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Risky ventures is what being an entrepreneur is all about, but the success stories of business leaders such as Marvin S. Traub '46 suggest the potential reward is surely worth the uncertainty.
About 20 students gleaned a sense of the retail industry and picked up some pointers on business strategy from Traub, president of Marvin S. Traub Associates, Inc. and former president of Bloomingdales.
Traub spoke to a group composed mainly of members from the Harvard Entrepreneurs Club. In his speech, he described how he began working for $75 a week with Alexander's--a retail store--for the first few years after graduating from the Harvard Business School.
However, he was soon hired by Bloomingdales, working in a variety of different areas as he received his management training.
After slowly climbing the executive ladder, Traub was finally named president of the company by 1969. He became the Chief Executive Officer in 1978.
Traub, who said he used a "hands on" approach, said his strategy consisted of targeting the most profitable and advantageous market at a given time and then adjusting the store image accordingly.
The ultimate goal was to develop "a reputation for distinctive and unique merchandise."
Traub's strategy proved to be successful. The company began international promotion in the 1960s, and had grown into a billion dollar corporation by the 1980s.
"We became something more than a store--we became an institution that people looked to," Traub, a former Crimson executive, said.
Working toward change and innovation, Bloomingdales gave then-rising designers--names such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Anne Klein--a chance to show what they could do.
"You have to encourage risk tasking in Bloomingdales and in other institutions," he said. "Without risk, there is no progress."
Bloomingdales opened nine new stores while Traub was president, and an additional eight during his time as CEO.
In 1992, Traub left Bloomingdales and began Martin Traub Associates, Inc.--a consulting firm which he runs.
Working first with national companies such as American Express, Ralph Lauren and Saks, the company now has a client base that extends around the globe, reaching Germany, Paris, London, China and Hong Kong.
Audience members said they found the talk lively and inspiring.
"It was nice to deal with something a little more sexy like the fashion industry as opposed to investment banking," said club member Carolyn A. Cassidy '99.
"Bloomingdales has a lot of history and [Traub] has been credited with a lot of its success."
Other attendants said Traub, who is a former Crimson executive, revealed opportunities with which they had not been familiar.
"The internal structure of the retail industry is really different from other businesses," said Beini Zhou '00.
"But what I learned is that if you want to succeed in any kind of business, the best strategy is change."
But Traub, who has recently published a book on his business experiences, said that the retail industry was not significantly different from other financial ventures.
"The skills that make one successful in the retail industry are the same skills that make one a successful entrepreneur: creativity, drive, energy and intelligence," he said.
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