7 things to know about Uniqlo founder Tadashi Yanai
The straight-talking Japanese billionaire with a reported net worth of $20 billion eyes global domination, never mind a "devastating debut" in London in 2001.
“I wish he was still alive and kind enough to come to Japan and rebuild it. Singapore is a newly built country. It’s not natural-born, in that sense. So is Fast Retailing. I come from Ube, a mining town in Yamaguchi, which had nothing to do with fashion. But I was very interested in young people’s culture and fashion in Europe and the US. I wanted to do the same in Japan. Just like Lee Kuan Yew went to Oxford and wanted to modernise Singapore.” - On the late Lee Kuan Yew, whom Yanai professes a deep respect for.
“Partly because the countries are physically closer to Japan. There’s cultural similarities because of Confucianism and also the body size is similar to Japanese. Caucasians are round like pillars. They have very thick arms, you know.” - On why his Asian stores are more successful than those in the US and UK.
“Being ashamed of failure is something I disagree with. If everyone is successful in the business, everybody will go into it. But a lot of people fail. And they tend to give up when they do. But never give up. You have to challenge yourself to do it again and again and you have to explore why you fail. You have to analyse what you have to do to be successful in the second attempt.”
“When I was fresh out of college, I joined another company rather than my father’s. After a year, I came back. There were seven employees working for my father then. When I joined, six of them quit. They thought, the son of the CEO knows nothing about the business but he comes back to join the company and he is so arrogant. And I was very arrogant. It was a devastating failure but on the flip side there was the opportunity to learn and absorb everything. Not everything I did worked but at the end of it, it was eye-opening.” - On the steep learning curve when he joined his father's company in 1972.
“Many businesses want stability over challenge. Even if you talk to university graduates, they all want to work for the big powerhouses, the large corporations because they are looking for stability, but I do not believe these large organisations are always safe.”
“The future looks very gloomy, I’m afraid. The government is only about spending money, not making it. The bureaucrats are only interested in getting more votes. That’s very bad from my perspective. It’s not about the current administration. Whichever party you look at, they are alike. I hate bureaucrats and politicians.” - On the state of Japan.
“If I pick someone like myself, this company might fail in the next generation. I’m a dictator. I am the owner of this business. The president, chief executive officer, everything. My strength, whether you agree or not, is that I have the capability to look at myself objectively from a third-party perspective. Unless you can do that, you run the risk of failing in the business. But this is not the model that future leaders of the company should follow. So my task is to shape a model of team leadership and multiple leaders and empower young people – that’s my vision.” - On picking his successor.