The Management Principles by Tadashi Yanai, founder UNIQLO

1. Put Customers First

“Respond to customer needs and create new customers.” The sentiment is rooted in his deeply practical experience running a single store when he first began working for his father. “Only because we have customers are we able to have a business. Therefore, customers must be at the centre of what you do".. “Always cater to the needs of customers. For me, Steve Jobs is the ultimate symbol of customer centricity and user-friendliness. Unless you deliver beyond their expectations, customers will never be satisfied.”

2. Contribute to Society

A company's value is intrinsically linked to the value it brings to society as a whole. Successful companies must serve society, while a company that does not exist in unity with society and only pursues its bottom line will not survive. To be accepted by employees, suppliers and consumers alike, a company must contribute to society. “As the business grew and we had many suppliers, many employees, different managers, I realized that we had to aspire to become a company that is contributing to society, otherwise we are not sustainable,” Yanai recalls. “Only after making a positive difference in society, are you able to run a healthy business.”

3. Embrace Optimism

Great businesses must embrace “high hopes for the future”. “There is nothing to gain from pessimism,” he says. “If you are waiting around for fortune or luck, they will not come. Don't be passive. Nobody can predict the future. So why don't you venture out and create one? Those who create the future will be blessed with luck.”

4. Learn From Failure

 “Thoroughly analyze information relating to successes and failures. Remember what you learn and put it into practice the next time around.” The principle captures his iterative approach to developing a business and the way he views failure as the seed of future success. “It may not work — you may not be successful overnight. The only solution is to keep changing yourself and keep challenging yourself.”

5. Focus on the Details

“God is in the details.” The comment reflects his belief in executing relentlessly with a sharp focus on perfecting what he calls “the small things.” “A gap of one millimeter makes all the difference as it widens more as we move forward,” he told Takeuchi. “The secret to success is doing the basics day in and day out until you get tired of it,” he adds. Yanai once thought he would retire from day-to-day operations by the time he was 60, but at the age of 67, he still holds the company’s operational reins as chief executive.

6. Be Your Own Critic

The importance of self-critique is captured in another of Yanai’s key principles: “Review and rethink your actions and approach to improve and renew yourself.” He practices this principle by regularly putting himself in the shoes of a highly discerning customer. “The most demanding critic can be the customer of your business, so you have to put yourself in the most discriminating customer’s shoes, then look at the exterior of the store and evaluate if it looks attractive. Then, you come into the store and evaluate whether the presentation of the merchandise is attractive, whether the sales floor associates are good enough.”

7. Connect to the World

“Now, everyone in the world is interconnected,” he says. “You came to visit me in Japan and we’re interacting — there is no border in front of us,” he continues. “In particular, we should be conscious to connect with customers and cater to their specific needs.”

8. Disrupt Yourself

Adapting to change is a key theme for Yanai, who is fond of comparing Uniqlo to a technology company. “The world is changing so fast. This is a new industrial revolution,” observes Yanai. “Disruption was once limited to high tech, but now it’s happening to other industries. The prime examples are Amazon, Alibaba, Uber,” he continues. “So we must transform ourselves. The clothing industry — linked to the very inception of human beings — has become obsolete. There is an opportunity to revamp the entire industry. I keep telling our people: ‘Disrupt the current model.’ Even working for a large-scale company, you need to reinvent everything from scratch.”


Valentina Giannella