Born 4th October 1947, Stefan Persson took over the helm of the fashion company that dominated Europe, if not most of the free world: Hennes & Mauritz.
A stellar businessman and fashion expert, his success with H&A made him one of Sweden’s wealthiest billionaires at a net worth of $20.1 billion.
By his complete departure from the company when he was succeeded by his son Karl Johan Persson in 2020, Hennes and Mauritz had more than a whopping 5000 stores spanning almost 75 countries.
Stefan Persson is also one of the key founders of the Mentors Foundation, an organization that fights against the problem of drug abuse among today’s youth.
A famous and quite well-spread movement, it even has the Queen of England as one of its primary trustees.
For precisely that, keep on reading to know what made Stefan Persson the world’s most prosperous Swede by a wide margin.
Understanding the Leadership Style of Stefan Persson
If you want to make it into a list of one of the world’s richest men (or, for that matter, transform your simple clothing company into the world’s largest fashion retailer), you’ll need more than just business smarts.
Indeed, Stefan Persson became Sweden’s richest billionaire because of his style of leadership, which ultimately paved the path for the company’s aggressive expansion after he took the post of CEO.
Persson’s unique combination of focusing on expanding to new locations every year while still raising quality standards in existing stores is the foundation of his business strategy.
Retain Affordability While Raising Quality Standards
While H&M has had the occasional up and down, there has never been a significant quality issue.
This is because Stefan’s objective with Hennes and Mauritz has always been to offer ‘fashion and quality at the best price.’
H&M and its various fashion lines focus on bringing designer quality chic clothing to the everyday person at affordable prices.
Stefan proved that you couldn’t only target the affluent crowds with higher budgets if you want to make it big in any field. Instead, retaining affordability while raising quality standards by having attractive products with competitive prices is the best option.
There are many things any entrepreneur could take away from Stefan Persson’s commitment to quality and affordability, like:
- It’s best always to have a clear idea of where you want to take your enterprise, outlining the importance of firm decision-making.
- Competitive pricing is essential if you want to get out ahead of the competition.
- At the same time, you can’t lower quality standards. Instead, commit to finding the best balance between the two.
Keep The Importance of Expansion In Mind
Every successful business venture has one thing in common: they understood the paramount importance of continued, steady expansion.
Stefan Persson involved himself in H&M right out of university, but the young businessman understood the importance of continued expansion even then.
After he became CEO, Hennes and Mauritz saw a continued expansion of 10%-15% every year, with locations and branches opening up in new countries by the year.
Under Persson, H&M had expansion ventures that were sure to be supplied with everything required for a successful experience. Stefan himself came down to do interviews and promote the first H&M retail store on Fifth Avenue, New York.
- Plan your expansions ahead of time, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
- Keep new locations small and manageable instead of overextending your supply chain and offering subpar products.
- Invest in the best promotion for your expansion to create awareness.
Stand Out From The Competition
It’s easy to drown among the competition, especially in a crowded field like fashion retailing. Hundreds of designers, retailers, and wholesalers create endless competition in fashion.
Stefan Persson, the magnate responsible for H&M’s now worldwide popularity, used a single tactic to keep his fashion retailer chain relevant: he made sure his products stood out among the competition.
Whether it was by competitive pricing to bring designer quality chic clothing to people at affordable prices or collaborating with famous designers like Stella MacCartney, Jimmy Choo, and Matthew Williamson, Hennes and Mauritz always had the best in trendy, affordable clothing.
The best thing? You could casually buy one of their shirts or jeans with a design contributed to by even Donatella Versace and not have to worry over a high price tag.
- You should use fresh, innovative strategies to promote your products.
- Never waste the opportunity to have a celebrity with an established fanbase promote your product.
- Lastly, invest in quality every single time. Quality products at affordable prices are the secret to retaining and growing your market base.
Make Sure Your Investments Are Diversified
Stefan made good decisions by investing his wealth. Instead of investing in the stock market, Persson started buying high-value retail property.
