3 lessons Fortune 500 CEO David Rawlinson picked on his journey from failure to success

Stephen Nartey June 20, 2023
Rawlinson supervises seven leading retail brands under Qurate Retail. Photo credit: Qurate Retail

CEO of Qurate Retail, David Rawlinson, is one of a few African Americans heading a Fortune 500 company. His acceptance of the role brought the total number of black CEOs leading in such peculiar top executive positions to five; including Marvin Ellison, Roz Brewer, Thasunda Brown Duckett, and Rene F. Jones.

Rawlinson supervises seven leading retail brands under Qurate Retail – a company that globally occupies one of the top positions as a content producer in the video commerce market in North America. In 2020, the company posted revenue of $14.2 billion and had a 22 million client base.

For many business analysts and entrepreneurs, the cable tv and online retailer’s decision to settle on Rawlinson meant he was a capable fit with excellent skills, and like how most individuals in such top-performing roles are perceived, flawless in the execution of his duties; without a few cracks or any kind of experience with failure.

As a student at the Citadel in the 1990s, he spearheaded the integration of women at the South Carolina military college after the Supreme Court’s ruling for the institution to accept applications from women, according to Montco Today.

Prior to joining Qurate Retail, he led a seamless transition of the market research firm, NielsenIQ to new ownership as the entity’s chief executive officer. He was also in charge of Grainger Global Online’s fastest growth in the entity’s history. The online platform continuously witnessed double digits in its annual growth and received associated national honors for workplace ethics, according to Black Ventures.

Politically, he was the special assistant to the White House chief of staff under the Bush administration and a Senior Advisor for Economic Policy with the White House National Economic Council under President Obama.

For someone who assumed the mantle of leadership at a very early age, the journey cannot be all rosy. Like many successful icons, he has witnessed the lows and highs of life. His failures and the lessons he tapped from them have not received as much recognition as his admirable achievements.

Prior to venturing into the business world, Rawlinson worked as a lawyer for two law firms. He started off on the right note at the first firm and was one of the most promising associates, making the right bonuses and getting good reviews.

However, during his third year with the firm, he was assigned to a partner who did not like his work. The bad relationship that existed between them brought him to his lowest point, compelling him to question his relevance at the firm.

Fortunately, on the recommendation of a senior partner, he secured a job at a more prestigious law firm and was soon on top of his game, working on big cases and making enough bonuses. He was later adjudged one of the top five associates among 1,300 colleagues in the firm, according to an interview with Terrence Franklin.

Based on his brush with failure while working as a young lawyer in the early years of his career, Rawlinson highlights 3 lessons that have propelled him to success:

Never be complacent: Even though the enthusiasm that initially made him great while working at the first law firm was in full force, he became complacent and recorded streaks of bad reviews.

A defensive mechanism is an enemy of growth: Rawlinson noticed he made a comeback in the early years of his law career when he opened himself to the feedback and constructive reviews he was given in the past. As much as it sounded hard, there was some truth in it.

Always pay attention to context: He learned to choose which context to belong in each stage of his life. In one context, he failed woefully, whereas he performed well in the other after sober reflections on his work output.

Last Edited by:Annie-Flora Mills Updated: June 20, 2023

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