For Yuki Yamada, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Uniqlo Malaysia, the decision to pursue a career in retail was a simple one. Both Yamada’s parents were involved in the apparel business – his father ran a licensed business in Apparel & Goods (Stationery & Toys) in Japan while his mother had her own clothing brand in Tokyo.
When Yamada was younger, he noticed that most casual clothing lines originated mainly from the United States or Europe. When the Uniqlo brand began mushrooming in Japan in the late 80s and 90s, Yamada was inspired and motivated by the Japanese retailer’s big dreams of becoming the world’s No. 1 fashion retailer and to bring Japanese fashion and culture to the world.
On his first day as a Uniqlo Manager Candidate (similar to a management trainee), Yamada was assigned to wash the toilet in the store. “That’s when I learnt that customer service in Uniqlo was more than just handling clothing. Everyone went the extra mile to do anything and everything to bring higher customer satisfaction,” says Yamada.
“I also learnt the difference between being a working adult and a student, how to work in a team with people from diverse backgrounds, and also understanding Uniqlo’s clothing business,” he adds.
Sticking it through tough situations develops not only your skill but also strong mental fortitude
In 2001, Yamada headed the Uniqlo Japan Store Operations, after which he took on the role of District Area Manager for Uniqlo UK London in early 2010. Between 2012 to 2017, Yamada moved to the United States, where he was the USA Flagship Store General Manager, East Coast Operation Manager and Manhattan District Area Manager. He then moved to Malaysia in the summer of 2017 to assume his present role.
DO YOU HAVE IT?
One of the requirements of working in a fast-evolving industry like retail, shares Yamada, is not just a strong top-down but also a solid bottom-up approach.
“Strong leadership is required but strong follower-ship is also important. It’s one thing for the top management or leaders to make quick decisions but employees must also understand the company’s perspective and execute accordingly for the decisions to succeed. This is one of the things I try to do as COO, which is to bridge this gap,” he says. One of the most enjoyable aspects of his job, Yamada admits, is being able to plan a winning business strategy and executing it with a team of talent across different departments. This allows him to witness the growth of the company as well as the growth of the talent within an international working environment.
When it comes to building a successful career, he believes that one of the most important things is to create a strong foundation from the very beginning and understanding the basics. He also sees value in staying put in the same position for some time for personal growth. “Sometimes staying put in the same position is actually training your ‘muscle’. Sticking it through tough situations develops not only your skill but also strong mental fortitude. You don’t realise how much stronger you are than before, and what you have learnt or acquired over the years. These positive qualities will definitely carry you far in your career,” he advises.
4 WAYS TO BE IMPRESSIVE
- Own up to your mistakes and be willing to correct them or improve.
- Always practise transparency and honesty at work, especially when delivering reports to your superior.
- Demonstrate initiative, ask a lot of questions; particularly when taking on a new role or project.
- Making excuses won't take you far in your career. Execute your tasks well minus the complaints.