From NBA Champions to Prime Ministers, luxury menswear destination Harry Rosen has dressed Canada’s most stylish men. Created in 1954 by its namesake founder, the retailer has long been synonymous with sartorial excellence, and is now led by its third generation of leaders, Ian Rosen. While working with family can be a challenge for many, Ian Rosen has harnessed it as an opportunity to build on the foundation of one of Canada’s most iconic brands.
What do you think is the difference in leadership style between you and your family?
My grandfather was the ultimate visionary and I’m not in any way trying to replicate that. He was the type of person that would walk into a room, take a lap around, and have 15 notes on how to change it. That’s not my style at all but where we’re similar is the stakes are really high when you’re a business owner and when you are trying to carry something forward for legacies to come.
I think the biggest difference, and the thing that I benefit from, is I happen to have a really great team that also really cares about protecting this brand. They buy into the philosophy and help us shape where we’re going. Harry probably did a lot more himself and I’m benefiting from having a really strong team around me.
What kind of lessons have you learned from your father and grandfather in terms of how they’ve steered the business?
It’s definitely work. We have to set very clear boundaries in terms of where and how we can have certain conversations but if you can set up the infrastructure so that there is fairness, respect, and boundaries, you don’t have to worry about goofing off on the weekend. It becomes really rewarding at the end of the day when I can say, “Hey, I get to work with my father and I get to learn a ton from him.” I also figured out why he was traveling and away so much [growing up,] and what the stakes were. As much as I was dreading it, as any child might, I think jumping in showed me that this is actually a really exciting opportunity that not many people get.
In what ways do you think the vision has changed or stayed the same?
A lot has changed in terms of customer’s expectations when we talk internally about strategy. The customer is the decision maker; we don’t get to tell them how to shop with us. We have to prepare for how they want to shop with us and every barrier we put up takes away from our ability to be competitive. We always think about what Harry was great at. He had this philosophy that when anybody walked into the store, he didn’t want their eyes to wander. He wanted their eyes to lock with him or a [sales associate] so they could greet them with items that were already set aside. When I think about the online world, what we’re trying to replicate is that experience when you land on the homepage. That’s what we’re trying to do, move forward but stay connected to the way we do things.
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