Remarkable Retail

Getting to the Heart of Business with Best Buy turnaround CEO Hubert Joly

Episode Summary

This week our very special guest is Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO of Best Buy, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the author of the just released bestselling book The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism.

Episode Notes

This week our very special guest is Hubert Joly, former Chairman and CEO of Best Buy, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the author of the just released bestselling book The Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism.

In a wide-ranging interview we explore Hubert's storied career as one of the world's leading CEO's, highlighted by Best Buy's transformation into a truly remarkable retailer. But we also delve into his personal evolution from a hard-charging McKinsey consultant who was all about performance optimization, to someone who saw leadership rooted in unleashing "human magic." 

Beyond the captivating details of Best Buy's renaissance--which include strongly defying the retail apocalypse narrative--we unpack the many leadership lessons from Hubert's powerful new book. Chief among them is becoming people-centric, not profit centric and discovering your brand's--and your own--purpose. He also strongly argues for a complete (and urgent) re-framing of the role of capitalism and presents a pragmatic guide to applying his principles. Our conversation is compelling, concrete and profoundly optimistic. You might also conclude you need to find a coach.

We wrap with our fast-paced weekly segment  “Remarkable or Forgettable?” where we give our hot takes on retail headlines, and deem them wow-worthy, best ignored or somewhere in between. This week's big stories include Amazon's blockbuster earnings, department stores' misleading footwear dominance, forthcoming IPO's from several well-known digitally-native brands and Walmart+ subscription stats.

Steve's related Forbes articles:

The Stores Strike Back.

To Defy the Retail Apocalypse, Target and Best Buy Embrace the Blur.

Other related readings:

Marshall Goldsmith, What Got You Here, Won't Get You There

Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection


HUBERT JOLY is the former Chairman and CEO of Best Buy.

He has been recognized as one of the one hundred “Best-Performing CEOs in the World” by Harvard Business Review, one of the top thirty CEOs in the world by Barron’s, and one of the top ten CEOs in the United States in Glassdoor’s annual Employees’ Choice Awards. Joly is now a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and serves on the boards of Johnson & Johnson and Ralph Lauren.

During Hubert’s time at Best Buy, he and his team rebuilt the company into one of the nation’s favorite employers, a sustainable leader, and an innovator, dramatically increasing customer satisfaction and growing the company’s stock price 10-fold. His greatest achievement, however, may have been to make himself dispensable: he decided to step down as CEO in 2019 and as executive chairman in 2020, and pass the baton to a new generation of leaders.

Hubert’s purpose in life is to make a positive difference on people around him and use the platform he has to make a positive difference in the world. Besides serving on the boards of Johnson & Johnson and Ralph Lauren, he now spends most of his time as a lecturer at Harvard Business School and supporting other leaders seeking to become the best versions of themselves and to lead with purpose and humanity. He is also actively invested in efforts to advance meaningful diversity and inclusion.

Steve Dennis is an advisor, keynote speaker and author on strategic growth and business innovation. You can learn more about Steve on his       website.    The expanded and revised edition of his bestselling book  Remarkable Retail: How To Win & Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption is now available at  Amazon or just about anywhere else books are sold. Steve regularly shares his insights in his role as a      Forbes senior contributor and on       Twitter and       LinkedIn. You can also check out his speaker "sizzle" reel      here.

Michael LeBlanc  is the Founder & President of M.E. LeBlanc & Company Inc and a Senior Advisor to Retail Council of Canada as part of his advisory and consulting practice.   He brings 25+ years of brand/retail/marketing & eCommerce leadership experience, and has been on the front lines of retail industry change for his entire career.  Michael is the producer and host of a network of leading podcasts including Canada’s top retail industry podcast,       The Voice of Retail, plus        Global E-Commerce Tech Talks  and       The Food Professor  with Dr. Sylvain Charlebois.  You can learn more about Michael       here  or on       LinkedIn. 

Episode Transcription

Michael LeBlanc  00:07

Welcome to Remarkable Retail podcast, Season 2, Episode 14. I'm Michael LeBlanc.

Steve Dennis  00:12

And I'm Steve Dennis.

Michael LeBlanc  00:14

You know, Steve, we're talking off mic and if we thought back five, even 10 years ago, I, you know, we might have said electronic retailers were looking like they were gonna disappear from the retail landscape like it was tough, tough days, even more recently, at least their physical stores. But then something, something interesting happened.