Through a real estate agency called Ramsbury Property, Persson has diversified and invested his money into some of Europe’s most famous shopping districts.
He owns high-value property in Oxford Street in London and even the Champs-Elysee in Paris.
Stefan’s portfolio of first-class districts also showcases another fact: his seriousness. Instead of buying low-value land to develop, Persson chose to buy already high-priced land that he knew would retain and even grow on its original price tag.
- Making sure your wealth is invested correctly is a priority for any business owner.
- Diversify your portfolio for proper wealth management.
- Risk management is critical. Don’t invest in fields that promise high turnouts for high risk.
Embrace New and Innovative Forms of Marketing
Easily one of the first of the ‘Old Guard’ businessmen who understood the importance of new and emerging forms of marketing, Stefan did both live-person interviews at important openings and invested heavily into marketing venues.
For example, H&M is heavily promoted on Facebook, with more than 14 million fans sharing their products with friends and family.
This is because of several customer outreach events organized by the events, like Coachella competitions.
What you can take away from this is that you can’t underestimate the value of marketing. New and innovative forms of marketing, like Digital and Video Marketing, are vital to the long-term health of your company.
- The proper marketing and promoting of your products is key to high sales figures.
- Make time to outline and implement customer outreach programs that get people interested in your products.
- If you want to stay competitive, embrace new forms of marketing that allow you to keep up with more technologically advanced competitors.
What Are The Personality Traits of Stefan Persson?
He was a young, inexperienced businessman when he joined the family business as manager of Hennes and Mauritz. Still, under the leadership of Stefan Persson, H&M became the world’s largest retailer of trendy, chic clothing. No matter what anyone says, that can’t be easy.
Whatever field you work in, there are things you can learn from Stefan Persson’s personality and the way he’s able to understand his priorities easily. Consult the section below to know more about the notable traits of his personality:
He Keeps It Simple
As a rule of thumb, Stefan Persson hates overcomplication. Whether it’s his business dealings with Hennes and Mauritz or his real estate agency, he makes simple deals profitable for both sides.
It’s easy to see an example of his simplicity in H&M’s international expansions. The company doesn’t own any of its stores, instead preferring to lease out space from local landlords.
Having simple, easy-to-understand methods allowed Persson to streamline the international expansion of his company.
Even after Stefan stepped down as Chairman of the company in 2020, H&M followed his ways of keeping Customer Procurement and Clothing Production simplified and straightforward.
He Sets Long Term Goals For His Ventures
A key point in the worldwide success of this initially family-run business is the long-term vision of both Stefan Persson and his father, Erling Persson, who founded the company.
While Erling took the company to fame in Sweden, Stefan made it the world’s largest chic clothing retailer through long-term plans that benefited the company immensely.
By expanding to new locations every year and investing in both marketing and intense quality checking for products, Stefan set the goal to make Hennes and Mauritz have a worldwide reputation for caring about their customers.
This conviction paid off exceptionally well in the long run, as, unlike its competitors, H&M is known for being the chic retailer that brings designer-quality clothes to the everyday person.
He’s Very Cost-Conscious
Many people have noted that Stefan Persson ran Hennes and Mauritz in a very frugal manner.
This doesn’t mean that he was afraid to take risks with new expansions and ventures, but instead that Stefan saved costs wherever possible. Minimizing expenses is one of the simplest ways to streamline and maximize the profits of your business.
His frugality and early concerns with saving costs and expenses allowed Hennes and Mauritz to progress forward, confident that they were making the most out of sales figures.
He Believes in People
One of Stefan’s defining qualities is that he always went to extraordinary efforts to show he believed in people, especially his workforce.
H&M became the world’s premium retailer of trendy, chic clothing, but Stefan didn’t forget that his most excellent resource was his workforce.
Stefan Persson visited many locations and stores personally to ensure their quality, and in the process, he motivated employees because he was happy with their effort.
You can also see this in his vacation of the CEO and Chairman seats. He gave them up to his son, Karl Johan Persson, who is an established billionaire and businessman in his own right.
