10 Questions: Urban Outfitters CEO Richard Hayne


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Richard Hayne is the founder and CEO of Urban Outfitters, a Philadelphia-based apparel company that began in 1970 on Penn's campus. The retail chain now includes Urban Outfitters, Free People, Anthropologie and Terrain.

To what do you attribute your success?

Well, an awful lot of it is perseverance. One of the things we have to work is to keep at it, not to be defeated by mistakes. As you make mistakes and you fail, you get back up and do it again and try to learn from what happened and keep at it. That’s a lot of it, and to be able to successfully work with teams. Our company is not a top down. This is a collaborative effort where many people participate. It’s necessary to have a lot of input.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I demand a lot of people, expect a lot from people. I like to set goals for people and then allow them to do it. Talk to them about it but try not to micromanage. I do it cooperatively I hope. I’ve learned over the years to never do anything in anger. I try to never bring personalities into it. It really is about business. It’s not about something personal. I don’t think at the Navy Yard, I can’t recall times when people raise their voice and yell and scream. I don’t think its productive. As women enter the workforce more and more, they’ve become dominate. Seventy-five percent of our workforce is female, we have to be much more collaborative not a strict hierarchy. I think it’s great. Once you have the experience, you have the knowledge the power and the self-confidence.

How would you describe the culture at Urban Outfitters?

We try to make it very friendly for them (workers). We rely on them. They are the future. We try to make it as casual, open as pleasant as possible a working environment. For Urban to succeed, we need to have a place that is highly creative and innovative, where creative people feel comfortable. It’s been demonstrated people can be much more creative if they are in a happy environment. We go to pretty great lengths to try and supply that. We hear all the time—“I’d like to work here.” That’s exactly what we want.

What did you major in at Lehigh University?

I majored in anthropology. My professors would say: “And he did what? That guy?  I can’t remember… he was that inconsequential.”

What did you do after college?

After going to Alaska and working with Eskimos for a year, I applied for two jobs—they didn’t like me and I didn’t like them. I decided I should probably do something on my own. There are a lot more choices for us today. Somebody graduating from college has many more choices.

What we are really trying to do I liken it to Outward Bound for business. Outward Bound is a program that is meant to remove a lot of myths and fears. It’s a fantastic program that helps kids overcome their fears. I see that’s what a CEO does.

How did you know entrepreneurship was the direction to go?

You forget I spend almost every day dealing with a lot of people in their early and late 20s. So I’m not too far removed from the college-aged kids. It’s pretty clear to me that entrepreneur ism is something that resonates with the younger generation. Their heroes are Zuckerberg, Jobs and people like that… I want to do that. I want to be like that. I want to start something that is unique. I can empathize with that because I did the exact same thing 40-some years ago.

What would you like to impart on young people?

I don‘t know that you can teach entrepreneurship. You can allow people to be entrepreneurs. Imagine all the things that kids do like lemonade stands and car washes. You can learn everything you need to know about business from something as basic as a car wash or a lemonade stand.

Why did you start a CEO training program?

This goes way back. I have been involved with Springside Chestnut Hill Academy for the better part of 15 years. And it’s because my children, 1 girl and 1 boy, attended these schools. When I got involved with the school, I came to really admire and respect Dr. Sands. She’s a very, very strong leader and innovator. I love innovation and creativity.

To me it’s exciting and it’s all for a good cause. They are the next generation.

What hobbies do you have?

I’m one of those strange guys that watches a lot of these nature programs. In the natural world... you see over and over in the natural world with animals it’s all play when they are young but they learn all the skills they need later in life.

What's your influence on the fashion at Urban Outfitters?

Look at me for God’s sake I’m 66 years old. If I had to call what a 22-year-old girl is going to wear, it would be pathetic. I’ve made so many business mistakes I can warn them of traditional traps of the kinds of things they will do. No, I can’t call the fashion.

Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.

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