Gaither Keener reveals his best tools for representing Lowe's Cos.

Keener shares how he became the first ever GC of Lowe's, and what has kept him there for 34 years

Mentorship and an open mind are two prominent factors that played a role in Gaither Keener’s progression toward becoming executive vice president, secretary, chief compliance officer and the first in-house counsel of Lowe’s Cos. Inc. After landing a job in retail during his first year out of college, Keener decided to venture into graduate programs, thinking his interests would be better suited in a different field. He kept his options open, with applications to programs in history and seminary studies.

Keener also was interested in law, and he channeled childhood influences such as his favorite TV character, Perry Mason, and family friend Samuel Moose, to narrow his decision toward law. Keener recalled Moose—who went by the nickname “Sub”—as a man full of character, whose distinguished daytime career as an attorney was followed by his nighttime position as a little league baseball coach. These two childhood role models were Keener’s first influences in his later decision to become a lawyer, and it was his admiration of Moose that led him to equate the practice of law with coaching a team.

Q: What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

A: A lot of people don’t believe this, but retailing is a very diverse business. When you are dealing with 50 states and different countries, you pretty much have to have a great grasp of the general law, the exceptions to the general and minority law and, more particularly, you better know how both of those laws pertain to retailing. It’s a business that encounters vast changes every day. You have to be nimble, flexible and resilient so that you can turn on 70 percent of the information, ensure that 70 percent is correct and provide the best advice for the business people to implement their plans. This is the greatest challenge.

Danielle Feinstein

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