Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A "new midlife crisis" story from the Williams-Sonoma Chairman

[This story is from Howard Lester, Chairman of Williams-Sonoma, the large home-goods retailer.]

...I realized that to that point in my working career, I had kind of done the things that were necessary. I was trying to make a living and just do the best I could and make money, but I was never really happy. I wasn't excited about getting out of bed in the morning and going to work, so I gave a lot of thought to what it was that I wanted to do, and I knew it was something different.

One of the main conclusions that I reached was that it was important for me at that point in my life--as I mentioned, I was in my early forties--to do something; you know, this is not a dress rehearsal. And I wanted to do things that I loved doing. Why go through life doing things that you don't love doing? And I felt that if I was doing something I loved, I'd have a better chance at being good at it than doing something I didn't love, because it wouldn't be work, it would be a joy.

So I went on a little journey of looking at a lot of businesses, some of them pretty weird. And one day I came across this little company called Williams-Sonoma, which was struggling. It was a little $4 million company with four stores and a small catalog, located in San Francisco. One thing led to another, and I was able to purchase the business in the summer of 1978.

We've been very fortunate. We've grown a business that we're quite proud of, and I can tell you that since acquiring Williams-Sonoma, I don't think there has been a day or a morning when I wasn't excited about getting up and going to work.

Reprinted by permission of Harvard Business Press. Excerpted from Lessons Learned: Straight Talk from the World’s Top Business Leaders--Starting a Business. Copyright (c) 2008 Fifty Lessons Limited; All Rights Reserved.

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Related posts:
"The New Midlife Crisis: It's an existential necessity"
"Midlife Crisis--21st century style"

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