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11 Questions for Neil Blumenthal

Why mission trumps all at Warby Parker, and more.

Fast growth and an ever-more-valuable brand are gratifying, but for Neil Blumenthal, co-CEO of the innovative retailer Warby Parker, nothing trumps mission.

How do you measure success?

By the number of lives we’ve positively impacted.

What’s one mistake you made early on?

To build our first website, we hired a firm whose quotes were half the price of everybody else’s.

What was the hardest lesson in your first year of business?

That lack of sleep really does impede productivity.

What’s the toughest part of being in charge?

The fact that only hard decisions reach your desk.

What’s the best motivator for employees?

Feedback.

What’s your proudest accomplishment in your business? 

We’ve distributed more than 500,000 pairs of glasses to people in need across the globe.

Gut instinct versus expertise: Which is more important and why?

Both are extremely important, and you need to understand the strengths and limitations of both. We like to question our gut instincts but also approach problems with a beginner’s mindset.

What’s the biggest myth in business?

That widgets are made in a systematic way. If you peek behind the curtain at any type of company,you’ll see that things are far less organized than you’d expect.

What have you learned about yourself running your business?

I’m not as smart as I think I am.

What have you sacrificed for success?

Beer.

Whom do you admire most as a business leader?

Florence Nightingale. She is one of the most dynamic social entrepreneurs in history.

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