongst leaders.

She sees her position on the chief workforce as considerably of a mentor in addition to a reference level for the corporate’s present long-term development goals, most of which Timm helped set in movement inside the previous few years beneath former CEO Michelle Gass.

Timm isn’t afraid to acknowledge the truth of doing enterprise in a unstable market that feels the affect of all the things from the climate to gasoline costs. She typically tells people who retail is “not for the faint of coronary heart.”

Final yr, Kohl’s reported a web lack of $19 million and gross sales lower of seven.1% because of inflationary stress on customers. Macroeconomic situations have since improved, however the first quarter of this yr nonetheless noticed web gross sales drop 3.3% year-over-year, and earnings have been flat at $14 million.

However Timm is inspired by the corporate’s shorter-term initiatives, resembling increasing its partnership with magnificence chain Sephora into 850 shops by yr’s finish; tapping into residence décor, impulse purchases and gifting as potential new income drivers; and preserving costs low at a time when worth is paramount within the minds of customers.

She’s additionally optimistic about what’s forward for Kohl’s beneath what she described as a “contemporary, new” management workforce that brings new concepts to the desk. Tapping into the minds of fellow executives can also be a part of how she continues to develop and develop in her personal proper.

Jill Timm
Credit score: Valerie Hill

Setting an instance

Whilst Kohl’s has grown, its tradition has maintained a “small-company really feel,” mentioned Timm, which has allowed her the liberty to place household first – even in situations when it wasn’t particularly handy, just like the time she chaperoned her daughter’s fifth grade area journey to the Wisconsin State Capitol throughout quarter shut.

“Not a super time for somebody in finance to be on a faculty bus going to Madison,” she mentioned, however upholding a dedication to her daughter was extra vital. “And there was by no means a second that I felt like that was the unsuitable selection. Kohl’s didn’t make me really feel that means, I didn’t make myself really feel that means. … My daughter additionally performs basketball, and I’ll let you know, I don’t miss a sport.”

By brazenly demonstrating her priorities, Timm goals to uphold a normal for different working mother and father at Kohl’s, particularly those that is likely to be battling the stress of balancing work and residential life.

On the similar time, she continues to be an instance for her daughters, now 17 and 20, of what’s doable.

“Being a CFO as a girl shouldn’t be one thing you see quite a bit, so actually breaking that tumbler ceiling for them. I feel now they know the sky’s the restrict, which is incredible,” Timm mentioned.

Timm describes mentorship as one among her passions, largely because of the individuals who have mentored her all through her profession. Nowadays, she retains in contact steadily with Wes McDonald, who served as Kohl’s CFO from 2003 to 2017. His steerage was notably impactful through the pandemic and stays so in the present day as Kohl’s continues to navigate an ever-changing retail panorama and macroeconomic headwinds. She attributes McDonald’s affect not solely to her ardour for creating the following era of leaders, but in addition to her personal success.

“With out his mentorship, with out his pushing me, I don’t know that I’d be sitting within the seat in the present day as a result of it’s important to construct that confidence and to have somebody sitting on this seat telling you that you are able to do this undoubtedly helps,” she mentioned.

In in the present day’s world of hybrid work, through which random run-ins on the cafeteria or post-meeting conversations are more durable to come back by, Timm has needed to alter her method to shepherding within the subsequent era of employees, together with the finance division’s 15 summer time interns this yr. She makes some extent of attending joyful hours and workforce gatherings so she will be able to keep seen and approachable. She repeatedly meets with the interns in teams of 5 main as much as their ultimate presentation on the finish of the summer time.

“I feel the youthful era is admittedly the way forward for this group and my job is to assist them be prepared for these positions, so the extra I can act and be a part of that the higher,” Timm mentioned.