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JCPenney CEO and former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson has been getting slammed for his tactics as the retailer tries to turn things around.That’s because things have looked dire lately, especially after JCPenney’s Q1 sales number of $3.15 billion fell well short of expectations of $3.4 billion.
But it’s not over yet for JCPenney. Johnson has shown one important quality throughout the turnaround process that may help the company get through its time of peril.
He’s willing to admit his mistakes. By doing that, he can make quick changes and move on.
Just look at what he has done with JCPenney’s marketing. Johnson unveiled a total rebranding — logo, in-store setup, pricing, advertising and all. In that, Johnson and his CMO Michael Francis decided to get rid of the word “sale” and replace it with “month-long value.”
It failed spectacularly. So, a couple months into it, Johnson and his execs admitted that they messed up, and reverted to the old way.
It’s about iteration. “Failing fast” is something startups and entrepreneurs are constantly touting, but what’s more important is to be able to get over that feeling of failure, admit defeat and move on.
He has to deal with far higher stakes than some small startup CEO. He has the eyes of the world — and the ever-vocal media — watching his every move. He gets instantly ridiculed when he makes a mistake.
And yet, he has been able to ignore the haters (at least outwardly), keep his psyche together and plow forward.
It’s not like he’s hiding either. Johnson has been on stage repeatedly, calmly speaking with his shareholders about his plans, all while being bombarded by critics.
We know Johnson has the business mind to run an innovative retail operation. He proved it with his enormous successes at Apple and Target. But that’s not enough to fix a company on the brink. He needs to be willing to fail, and make changes on the fly.
As UBS noted in April, JCPenney’s “Judgement Day” won’t be until the second half of 2012, when his most important moves will take effect.
Johnson only has one shot at this, and all will be lost if JCPenney fails during this year’s holiday season. Until then, he needs to keep making little mistakes, so that he doesn’t make the big one.
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