Cool Jobs: Rodney Pratt of Converse Talks Recruitment and Career Strategy
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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(Image: Converse/Nike)

As a small business owner myself, sometimes I have a mission statement but execution or implementation is a challenge. What are some things you feel your brand does well in terms of executing mission statements?

I think we are focused at all times on our consumers and on the mission of the company. We try to align our business strategies with our organizational talent and make sure we have the right people in the right places at the right times to deliver on our mission. Therefore, we can always stay connected and tethered to our consumer. If you lose focus on your consumers, or if you don’t invest enough time and energy in your organizational talent, you may not be able to achieve your corporate mission. That’s where many companies, especially smaller businesses, may have trouble because they have limited resources and they focus on the business —  they may not be focused on the talent that’s needed to achieve their mission.

With that in mind, do you have any creative recommendations for small companies or tips for hiring great talent?

I would say hire people that have a passion for your business and for what they’re doing. And don’t hire people that are just looking for a paycheck. Try to find the right balance, but passion will help when you don’t have the necessary resources, because without that passion, even with some of the best talent, you may not be successful.

Do you believe that as a person of color you bring a unique perspective to the boardroom, and, if so, how does that perspective enhance your company and your brand?

Great question and absolutely I do bring a unique perspective being an African American male. I think part of [it is] being comfortable with who you are and being able to express who you are, and to use your life experience and the challenges and successes and being open to sharing in a good and constructive manner in an appropriate setting. I truly feel valued here at Converse, especially because they’re all about unleashing the creative spirit. One of our values is “Together We Are
Different” and by that, we mean we are definitely unique in what we bring to the table, what we want to enhance, and that we embrace each other’s uniqueness and at the same time harness our individual perspectives and creativity in a way that can benefit the larger organization.

I definitely agree. When I think of Converse, now I think of our first lady, Michelle Obama, in her garden wearing her Converses. It seems that the brand can go from anyone — from our children to the White House. How do you feel about that?

We feel great! We believe everyone is young at heart. We are definitely focused on youthful energy however it shows up —whether it’s in the 13-year-old, the 17-year-old, or a 38-year-old lawyer like me. We all are young at heart and Converse allows us to establish that identity in a creative way through our products.

The issue of work/life balance is a hot topic today. With such a demanding position, how do you maintain work/life balance?

Great question. First and foremost, my family is my priority. And I’m very fortunate that the team at Converse is so supportive of work/life balance. It’s hard to build a company focused around unleashing creativity and you don’t give your employees the time to explore and enjoy their passions outside of the office. Our CEO really is team oriented, and he’s done a tremendous job of instilling that throughout the company. So it’s easy to find work/life balance when you are part of a strong team.

Nicole Cober, Esq. is a partner at Cober Johnson, a law firm focusing on trademarks, brand licensing, and small biz consulting. She is a former small biz owner of the award winning chain, Soul…Day Spa and Salon. She is also a legal consultant for Washington D.C.’s NewsChannel 8 and author of the soon-to-be released book: “CEO of My Soul: The Dos and Don’ts of Small Biz.” Follow her on Twitter @CoberJohnson and like her on FB @CoberJohnson. Visit her website at

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As a trailblazer in the small business community for nearly a decade, Nicole Cober is an advocate for the small business community. For eight years, Ms. Cober owned and operated a day spa and hair salon chain that served as a revitalization catalyst in a developing area of the nation's capital. During that time, she received national media coverage regarding small business management and entrepreneurism in various publications such as People, Essence, Allure, Entrepreneur, The Washingtonian, The Washington Post, Upscale and Black Enterprise. Ms. Cober was also featured on the CBS Morning News, BET and the reality show, "Ambush Makeover." The salon and spa received recognition by the Washington City Paper as "The Best Stylist" and "Best Spa" and Ms. Cober's commitment to the community was on display annually when she used her business for philanthropy by provided complementary services to Rachael's Women's Shelter. Ms. Cober blends both her legal and business skills together to offer a uniquely powerful list of services for clients. Affectionately known as "The Lawyer-preneur," she now seeks to empower start-ups and local small businesses with by creating effective business, branding and growth strategies. Ms. Cober is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley as well as Howard University School of Law. She was a judicial law clerk for the Chief Judge of the DC Court of Appeals and worked for a number of years at Dickstein Shapiro as a litigation attorney, specializing in employment and insurance coverage law. Currently, she is a regular contributor to Black Enterprise and Citibank's Women and Co. as well as a legal consultant for NewsChannel 8 WJLA. Ms. Cober is also a public speaker, coach, a contributor to Pulse Magazine, a publication devoted to international spa management, and soon to be author who will publish a book later this year titled “CEO of My Soul”, which chronicles the do's and dont's of her early days as an entrepreneur. Follow her on twitter @CoberJohnson