He Has An Entrepreneurial Spirit
It’s said that entrepreneurs need a lot of optimism to get anywhere with their enterprise. This was all the more true for Stefan Persson, who was handed the reins to Sweden’s largest clothing company.
Stefan’s willingness to take risks and a mindset geared towards retaining and growing an international audience is evidence of his entrepreneurial spirit.
Additionally, with the current fame, Hennes and Mauritz enjoy, it’s more than apparent that his entrepreneurial spirit was precisely what the company needed near the turn of the century.
He Believes In Proper Wealth Management
H&M has always focused on expansion under Stefan Persson. But in the latter stages of the 2000s, when he was confident in the company’s growth, Stefan branched out into real estate.
Stefan kept his business alive and thriving with excellent leadership, but he didn’t forget the value of adequately investing his wealth to make sure it grew with time.
While a minor example, you can also see this with his real estate investments.
He went into the field with plans and research, but he was able to be successful because he put time and effort into choosing the best locations and properties to buy.
He Has An Intuitive Understanding Of People’s Desires
Stefan Persson’s defining quality as a businessman lies in his intuitive understanding of what people want. Like many traits of his personality, you can see it exhibited in a particular place: H&M’s business strategy.
Stefan refused to sell clothing based on a particular region or country’s culture and instead directed designers towards global themes and subcultures or even new and emerging color combinations famous worldwide.
This simple decision profits H&M in today’s online market too: people can easily order any style of trendy clothing they want from H&M’s website without having to look through the same boring designs offered by regional stores.
He’s A Huge Proponent Of Taking Care Of Yourself
Even in the fashion magnate’s later years, he has remained incredibly fit and well maintained, presenting a striking figure at meetings, charity dinners, or even casual outings.
This stems from Stefan’s belief in taking care of oneself, which he believes to be of paramount importance.
He believes that no matter how important it might be, it’s essential to have a daily routine for yourself that encourages good health and habits.
His children Karl Johan Persson, Charlotte Söderström, and Tom Persson, follow this rule and refuse to let business intrude on taking care of their person.
He Enjoys Sports Like Downhill Skiing, Golf, and Tennis
Everybody needs something that lets them blow off steam. For fashion magnate and real estate mogul Stefan Persson, it’s sports like downhill skiing, golf, and tennis.
You might think it’s a weird blend, but Stefan loves the feeling of exhilaration he gets from downhill skiing.
Some of them reflect other parts of his personality. He’s always ready to take a risk if it pays off in the long run or for personal enjoyment.
Now, golf and tennis? That’s just good taste!
He Gives Back To The World
Stefan Persson is frugal, but that doesn’t mean he’s cheap or a miser. Under his leadership, H&M was outfitted with lots of facilities for employees.
Even with unionized labor that’s sure to present problems, employees at H&M are happy and well paid.
That’s not it. Stefan was also one of the key founders involved in the creation of the Mentor Foundation.
This organization uses modern methods to fight drug problems in today’s youth and is backed by renowned trustees like the Queens of Sweden and Jordan.
What Characters Made Stefan Persson’s H&M Successful?
A combination of factors, like good decision-making, long-term vision, and understanding global fashion, made Stefan Persson so successful with Hennes and Mauritz.
Today, Hennes and Mauritz stand tall as one of the world’s largest clothing retailers.
The company rents space for around 5000 locations spread out over some 74 countries and employs more than 126,000 full-time workers.
As for his accomplishments and wealth, Stefan Persson needs no introduction. Sweden’s richest billionaire at a net worth of $20.1B owns hundreds of acres of land in Paris and London, and even an entire village in Hampshire, England.
You might ask, what set Stefan Persson apart from the other entrepreneurs of his time?
Here are some of the notable characteristics that made him particularly suited to being the man at the helm of H&M at the turn of the century:
- He had the long-term vision to know where he wanted to take Hennes and Mauritz.
- He has an intuitive understanding of both business practices and people’s wants.
- The ability to multitask as he oversaw healthy international growth for H&M while raising quality standards.