Steve Dennis  00:31

Yeah, there was this whole narrative that Best Buy and others were going to get Amazon to essentially that they were going to serve as expensive showrooms, you know, they'd have all the retail costs, leases, inventory salespeople, everyone's just going to go in and talk to the salesperson and look at the product. And they're just going to go home and order it from Amazon or some, someone else. 

Steve Dennis  00:53

And so yeah, the narrative for a while was that all these guys were in big, big trouble and, you know, we obviously saw various high-profile retailers disappear over the years from circuit cities, Radio Shack, fries recently here in the States was more of a regional player. So, a lot certainly did get, you know, whether they got crushed by the web alone, probably not 100%. But, but then you know, you have Best Buy, you managed to emerge from all this, not only in decent shape, but actually quite, quite good shape and it's certainly been thriving, during the COVID times,

Michael LeBlanc  01:31

Well, and to me, this episode is kind of like the epitome, and it really captures part of the essence of your book and it's something you often say wasn't that they had too many stores. It's just a lot of these folks, they just weren't remarkable that the store was, was nothing to be remarked upon. I mean, in your in, in our background, department stores or major electronics retailers. I mean, it's not, you know, the times have changed, but, you know, they just, they had a lot of stores Best Buy when they came to Canada, actually, they bought a company called Future Shop and yeah, they ran parallel banners at the same time, which was a bit confusing on the outside, but the models were different. So, future shop was a commission-based sales rep, Best Buy was not, and eventually they just consolidated the two just for practical reasons of, you know, one flyer versus two, but then they consolidated. They limited their footprint a little bit closed a few stores, but really the renaissance of what is the modern Best Buy really started to take hold probably 18, 24, even 36 months ago.

Steve Dennis  02:31

Yeah, well, I think they did a number of things over a period of years, the thing I talked about in the book, from an outside perspective, we'll get an inside perspective in just a minute was that I think Best Buy and a few others not only saw that they had to up their, their digital and e commerce game to compete more effectively. But they also started to realize the asset, they had the point of differentiation, which was their store, and pulling the digital and physical together.

Steve Dennis  02:59

And so, that's one of the ways to be Amazon, at least at the current time, because of the advantage of that in store experience, along with the advantages of digital so I call that the store strike back because I think you know, as you were talking about there was this narrative that all these guys were in big trouble, but several including BestBuy have figured out how to how to really thrive. So, we get more of the inside story because our special guest, Hubert Joly, who is currently the senior lecturer at Harvard Business School, but notably for at least this part of the discussion. He's the former chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Best Buy, and the author of the Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism, which is out today, published by the Harvard Business Review Press. 

Steve Dennis  03:49

Let's bring him on. Well, we are excited to welcome Hubert Joly to the podcast, we'll let you or we'll let him tell you a little bit more about his background, but he's probably best known for being the chairman and CEO of Best Buy. He's currently a senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School and serves on the boards of Johnson & Johnson and Ralph Lauren. So, welcome to the podcast, Hubert.

Hubert Joly  04:11

Thank you, Steve, for having me.

Steve Dennis  04:13

So, maybe we could just start off with, and we'll get into a lot more depth about your background and your time at BestBuy and your great new book, but maybe you could just give us a little bit about how you got to where you are today. Maybe, just before you got to Best Buy and then we'll, we'll dive into that a little bit more.

Hubert Joly  04:32

Oh, thank you, Steve. Well, from a resume standpoint, I had done quite a few things which meant that when I got the call to potentially become the CEO of Best Buy and say, you know, you're crazy, right, I don't know anything about retail. I'd been a consultant with McKinsey & Company had been in IT services, a had been with Vivendi, Universal. So, in video games, and whatnot. I had been the CEO of Carlson Family Travel another industry that was supposed to be killed and disrupted by the internet. Then I was CEO of Carlson Companies, which is a hospitality and travel company, at the time they owned TGI Fridays and Reticence and region hotels and whatnot. 

Hubert Joly  05:15

And then in 2012, I got the call, but beyond the resume, I would also highlight that I'm somebody, like probably everybody listening, right, we, we grow as leaders. So, so part of the theme of our conversation is it evolved over the years, from being a deeply analytical, high charging, you know, McKinsey Consultant, very focused on performance optimization, to now somebody who believes in human magic, right. So it was a whole transformation and I believe today that the key to success, you know, is not, you know, to focus on profit, it is to treat profit as an outcome, and is to create organizations that are pursuing a noble purpose and put people at the center and our role as leader is to unleash that human magic. That's what I believe today.

