Business Management Lessons from the Founder of Uniqlo
The Peter Drucker of Japan
Tadashi Yanai (柳井 正), the founder and president of Fast Retailing Co., turned his father’s tailor shops into the Uniqlo chain and later built the retailing empire that made him the richest person in Japan. He wrote several books on his business management philosophy, none of which, surprisingly, were translated to English.
I recently read his book ‘Notes of a Manager’ in Chinese and found many gems that are worth sharing, especially for those that are interested in business management. I will try my best to translate some of the highlights below.
On making money
Making money is very important to a business. Business leaders are neither philanthropists nor commentators. One is not a qualified business leader if one cannot make money. (**Cough** Casper)
But making money surely shouldn’t be the only goal, otherwise, it could make one only focuses on short-term profitability and even adopts unethical business practices.
On working in a big corporation
There are many tactics for team management, budget allocation, and negotiation that only work in a big corporation due to the natural advantages that come with company size and name.
A business leader sometimes can achieve business results more easily in a bigger corporation with all the resources available. Therefore, if one is not conscious of the advantages, big corporations are not necessarily the best places for one to grow into a good business leader.
On common sense
The industry is the past, customers are the future.
Common senses from the industry are usually the biggest impediments to a business’s growth; especially because many of the common senses are established by businesses themselves without considering customers’ needs.
For example, it used to be common sense to not stock many ice creams in convenience stores during wintertime. But 7–11 discovered that many customers asked for ice creams even during winter because people tend to crave ice creams when heaters are on at home. Instead of following the industry’s common sense, they challenged it, listened to the customers, and became one of the first convenience stores to stock plenty of ice creams during winter and became a huge hit.
Challenging common-sense is scary, but merely following common-sense is dangerous.
On being a leader
Don’t be a nice leader. It will lead your team to doing work however it’s convenient for them and deprives them of the opportunity of being pushed to grow.
Be a leader with high standards but motivating. And your teams’ trust in such leadership needs to be earned. This means giving honest feedbacks that will help your team grow. This also means giving your team credits for accomplishments and taking full responsibility yourself for failures.
Indicators of true leaders vs. bosses? True leaders will have teams that are either proactively helping or excited to be asked to contribute.