- Taking risks in both H&M’s international ventures and his investments.
- He is a natural leader who inspires the people around him.
Believing In The Importance Of Promotion
Marketing is an essential activity every business has to partake in at some point, and Stefan Persson didn’t take long to catch onto this.
Since he became CEO in 1982, Stefan has invested heavily in media coverage over the years, generating significant publicity for the company and its products.
The magnate is living proof that you can’t actively compete with other enterprises if you don’t invest in subtle, effective advertising and marketing.
Steering The Company To Focus On Global Fashion
With the 80s and 90s promoting more significant connections between countries, H&M recognized the emergence of global fashion earlier than other fashion retailers.
This is because Stefan, the man at the company’s helm from 1982, understood the importance of being the fashion company that offered an affordable and wide range of global fashion clothing.
You can confidently say that if Hennes and Mauritz only sold European styles globally, the company wouldn’t have reached the level of international fame it did today.
This is an exemplary exhibit of Stefan Persson’s intuitive understanding of both the fashion market and people’s wants.
Core Principles For Both H&M And Real Estate Investments
Stefan’s leadership is a massive cause for the success of Hennes and Mauritz. The secret behind it is that the magnate made his decisions while keeping a few core principles in mind and ran his company the same way.
Some of the most critical principles H&M got from Stefen Persson are:
- Be Straightforward and Open-Minded: Embracing innovative but straightforward solutions in Procurement, Production, Quality Testing, and even Marketing has allowed H&M to stay at the top.
- Teamwork is Important: He believes in involving his team members in decision-making processes and giving employees the benefits they deserve.
- Aim for the Least Environmental Impact: H&M prefers to contract professional clothing manufacturers rather than open their factories. This makes sure their operations have the most negligible environmental impact.
- Savings Are Important: Saving costs is essential for any company that wants to maximize profits. Persson used this principle for H&M and his real estate agency, choosing high-value areas that were sure to generate good profits.
Having A Safety Net For Expansions And New Ventures
Stefan Persson is known for his aggressive expansion of H&M worldwide, with locations opening in new countries every year.
While some business analysts say he was reckless in H&M’s expansions, it’s hard to deny that the risks he took always paid off.
The point that you should note, however, is that Stefan kept H&M expansions small. Locations were small but well-supplied, and H&M leased the land in popular places that were sure to get a lot of attention.
Wanting healthy growth for your company is natural, but like Persson, it’s important to also observe the rules of risk management, like:
- Consider the Impacts of Upcoming Events: Doing the right thing at the right time is vital for new ventures and expansions, and especially for companies that can’t afford to make a lot of mistakes.
- Don’t Risk A Lot Every Time You Expand: The precise reason why Persson kept H&M expansions small. Rather than focusing on a grand opening, make sure there are no problems with customer procurement and streamlined product delivery.
A Leadership Style That Makes People Feel Important
Articles and blogs on Stefan Persson focus on one particular fact: his unique style of leadership.
Stefan motivates people to give their best for the customer and makes the person he’s talking to feel important.
At H&M locations around the world, employees are trained in making customers feel important and at home.
They help the customer pick out clothes in an easygoing, friendly manner and make them feel like an important part of the process.
There are a few things that Stefan outlines as the basis for his style of leadership, like:
- Giving the person he’s talking to his full attention.
- Presenting an image that people can connect with.
- Being a friendly person that his employees can talk to without worrying.
- He ensures to give people the benefits and facilities they need to feel comfortable at the workplace.
- Always replying in well-thought-out sentences and never casually dismissing somebody.
Skills and characteristics that focus on solving his problems with innovative solutions, along with a personality meant for leadership and an intuitive understanding of business strategy, make Stefan Persson one of today’s most unique businessmen.
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“Vision, strategy, and inspiration – these three words describe me the best. I am the founder of “TheLeaderboy” dedicated to leadership and personal development. As a self-taught practitioner, I have been studying the principles of effective leadership for the past decade and my passion lies in sharing my insights with others. My mission is to empower individuals to become better leader