‘Why I quit law to work at Aldi’
WHEN Kelly Wells told her law firm boss she was quitting to work for Aldi, he told her she was making the biggest mistake of her life.
But after six years working in retail, she says she couldn't be happier. "I decided that I wanted to be a lawyer when I was 14," the 32-year-old Brisbane mum said. "I have always liked language and problem solving so I thought that I would enjoy law.
"[But] after three-and-a-half years of practising, I started to feel that law was quite different to what I had expected it to be. It took me about six months after that to realise that I wanted to change careers."
Ms Wells, originally from Whangarei in New Zealand, said it was tough decision to ditch a career after investing so much time, energy and dedication.
"It was a really big deal for my parents," she said. "They had watched my journey and supported me along the way. I just got to the point where I was not excited about work and I wanted to do something different."
She says she was attracted to a job opening at Aldi for an area manager, as it focused on "leadership, autonomy and independence", as well as offering a great salary. In the new role, she serves as the link between corpoate HQ and the individual stores.
Aldi, which employs around 10,000 people, is Australia's third-largest supermarket with an 8.9 per cent market share in the $105.3 billion grocery sector, according to IBISWorld. Woolworths holds 33.6 per cent, Coles 29.3 per cent and Metcash 7.1 per cent.
While some employees have complained about tough working conditions - including claims checkout operators must scan a minimum of 1000 items per hour or face the sack - Aldi says it consistently receives high scores in independent employee satisfaction surveys.
"I think it is definitely one of the best things I have ever done," Ms Wells said, describing Aldi as a business which "truly values its employees and provides an environment where you feel supported and challenged every day".
She said her legal background had been a big contributor to her success. "At the end of the day, all skills are transferrable," she said.
"Law is a career that teaches you to understand business, interpretation and problem solving. I have brought all that with me. As a lawyer, I gained experience in building relationships and working with people, and these are also key elements for a career in retail."
A typical day for Ms Wells involves driving around to each of her three assigned stores in Kenmore, Kelvin Grove and Ashgrove, meeting with the first store team at 8am before opening. "No day is ever the same," she said. "Every day there will be something you have not dealt with before."
Part of her duties include quality and date checking products, before a catch-up with the store manager to review performance and "how the team and the store are progressing". "We look at how we are tracking for sales and assess staffing levels," she said.
"We also review rosters and plan for the next week, month and upcoming seasonal events. For example, if we have something coming up such as Ski Special Buys, Easter or Christmas, we plan how we will operate out business on those dates.
"We also look at training and development as well as the progression of our teams. In the afternoon, I might visit another store to do inventory or I might attend a project meeting."
Ms Wells said she had learned a lot about people leading teams. "When you are in the law, you work with people, but you do not lead them, you advise them," she said.
"I've learned a lot about leadership and the importance of understanding what motivates people while realising that everyone is really different so I have to be flexible and change my approach to get the best from everyone."