Steve Dennis  06:04

Well, and you've reflected that in your, your new book, the Heart of Business: Leadership Principles for the Next Era of Capitalism, which we'd love to talk to you a little bit more, just before we get into that, can you tell us about what led you to the Best Buy opportunity, and, and maybe how in particular, that experience shaped how you think about business today?

Hubert Joly  06:27

Yeah, and Steve, in 20, 20, rewind to 2012, right, at the time, everybody, right, thought that Best Buy was gonna die, right. It was, it was the all you can eat menu of challenges, right. You had strategic challenges with the internet, Amazon going to kill us and Apple, Microsoft and Sony opening their own stores, you had operational challenges with the quality of service had gone down, you had leadership challenges with my predecessor having been fired. And then you had shareholder changes with the share price really down to, you know, shortly after I studied, $11, and our founder wanted to take the company private so, talking about, now of course, I love challenges. 

Hubert Joly  07:09

But, what convinced me to take the job is two things, right, it's, one, it was the fact that the world needed Best Buy, right, as customers, you know, technology is exciting, but sometimes we need help, right. So, we need to see a pla-, we need a place where we can see touch and feel the products and ask questions and then the vendors needed Best Buy, right because they need a place where to showcase their fruit of billions of dollars of R&D investment. 

Hubert Joly  07:35

So, I think the world needed Best Buy and the second thing I saw is that the issues that Best Buy had were all self-inflicted and that's good news, right, because if the issues are self-inflicted, you can fix them and so, that's the journey we embarked upon and so, the share price has gone from 11 to anywhere close to 120 now, over a period of nine years, so we must have done a few things right along the way.

Steve Dennis  08:00

Absolutely. That's quite, it's quite a story.

Michael LeBlanc  08:03

You know, as you as I listen to you and I think back to those days, you know, Steve and I actually met on the speaker circuit and then bonded over our similar ideas that this retail apocalypse was, was a media narrative that it was a myth, that, that, notwithstanding, great transformation happening in retail that the people were missing the missing the real story, they had lost the narrative, now you must have run into naysayers, I mean, you were handed, so to speak, this organization which you described which is in tremendous transformation that the narrative around it was that it was you know, it wasn't useful anymore. How did you, you know, how did you transform the culture of the organization because certainly if you were a Best Buy employee you would be hearing this nonstop from every media and you're like, you know, geez, I should even work here, like how do you, how do you hire executives, I mean, how do you, how do you change that culture and narrative and, you know, the results are obvious, at least certainly in the stock price, let's talk a bit about that.

Hubert Joly  09:02

Yeah, and you're right, Michael, at the time everybody thought we were gonna die, so you can imagine that the morale and, and of course the advice I was also getting at the time is cut, cut ,cut, which is a traditional recipe of turnarounds like closed stores, cut headcount, we did the opposites the whole story of the various phases of the turnaround and resurgence of baseball, you know, renewal blue and then building the new blue is a people centric story. 

Hubert Joly  09:30

So, you know, we were supposed to, the first thing I did, instead of considering that people might be the problem. I said, no, people are probably part of the solution. So, I went to spend my first week on the job listening to frontlines, I went to the, to a store in St. Cloud, Minnesota, to work in that store and be able to listen to the front liners. I know, I learned so much there and of course, you know, if the frontline is feel that we listen to them, and then we do what they feel is important, like fixing our website, fixing our supply chain, investing in the training and in the stores, you know, ensuring we were price competitive, matching online prices, that all came from the front liners, and you know that's, that's progress. 

Hubert Joly  10:12

The second thing, that's people centric, was making sure we had the right team at the top right. So, my view of a turnaround is a bit of a Maoist fish, I believe that fish rots from the head. So, you need to make sure you have the right team at the top and then it was this idea that in a turnaround, the first priority has to be to grow the top line and so they talked about some things we need to do this, including the, the partnership with our vendors, and our price competitiveness because growing the top line changes everything, right. 

Hubert Joly  10:42

And as long as you as you know, to the extent that we needed to cut costs, and we needed to cut cost, the cost structure was bloated and we took $2 billion of cost out, you know, since 2012, you know, about 70% of the cost takeout came from elements in the construct that have nothing to do with people and oftentimes people get confused, they focus on headcount reduction, that should be a last resort, right. 

Hubert Joly  11:07

And it was about creating energy, right, so co-creating the plan, as opposed to telling people what to do and then getting going, celebrating the small wins the early wins, talking about the problems and working them together. So, a very human centric approach and the way you change, you like to say that the way you change management is by changing management. 

