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Macy’s CEO Promotes Innovation at Entrepreneur Meeting

Terry Lundgren talks about entrepreneurial themes at General Assembly’s campus meeting

By Valentin Schmid
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 7, 2012 Last Updated: November 11, 2012
Related articles: Business » Companies
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Chairman, CEO and president of Macy's, Inc., Terry Lundgren is shown arriving at a Macy's event in Los Angeles in September. On Nov. 6, Lundgren met with entrepreneurs at the General Assembly campus in New York to share insights on innovation and cooperation. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

Chairman, CEO and president of Macy's, Inc., Terry Lundgren is shown arriving at a Macy's event in Los Angeles in September. On Nov. 6, Lundgren met with entrepreneurs at the General Assembly campus in New York to share insights on innovation and cooperation. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)

NEW YORK—Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren met with entrepreneurs at New York’s General Assembly campus Nov. 6 to talk about innovation and cooperation at the premium retailer.

“I want to be very accessible; my management must be very accessible,” says Lundgren, meeting with entrepreneurs that use General Assembly’s services for their daily work and education.

General Assembly operates several so-called “campuses” in 12 cities throughout the world, including New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, London, and Melbourne. Entrepreneurs can use the campuses as their office space and also benefit from education. This includes courses and high-profile talks with executives such as Macy’s Lundgren.

Providing advice for future business leaders, Lundgren believes that interaction with staff is one of the core elements of driving innovation at Macy’s. By interacting with all kinds of employees, the executive can get hands on ideas that might otherwise be hard to come by.

Once a month, he holds a 30-minute webcast for 2,500 people where he gives a quick update and then answers questions. “I kind of get a sense of what’s on people’s minds,” says Lundgren, who also meets with employees under the age of 30 for breakfast every two weeks.

Many things are going to fail and not going to give us a decent return of investment, but we are going to try. -Terry Lundgren, Macy’s CEO

Lundgren, who has been with Macys since 1997, has a passion for learning what young but experienced employees think about the business. Young professionals are his target demographic. “You are the largest [demographic], but you are not spending enough yet,” he told the audience, largely made up of people under 30 who run their own startups.

Taking Calculated Risks Key Element of Success

Trial and error is another theme that Lundgren covets when it comes to innovation. “We test and try,” says Lundgren when asked how Macys chooses new technologies. “Many things are going to fail and not going to give us a decent return of investment, but we are going to try.”

This theme is not confined to technology and Lundgren emphasized the relationship to his chief financial officer (CFO) as a proven method to drive innovation and limit risk.

“She will tell me all these things why we can’t do these things. And she is right. So I say no, we just gotta try. I am just generally an optimist. … She has got all those facts and if I just went by those facts I probably wouldn’t make a lot of decisions that I end up making.”

At the end of the day, experience and intuition will play a big role and the CFO’s rational calculations can keep an unbridled entrepreneurial spirit in check: “I know those numbers are telling me ‘Stay away!’ I am going with my gut on this one. My experience is telling me that we can make this work. I think that combination is really helpful. And if she wasn’t pounding away at me and telling me not to do stuff, I would probably do a lot of bad stuff.”

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