Mickey Drexler is out at J Crew. What is the lesson here? A CEO has to look forward and be able to see the real future, not the future they wish. J Crew got arrogant and didn’t respect what tech was going to do to everything.
Drexler is one of the last of the old guard of retail. He came up in a much different time. Speed did not matter as much as in his peak years. Now speed is everything along with price. Popular designs at low prices became the thing while J Crew went after a high end slow to market system. Basically, the world changed and J Crew was running on an old playbook.
Not respecting the market has J Crew with $150 million in the bank and $2 million in debt. The hired a more modern CEO and put Drexler to the Board of Directors. It may be a little too late in a market that is changing more day to day than we saw in the entire decade of retail in the 80’s.
The only responsibility a CEO has is to create a profitable future. It is not about looking back, it is about moving forward. Public companies have stock valuations to consider and private companies have to adapt to the times to maintain profitability. It is not about beating last year, it is about growing at the same rate or better than the industry as a whole.
Drexler is a talented man with impressive skills. He just got caught in the rut that a long career can create. He didn’t respect change or the speed of the day. If you are a CEO, look forward and read the market trends so you don’t end up like Mickey.