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Not Swiftly Firing Incompetent Employees: My Major Regret

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Levi’s CEO, Charles Bergh, revealed that he made the decision to fire more than half of the company’s executives in order to change the company’s culture. He believed that changing the people was the easiest way to change the culture and saw significant turnover in his executive team in the first 18 months on the job. Bergh admitted that his biggest regret was not firing the wrong people fast enough and acknowledged that holding on to certain individuals had cost the company valuable leaders. Despite these challenges, Bergh successfully turned around the once “broken” brand during his tenure as CEO.

Bergh joined Levi’s in 2011 when the company was struggling, with declining sales and inconsistent performance. However, under his leadership, the company experienced a resurgence, delivering strong annual revenue growth and regaining its position in the market. In 2017, Levi’s achieved 8% annual revenue growth, the highest in a decade, and continued to see growth in 2018. Bergh attributed his success to building an exceptional team around him and ensuring that the brand was at the center of the company’s culture. He expressed his pride in his team’s accomplishments and stated that he was just the conductor of the orchestra.

Although Levi’s has made significant progress, there are still challenges ahead for the company. It recently cut its 2023 profit outlook due to a decline in wholesale revenue and soft sales in the U.S. market. Levi’s, like many other apparel brands, has had to adapt to changing consumer preferences, particularly the demand for comfortable and looser-fit garments as workers returned to offices post-pandemic. However, one promising area for Levi’s growth is its expansion in Asia, where it has seen increased revenue. Bergh highlighted that the company is adding about 100 new stores globally each year, with a focus on expanding its presence in Asia. Despite the challenges, Bergh believes that Levi’s has opportunities for further growth and is confident in the brand’s future success.

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