One of the joys of being editor of MR is the inspiration and wisdom that comes my way on a regular basis from menswear retailers and brands. Case in point, this email from David Rubenstein of Rubenstein’s in New Orleans: “I talk to retailers all the time who are understandably worried about what to do in the short run, considering today’s tenuous business climate. From my years in retail, I’ve learned to plan what we want the future to be, implementing necessary changes to ensure success.”
What follows are paragraphs Rubenstein sent me from the writings of two highly successful businessmen: Michael Porter and Bob Iger, who share hints on how to look forward. “I thought these ideas might inspire retailers to stop focusing on the pandemic and start planning for their successful future,” Rubenstein offers.
From Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter’s book Competitive Strategy, which revolutionized managerial thinking in 1980: “Every company is subject to five forces: the competitors it currently faces, the threat of new competition, the threat of substitutes for its products or services, the bargaining power of its suppliers, and the bargaining power of its customers. Within that environment, every company must choose a strategy, and there are only three: achieving the lowest costs, differentiating its products and services, and dominating a niche. Trying to do some of each prevents a company from realizing the benefits of any of these strategies and as a result, it will lose to competitors who choose just one.”
Bob Iger, former chairman of Disney, has written about optimism. “Optimism in a leader, especially in challenging times, is so vital. Pessimism leads to paranoia, which leads to defensiveness, which leads to risk aversion. “Optimism sets a different machine in motion. Especially in difficult moments, the people you lead need to feel confident in your ability to focus on what matters, rather than operate from a place of defensiveness and self-preservation. This isn’t about saying things are good when they’re not, nor is it about conveying some innate faith that ‘things will work out.’ It’s about believing that you, and the people around you, can steer toward the best outcome, and not communicating the feeling that all is lost if things don’t break your way. The tone you set as a leader has an enormous effect on the people around you. No one wants to follow a pessimist.”