Veeral Rathod | Crain's Seattle

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Veeral Rathod


J. Hilburn is a men’s custom fashion brand that sells directly to consumers through a network of personal stylists. Veeral Rathod started the Dallas-based company 11 years ago.


J. Hilburn has historically focused on custom-fit office clothing. This spring, the company will launch a golf line of polo shirts and other custom sportswear. Rather than have a traditional brick and mortar store, Rathod has commissioned stylists who visit customers at work or at home.


The Mistake:

I hired my team because of their experience, but balancing their input, which is based on 20 years of experience, with your own vision can be a challenge. It’s also brutal for the other person’s ego.

When I started J. Hilburn, I wanted to be a nimble, innovative company where I could use my intuition to make decisions and do all the things the big brick and mortar stores couldn’t.

Today, we have a board of directors and an executive team with a roster from several different industries. There are people on my team with 20-plus years experience in the fashion industry.

For years, I have led with my gut instinct, emotions and what I think is the right course of action. When my team comes to me with an idea or hard data and analytics, it’s often difficult for me to dismiss that. I still want to trust my belief in what we are doing, that the catalyst for J. Hilburn still burns. The challenge is explaining that to someone when they have an idea that goes against the core belief. 

I’ve learned that a good leader can explain the what and the why for the decisions they make.

The Lesson:

People become entrepreneurs because they believe there’s a better way to do something.

As the founder and CEO, I have the final decision on the direction the company takes. More importantly, though, I’ve learned that a good leader can explain the what and the why for the decisions they make. That’s how you get people on board. And that’s how you get people excited to continue providing their input.

Giving up control is another huge challenge faced by entrepreneurs. As J. Hilburn has grown over the years, decisions have to be delegated. You have to give up control and let team members take over so you can scale the company.

I have become more comfortable with letting others take over certain jobs and decisions. But I’m also completely fine with telling people no, even if they have more experience and all the data to back it up, because it doesn’t mesh with my vision for J. Hilburn.


Veeral Rathod is on Twitter at @veeralrathod. Find J. Hilburn on Twitter at @JHilburn

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