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A Q&A with DeAnna Ragan

By PAUL JEROME
Published March 18, 2007


A career in retail was not what DeAnna Ragan had in mind when she applied for a job on the sales floor of the Fort Myers JCPenney store in 1979 after relocating from the North. She had worked in the art department of a printing company and the sales gig was supposed to be temporary until she found something else within her field.

Now 28 years later, Ragan, 57, is a seasoned manager who has worked in the retailer's district (Tampa) and regional (Atlanta) offices and has run stores in Clearwater, Carrollton, Ga., Indianapolis and Altamonte Springs. She manages the JCPenney at Westfield Brandon mall, where she's also responsible for management trainees sent there to learn the ropes.

She discussed her career, JCPenney's diversity and her philosophy for success in this excerpt from an interview with the St. Petersburg Times.

Why did you decide to hang with the sales job?

I really just enjoyed each day and I excelled. I guess retail is a good fit for me. I am a multitasker. I like to stay busy. I like every day to be different. And that's what I found in retailing.

Did you have mentors inside or outside the company who helped you navigate the management trail?

Maybe some people from the outside. But the answer is no. I went to many meetings and I was the only female in them. So I would say it was the reverse. I became the mentor for women who wanted to excel with this company.

You were one of the first?

Yes, in the stores.

It would seem moving the family with the wife's job would be the reverse, too.

In the beginning. My husband had a real estate office and was very successful when I took this position in Fort Myers. I guess at some point we had to have a discussion on where we saw us going, and what we were going to do. Once my son got older, my husband and I had no objections about moving.

What's the biggest challenge in managing your store?

Hiring the right people for the right job, then helping them to understand the importance of customer service and maintaining a department to ensure an environment that creates a pleasant shopping experience for our customers. Our associates are "our" company and they make a connection with the customers that inspires them to make JCPenney their shopping choice.

Where does diversity come into play on your job?

Diversity covers all our differences; race, cultural background and life's experiences. We must have a blend on our leadership staff and associates, to have the best perspective, to serve our customers. Our company works hard to maintain balance.

What time do you come in, how late do you stay?

I don't think you should use me as the benchmark. I am here every day by 7 and I could be here as late as 7 in the evening. I never want to leave, if somebody needs something or they have a question. It's certainly not a requirement. I do everything 110 percent. I don't know how to do it any other way.