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First Quarter 2015 | PEI JOURNAL | 7
THOUGHTS AND OBSERVATIONS
FROM THE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
HOWARD LES TER was president and CEO of
Inc. from 1978 until
his retirement in
2010. Early in his
career, he jotted down seven principles
that eventually became known as
“Howard’s Rules.” Originally intended
as principles for his own behavior, these
“rules” now guide the entire Williams-
Howard’s Rules are posted at each
Williams-Sonoma location. They
serve as a constant reminder to every
employee of Howard’s—and the
company’s—vision and dedication
Rule #1: Without vision, it is very
difficult, if not impossible, to provide
leadership to a company of any size.
Dreams are important; never stop
Rule #2: Arrogance is a terrible thing.
Do not confuse competence and confidence with being arrogant. Arrogant
people are unable to understand their
own shortcomings and therefore don’t
work to improve.
Rule #3: Be self-critical. The best
leaders are always focused on improving. They know what is missing and are
fanatical about making corrections.
Rule #4: Revere and celebrate your
associates and their accomplishments.
Remember, they did the work, not
you. You may have thought of what
needed to be done and provided the
leadership, but they did the work and
are proud of the accomplishment.
Give them the credit.
Rule #5: Integrity and honesty in
everything you do set the standard and
example for all around you and establish
the culture of the organization.
Rule #6: Always judge your performance on how your customer judges
you. Customer metrics are far more
important than company metrics.
Without customers, nothing else
Rule #7: Be continually focused on
what can be rather than what is. We
either lead or follow. It is better to go
where no one has gone than where
many have been before.
Williams-Sonoma had been around
for about 20 years and was grossing
about $4 million in annual sales when
Robert N. Renkes
Executive Vice President and
General Counsel, PEI
Robert N. Renkes
Executive Vice President
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Howard Lester and a partner bought
the company in 1978. Today, the
company exceeds $3 billion in sales,
with multiple brands serving the
home, including Pottery Barn, Pottery
Barn Kids, Pottery Barn Teen, Hold
Everything, Chambers and West Elm.
I don’t subscribe lock, stock and
barrel to Howard’s Rules, although
they obviously work for him and the
employees of his company. My takeaway—and the point of this article—
is that he developed a set of rules in
the first place. He figured out what was
important to him, and he communicated that message so that everyone
at Williams-Sonoma understood the
What are your guiding principles?
Do your employees know them?
Everyone Needs Rules