I recently listened to an episode of the Long Story Short podcast by Bobbi Brown, makeup artist and ex-CEO of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, where she interviewed Millard “Mickie” Drexler. There’s a good chance that at some point, you’ve experienced one of his retail stores. He’s responsible for iconic brands like J.Crew, Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy, and Steve Jobs recruited him to design a brick-and-mortar store that ultimately became the Apple Store.
In the podcast, Drexler spoke about his thoughts on retail and on hiring talent. As we embark on a new year, I thought it enlightening to hear what this 74-year-old has learned over his years of building teams. Here are a few broad takeaways:
Build people, not just brands
Brands are a reflection of all the people who work for them. You want to hire people who feel like their job—no matter how broad or narrow their responsibility—will make or break the business because they care that much.
Product has become incredibly important
As e-commerce gains share by selling products that are more commodity-driven, in-store shopping has to become more experiential and tactile. While there are plenty of retail categories where the customer may be indifferent between buying in a store or online, flooring is not yet one of them. Consumers still want to see the color and feel texture.
Retail is getting better for those who deserve it
There are a million startups chipping away at the big boxes and major retailers. Retailers who pay attention to their customers and make the shopping experience a delight will earn repeat customers.
Hire people who walk fast
“I look for people who walk fast,” Drexler said. “I look for people who are a little nervous and a little insecure. People who are successful always want to do better. They are not cocky or arrogant about their success.”
Analyze a candidate’s experience
For younger job candidates, Drexler said he looks for who did not have “entitled” jobs, but rather jobs that make them stand apart. “I love people who work in restaurants, who are smart, work hard and figure it out,” he said. If a candidate was a barista at Starbucks, he will ask them, “What would you do differently to improve the customer experience?”
Hire people you enjoy
Along with experience, Drexler said he hires people who he enjoys speaking with. He looks for people who he can learn from no matter what their age, and who will be good teachers and managers. “Over time, you build a team,” he said.