Breakfast at macy’s: yma scholars learn from the best

by Karen Alberg Grossman
20 YMA Scholars on the 13th floor terrace of Macy’s
20 YMA Scholars on the 13th floor terrace of Macy’s

It was a fabulous breakfast at Macy’s executive offices this morning, as 20 YMA scholars (representing top schools across the country) received invaluable career advice from Peerless president Ronny Wurtzburger, Macy’s chief innovation officer Peter Sachse and Macy’s CMO Tim Baxter.

Sachse kicked it off with a brief history of Macy’s, noting that R.H. Macy had failed at several business before he opened the store (“Persevere; don’t give up…”) and declaring that Macy’s has been around for 157 years and intends to be there for at least the next 157. The key to their business:  focusing on the customer. “Our mantra at every meeting is ‘Leave an empty chair (for the customer)…’ If we fail to do that, then what good is the meeting?”

Wurtzburger gave some solid advice (“Ronny 101”) for starting out in business. “First of all, if you don’t love it, find something else. 2) Have a strong handshake; people will look at you differently. 3) Be the first one in in the morning and the last one out at night; 4) Don’t be a specialist: learn every aspect of the business;  5) Find a mentor; don’t wait for him to find you and  6) Don’t be afraid to ask questions; don’t pretend to know what you don’t know.”

Tim Baxter, who cited both Wurtzburger and Sachse as his mentors during his 24-year tenure at Macy’s, suggested young people should define their own roles according to their beliefs: “You’re writing your own story, but start with a draft. You know the beginning and kind of know where you want to end up; make sure the chapters in between are interesting and meaningful.” Other advice from Baxter: “Get as much as you can out of internships, and always maintain a sense of curiosity.”