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Levi's Strauss CEO Admits: Not Firing Incompetent Employees Quickly Was My Biggest Mistake

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Levi's CEO Reflects on the Importance of Personnel Changes and Cultural Transformation

The CEO of Levi's Strauss, Charles Bergh, recognized early on that the key to turning around the company was to make significant changes to its leadership team. Bergh made the decision to let go of more than half of his executives, believing that changing the people was the most effective way to change the company's culture. While this decision proved to be instrumental in the company's transformation, Bergh admits that his biggest regret was not acting quickly enough to remove underperforming individuals. Bergh joined Levi's in 2011 during a challenging period when the brand had lost its way and was struggling to connect with a new generation of consumers. The company's performance had been inconsistent for over a decade, with fluctuating revenues and profits. However, under Bergh's leadership, Levi's experienced a remarkable turnaround. In 2017, the company achieved 8% annual revenue growth, the highest in a decade, and continued to build on this success with 14% year-on-year revenue growth in 2018. As Bergh prepares to step down as CEO, he attributes his biggest legacies to shaking the company out of complacency and fostering a team that embodies the brand's culture. Despite these achievements, Levi's faces challenges ahead. The company recently revised its 2023 profit outlook downward due to a decline in wholesale revenue and soft sales in the U.S., its largest market. Levi's has also had to adapt to changing consumer preferences, particularly the demand for comfortable and looser fit garments as people return to offices post-pandemic. To drive further growth, Levi's has expanded its portfolio by acquiring activewear brand Beyond Yoga, with a goal of increasing the share of women's wear in its business to 50%. The company also sees significant potential for growth in Asia, particularly in China, where it aims to open more stores and capitalize on the concept of "revenge spending" among Chinese consumers. While Levi's has made progress in Asia, the region still represents a small portion of the company's total sales. Bergh acknowledges the opportunity for further expansion, especially when compared to competitors who have a larger presence in the region. Levi's plans to add around 100 stores globally each year, with a significant focus on Asia. In summary, Levi's CEO Charles Bergh's emphasis on personnel changes and cultural transformation has been instrumental in the company's turnaround. Despite challenges and the need to adapt to changing consumer preferences, Levi's has made strategic acquisitions and aims to capitalize on growth opportunities in Asia. As Bergh prepares to pass the baton, Levi's is well-positioned for continued success and growth in the fashion industry.

Levi's Strategic Turnaround: Implications for New Business Ventures

Charles Bergh, the CEO of Levi's Strauss, has emphasized the importance of personnel changes and cultural transformation in the company's successful turnaround. This strategic approach offers valuable insights for new business formations, particularly those in the fashion industry.

Personnel Changes and Cultural Transformation

Bergh's decision to change more than half of his executive team underscores the importance of having the right people in place to drive a company's culture and success. For new businesses, this highlights the need for careful recruitment and swift action in addressing underperformance.

Navigating Market Challenges

Despite significant challenges, including fluctuating revenues and profits, Levi's has achieved remarkable growth under Bergh's leadership. This resilience underscores the importance of strong leadership and strategic decision-making for new businesses navigating market challenges.
Adapting to Consumer Preferences and Market Opportunities
Levi's ability to adapt to changing consumer preferences and capitalize on market opportunities, such as the acquisition of activewear brand Beyond Yoga and expansion in Asia, provides a key lesson for new businesses. This adaptability underscores the importance of staying attuned to market trends and being proactive in seizing growth opportunities. In essence, Levi's strategic turnaround offers valuable insights for new business ventures. The importance of personnel changes, cultural transformation, and adaptability in navigating market challenges and capitalizing on growth opportunities are key lessons for businesses in the fashion industry. As Levi's continues its growth trajectory under new leadership, new businesses can gain valuable insights from its experiences.
Story First Published at: https://www.cnbc.com/2023/09/27/levis-ceo-my-biggest-mistake-was-not-firing-wrong-people-fast-enough.html
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