Thank you all for coming. Today is a very special day and I feel extremely lucky to be able to have this day before I leave. To somehow express my gratitude to you for the woman that I have become because of the impact that you all have had on my life. Many people don’t get the opportunity, and I am truly grateful for this day.
As many of you are aware, with the help of Damien, we have set up a website (www.leislgerdes.com). The idea behind this is to gather together a conglomerate of stories that will hopefully tell the story to my 2 children of who I was. It seems, however, that there are far too many nice stories and this painting me in such a good light. I think most of you know that I am no angel, but it is my intention to be so in the future – so lets gets some real stories on the website :), and I thank all of you who have done so already.
I would dearly like to mention everyone individually, but would also like to keep everybody around for a while, so probably best I don’t. So here is a short list of some of the things I have learnt from some of you. Rest assured, there is a lesson from each and every one of you.
Firstly my Dad: my attention to detail, my perfectionism, and later in life, perhaps learnt not to to drink so much :).
My brothers Brent and Troy: comes my sense of humour and a love of laughter
Debbie Spence (Larchea): my knowledge and passion for retail and a special love for Vince Jones and Grace Knight.
Ali: just smile through it, it will get you through anything.
Karin: to keep going and never accept the outcome you don’t want – ever.
Leanne Bud: piles are ok :), except for my most recent addition
Anya & Cooper: you get what you get and you don’t get upset.
Virginia: stop and listen, talk about it.
Megs: have fun.
Katie: you can be elegant every day.
Kellie, Leonie, Mel & Shannon: work hard, play hard.
Mel: respect and kindness.
My Tongan family: family is where it all starts and all ends.
Damien: has taught me to love and to be loved. This is evident in our children, Kieren and Paige. He has also taught me to respect myself and the people who are important in my life. I am very proud to say that Damien and I have never raised our voices at each other. I realised many years ago that I would never raise my voice to a colleague or a friend, so why would I do that to the person I love most in the world – it’s just not necessary. If I’m honest, I’m still trying to get there with the kids though.
But I do love my children, and would like to quote Hillary Clinton by saying, “It takes a village to raise a child”. Today we have a village present, and I would like ask you all to help raise them. Damien is and will continue to be an amazing hands-on and inspirational father. My wish for these two is that they gain experience and lessons from each of you – not things!! This will in turn help build their lives in the way that you have helped me develop mine.
Response, Karin Adcock
What an incredibly brave and courageous woman you are. Your event invite on Facebook, “Leisl’s Farewell”, is something we do when someone is leaving us to go to a new job or a new country, but this is another situation – You are leaving us in a whole different way….
I know that everyone here is truly appreciative of having this BBQ today so we can get a chance to see you and your family and express to you what you have meant to us in the time we have known you. It is a big privilege that we are able to do this with you and your family.
You and I met at Pandora early 2009. We had reached a stage where we had to get a professional Visual Merchandising team in place…
It was late one afternoon and Mhairi (our VP for HR) had told me we had a very good potential VM Manager who came from the Jewellery industry and had been with Viviens & Goldmark. She could possibly take the VM Team forward and boy was she right!!
What really stood out to me in this interview was the fact that regardless of what I said to try to scare you away you just sat there with a smile and said – “yes I can do that”, “that is not a problem”, “I have dealt with that before”, “I have ideas to what should be done here” and you did this in such a calm and collective manner that I just felt an instant relief and wish to give you the job. It was one of those interviews where protocols were skipped and you got the job there and then.. – And what a ride we have been on since…
We had a couple of people who were doing Visual Merchandising but we needed to lift our VM support to stores to a new greater level and we needed to create systems which could be implemented across all stores – from small family jewellers to full Pandora concept stores. It was not an easy task – especially as most of the smaller jewellers would receive a visit from their Visual Merchandiser who would set it all up beautifully – but then a few days later it would look like a complete mess again..
Systems, guidelines and frameworks needed to be developed to ensure a steady and uniform way of presenting the brand..
The Australian market was the furthest developed in Visual Merchandising so you quickly got to play a vital role in developing the Global direction for VM with MaiBritt who is the Global VM Manager sitting in Copenhagen. As a result of your diligent & great work you were asked to introduce VM to the Asian market – where you undertook a 3 month secondment which made a huge difference to that market. You were then offered the role as VP for Visual Merchandising in Asia late 2011 but after a lot of consideration you decided to stay in Australia.
Charms displayed in “Line of Repetitions” were developed by you and everywhere I now go across the world I see the charms being displayed exactly as you introduced it years ago and I have always been thinking of you with a smile – what an amazing impact you have had on Pandora’s development within Visual Merchandising…. this is just one small example of many!
You have been an outstanding leader and during our frantic growth across the business your team stood out flourishing under your leadership. Always leading by example, keeping people accountable and being a true inspiration to work with – and every day with a smile.
In June last year you came back after a 5 month battle with the cancer and we all thought you were fit for the fight….. looking amazing and with a wonderful outlook on life and ready for new challenges..
We now know that life is taking a different turn which we can no longer control. We tried other ways when the western medicine gave up and you went to Hong Kong just before Christmas for 9 days to see a Chinese doctor – Dr Ma – who specialises in cancer patients the western world can’t do anything for – but we simply got there too late…
One tiny thing which we can control is that we have set up The Leisl Gerdes Trust and Damien will be the Trustee. This is a small way for us to help in this incredibly difficult situation for you and your family; Page, Kieran & Damien. The trust was set up yesterday and we are now opening the bank account. We will upload details of the account on Leisl’s website so those wishing to make donations are most welcome to do so.
Leisl – it has been a true honour to know you, work with you and become your friend. You have reinforced to me – and I think everyone – that we only live once and it is up to each of us to make sure we live life to the fullest every day. We owe it to you to do that and I promise you that I will do that.
To Page, Kieran & Damien I just want to say that you can be eternally proud of your mother and Partner as Leisl has left a profound mark on everyone who has been lucky enough to be touched by her, working with her and becoming her friend.
Thank you for sharing this day with us and allowing us to Celebrate with you and your family – Your amazing life!!!