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  • Conspicuously In The Weeds

    You will amazingly see those who were inconspicuously present that have now seized power.

    We don’t want to be the Gap: and now the Gap doesn’t want to be the Gap.

    In the 1980’s, that would have been a blasphemous statement: yet now a warning against hubris and losing touchpoints with the customer. Sometimes you move under the radar – hold and improve your position, and when the “shakeout” occurs – the battlefield will be vastly changed: you will see both big and old lions that are no more – and you will amazingly see those who were inconspicuously present that have now seized power.

    As the leader of Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals, I realize that opportunity is not offered: it’s won through hard work, patience, relentlessness and luck.

    1.     See risks and gaps before they become risks and gaps. – look for “Gray and Black Swans.”

    2.     Keep your ear to the ground: what are the coming changes – what are the seismic ones: what are the upheavals that affect everyone, which are the ones that present a unique opportunity?

    3.     Be prepared.

    4.     Be steady – but searching – don’t become sedentary. Force yourself to see what’s there – more so, what’s not there – and the way forward: be specific and map it out.

    5.     Be honest about yourself – about others – about the culture and the climate your are in – the one you want to be in: redouble your efforts to be honest with yourself.

    6.     Have the courage to move: don’t panic, but move.

    7.     Capture it: be ruthless – myopic and manic about it – but get the to the goal, and once you achieve it: act like a gentleman.

    You would think that I am talking about strategy on the battlefield or in the corporate boardroom, but one company utilized exactly this strategy: it was not the most recognized, nor the most resourced – but it had enough patience – enough process to be positioned where most of its contemporaries had fallen short: where most of them to this moment still have not arrived. Who knew “skinny jeans” could build a retail empire?

    I was reading an excerpt from the Wharton Leadership Lecture Series, the article Urban Outfitters’ Glen Senk: Look for the Right Culture, Diverse Opinions and ‘Bad News’, where Glen T. Senk, the CEO of Urban Outfitters, described one aspect of his unique culture: that his employees are implored to give him honest assessment, which is very unusual, because the higher an executive goes – the more fear employees have of being honest with them. He also spoke of employees and the culture being “creative, collaborative and curious.”

    Senk said, “Diversity — including diversity of race, religion and political views — is also central to that vision. “Dick Hayne is a Republican,” Senk noted. “I’m the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 1,000 company.” While Senk and Hayne may differ politically, Senk considers such disparity of opinion to be an advantage. “We believe as a company in hiring diversity, not because it is politically correct, but because diversity makes us stronger. I look for people who complement me, not [people] who look at the world the same way that I do.”  The willingness of Urban Outfitters managers to debate with him and with each other drives the company’s success. For example, 11 years ago, an executive at Anthropologie asked for funding to create a website for the company. Senk initially dismissed the notion, arguing that the brand’s customers weren’t likely to shop online. “The day it went live, we had [an impressive number of] hits,” Senik recalled. “You want people who are challenging each other.”

    It’s important that a company stake out a position and become great before it becomes big: become valuable more than important – and if they expand through value, as opposed to largess –  it just might have the opportunity to become the next Urban Outfitters.

    I believe the one thing that Urban Outfitters has used and leaned on to create a better brand and multiple ones, is that they allow their employees to become the company champions – they allow workers to win and change the business. With this type of flexibility – the business should be reflective of customers, not executives – and that’s unique.

    Good Luck.

    Calvin Wilson
    Founder and CEO
    Upstart: Business and Management for 20-40 Year Old Professionals

    Filed Under: Gamechangers


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