Glen Senk is inspired by more than just fashion. The chief executive officer of Urban Outfitters finds inspiration every morning when he wakes up, whether it’s from the people he meets, the foreign countries he travels to or the music and art that he loves. It’s this passion and inspiration that has helped him cultivate a $2.5 billion company known across the globe for its forward-thinking fashion style.
Senk spoke to a crowd of more than 250 students about the evolution and success of Urban Outfitters at Hunstman Hall Thursday evening. As part of the Wharton Leadership Lecture series, Senk offered a glimpse into what it’s like to manage a multi-billion dollar retail company, while also giving students advice on how to propel their own passions into fulfilling careers.
“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wake up bounding out of bed, and I can’t wait to get to work. I love my job, and I love what I do,” Senk said.
Senk talked about what makes a good leader, outlining the qualities that his company looks for, such as passion, intellect, honesty, curiosity and creativity. But for Senk, perhaps the most important factor in a leader is a passion for what you do, not a passion for money.
“We’re not a bunch of suits in a corner office, figuring out ways to make more money,” Senk said. Instead, he explained how the 1,600 people who work for Urban Outfitters truly love the company, and many of them are even loyal customers to the store. “They’re always trying to surprise and delight our customers everyday,” he said.
Senk also discussed how having cancer in 1989 helped shape his philosophy on life. “That was one of the best things that ever happened to me because when you are facing possible demise, you realize what the shit in your life is and what really counts.”
From that point on, Senk said, he’s made sure to live the life that he wants to lead — and this path ultimately brought him to Urban Outfitters, a company with a culture that Senk has always admired.
For Wharton freshman Natalie Riemer, Senk’s speech proved him to be the perfect role model. “I thought he was just the right mix of cocky and confident,” she said. “He seems like the type of guy I would want to be friends with, and I would die to work for him.”
Vladimir Estiverne, a Masters of Business Administration student and one of the event’s organizers, decided to have Senk speak because of all the success he has brought to Urban Outfitters, as well as the local company’s relevance to the Penn community. “We thought he’d give a fresh perspective to students here, which he obviously did,” Estiverne said. “The students loved him. He was probably the most candid and interactive speaker we’ve had.”
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