Lessons Learned: Leading the Runway
Leading The Runway
Rent The Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss make as many mistakes as possible as quickly as possible--and then analyze them to figure out how they can improve over time.
00:00 Jennifer Hyman: Rent the Runway got started because I saw my sister Becky have a closet full of clothes but nothing-to-wear moment. So she was about to go to a wedding, and she was dreaming up a designer dress that she wanted to wear but she couldn't yet afford. And I thought, "How incredible would it be to introduce the next generation of customers to designer brands around those special occasions in their life?"
00:26 Jennifer Fleiss: The first thing Jen and I did was had a bunch of focus groups where we invited people to wine and cheese, we'd have lunch with friends, we talked to over 1000 women about our concept and really got the concept out there to your end consumer to first talk about it and then try to test it out to see if it'll work.
00:44 Hyman: I think we're addressing a need that few other businesses actually cover, and that is that women want to feel self-confident and beautiful for all of the special occasions in their life, and the majority of people in this country can't access the brands they dream about.
01:05 Fleiss: When we started the company, we never had an 80-page business plan. We realized that, as a start-up, you change, you need to be flexible and dynamic. So we set out there, we did some tests with customers, we wanted to see if people would rent dresses, and we've maintained that culture of wanting to test things out, constantly move things forward without doing too much, put things on paper, make it perfect to begin with, because that just isn't reality in a start-up.
01:33 Hyman: This company has a philosophy that mistakes are good. We try to make as many mistakes as humanly possible, as quickly as possible, and what we do is we just analyze them and figure out how we can improve over time.
01:44 Fleiss: One thing is, Jen and I entered Rent the Runway without any technology background, so there has been a big learning curve with technology and I think we've come a long way. But picking the right kind of leaders and different people for the technology team has... At different points, we might not have done the best job there. We outsourced our initial build of the website to a team in India, and I think that was also not the greatest decision. We didn't have a ton of options at the time, but we would have much preferred and it would have been better if we built an internal technology team, which we have now.
02:21 Hyman: I think the thing that makes me an evolving leader is humility and the notion that I know that this is my first time as a CEO, it's my first time leading, and that there's a lot of room for growth. And there are things that I can be doing to continuously improve not only how I interact one-on-one with people in the company, but how I can create the best possible culture for Rent the Runway.
02:47 Fleiss: I think being a good leader is often involving your team in a lot of decisions that happen and really making sure it's a collaborative step forward whenever you make key decisions, which is something really important to me. So, whenever there's a big decision at stake, I try not to let it come just from me or just from the board. It's, "Here's the situation, let's think of all ways we could approach it," and have a collaborative solution to the problem. I do try to stay on the pulse of people's kind of emotional reactions, how they're actually enjoying day-to-day, do they seem happy, sad, is something going on, and try to be in touch with that as well. So, my goal is to just be a better leader tomorrow than I am today and to be constantly taking feedback from the entire organization and mentors outside the organization for how I can make this a better place and a more warm, exciting place for people to come to work.
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