Education: B.S., business administration, Northwestern University, 1960
First job: Bicycle delivery boy for local butcher
Career moves: Founded Crate and Barrel with wife, Carole, just out of college in 1962. Carole retired in 1969 to raise their children. Gordon was president of the company until 1996, when he took the title of CEO and promoted long-time employee Barbara Turf to president.
Boards: Northwestern University board of trustees, chairman of the National Retail Federation
Lives: Northern suburbs
What is the greatest business lesson you have learned?
Go slowly and do it right. Don't ever be in a hurry.
Don't let anyone motivate you to expand too quickly. We've always expanded carefully and slowly. Philosophically, for us, it's the right thing to do.
Your strategy should be, what am I going to do differently for the consumer? It shouldn't be, what is my business plan so I can make a lot of money quickly. The plan should be, what are we going to do that's going to be unique, different, that we can execute better than anyone else.
If we do that well, then we'll make the money. It's a slight nuance, but a very important nuance.
What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?
We still face every one of them every day. You've got to be passionate about what you're doing. You have to have the belief and an enormous consistency and energy.
The most important thing -- and everyone says this -- is you have to put together a great team. You've got to be able to praise people for their performance, have tolerance for their mistakes and give them passion and reason to go forward.
We always stay in a little state of dissatisfaction. We're never quite satisfied in what we do, and always try to improve on it.
Whom do you admire most in business and why?
I admired a retailer, Stanley Marcus, because he had such a long-term perspective on what he was building, and he brought such excitement to a retail environment -- certainly a very upper-end retail environment.
He brought a point of view and quality to a store and how to promote it and market it better than anyone I've known in my generation.