The Wall Street Journal has a piece by former Best Buy CEO Hubert July - which is an excerpt from a book he has coming out - that addresses how he taught himself about retailing … a segment with which he had limited experience before taking charge at what was then a troubled company in decline.
His efforts were immediately focused on stopping the bleeding, and this meant dealing with both culture and policies … and here's where he started:
"I had spent my career in technology, videogames, travel and consulting so I was new not only to Best Buy, but to retail in general. I had a lot to learn. I also knew that listening to front liners was the best way to do that. On my first day as CEO I drove about 60 miles north of Minneapolis to St. Cloud, a town hugging the Mississippi river. My plan was to spend my first three days on the job working in a Best Buy store on Division Street.
"Wearing my khaki pants and Best Buy’s uniformed blue polo shirt with a 'CEO in Training' tag, I spent my first day meeting the staff, listening, asking questions, walking the store and visiting every department. After my shift, I had dinner with the store management team at a local pizzeria. They knew a lot about what was really going on at Best Buy. A lot! During that dinner, for example, one employee pointed out that the bestbuy.com website’s search engine was a problem. She demonstrated just how bad by typing 'Cinderella' in the search bar. Inexplicably, the search engine spat out a list of Nikon cameras. I couldn’t believe it. Over dessert, I found out that employees were also unhappy about a reduction in worker discounts—a perk they valued since many loved electronics."
It is a really interesting piece, an a great example of how the front lines of any retail business can be a source of extraordinary intelligence about what works, what doesn't and how to fix it.
You can read it here.