Hubert Joly  11:30

I also like to say that, the way you change behaviors, which has a lot to do with the culture, is by changing behavior. So, if we say we're going to focus on the frontliners, and ecommerce and the customers, and that's where you spend your time and your money to a large degree, at least in the early stages, that's how you change the culture. 

Hubert Joly  11:48

And then in the second phase, which was building the new blue, which was all about, how do we accelerate our growth, that, that, then you evolve, right. It's still very people centric, but we spend time figuring out what should be our purpose as a company. Okay, so we said, we're actually not, here's the scoop, right. You guys were right about Remarkable Retail. Well, we said, we're actually not a retailer, we are a company that's here to enrich lives, through technology by addressing key human needs, right. 

Hubert Joly  12:23

And it's by focusing on this purpose, you vastly expand the addressable market, right, because that's what got us to, let's say, initiate our in home advisor program where if your needs are too complex to be handled, in the store, or online, we'll come to you or our entry into the health space helping aging seniors stay in their homes independently with the help of technology, that expands the addressable market and then the second thing it does is focus on purpose, is that it's much more inspiring for people, I think there's, there's something magical that happens when we can make sure that everyone at the company can connect what drives them, what's important to them in their life, with the purpose of the company, that creates magic.

Hubert Joly  13:12

And so, to make it very concrete, there was a store job manager in our Boston Market, he would ask every one of the associates in the store, what is your dream at Best Buy or outside of Best Buy, okay, write it down in the break room. Okay, my job as the store GM is to work with you and help you achieve your dream, right. That's a completely different way of leading up to the guy role as leaders, you know, is not to tell people what to do, good ask you, you know, Michael and Steve, do you like to be told what to do? No, nobody does. Right, it's our job as leaders is to create an environment where everybody can be themselves in the best, most beautiful, biggest version of themselves, where we can create and unleash human magic.

Steve Dennis  14:02

I really love that and I certainly subscribe to this idea. I think it's Peter Drucker that said, you know, culture eats strategy for breakfast and, and this idea of, I don't know whether you want to call it customers, customer jobs to be done or just kind of elevating the solution. I'm curious before we get a little bit more into the book. You know, one of the things that I, that I talk about and I've written about for a while

Hubert Joly  14:29

Steve, do you have a fabulous book that has just come out, I think you have endorsed it. It's a great book, I would recommend it to everyone listening.

Steve Dennis  14:39

Well, I was actually about to publicly thank you for, for blurbing the book and, and it was very kind of you, but one of the things I talked about in the book and I, you know, I don't wanna get too in the weeds of this, but either there's been kind of this narrative, Michael touched on it earlier, of online, kind of, growing at the expense of physical, when I think, you know, shopping is becoming much more of a blur and, and as you started to allude to, you know, when, when brands, certain brands anyway see their stores as assets rather than liabilities, they invest in them. That doesn't mean you don't need to have a fabulous ecommerce capability but, but I'm curious about how particularly, you thought about the balance between digital and physical and how they interacted and how that played out in the turnaround of Best Buy.

Hubert Joly  15:24

Yeah, thank you for this question. I think one of the diseases that we have to cure other than this COVID thing is the idea of zero-sum games, right. The only way for Steve, for you to win, is for me to lose, or vice versa. That makes no sense. I think the way we thought about it was all focused on the customer. What are the customer pain points, what are the ways we can make the customer happy, and what's the best way to serve the customer and we let the customer choose, we're not going to tell the customer where and how to experience us and so we're going to create the best possible experience, and we're going to be agnostic, we're going to be neutral, if you buy online or in the stores, it doesn't matter to us as long as the customer is happy. 

Michael LeBlanc  16:08


Hubert Joly  16:08

So that was the North Star and then, of course, you know, in our quote unquote fight against Amazon, even though it was never a fight, you know, we decided, okay, so, we actually we're not obsessed by them, we neutralize them, because we have the same prices, our online shopping experience, I think is fabulous. Now our supply chain, we’re shipping as fast as Amazon, same day, next day, we're, you know, you name it. And so let's go in soccer terms, we would call this a draw, right, it's,

Hubert Joly  16:10

And then we say we can, we're not going to try to be a ‘me too’, visa via Amazon, we're going to be the best version of Best Buy, we can be and we're going to do extraordinary things for customers. And of course, we have assets by the way that Amazon doesn't have and even Jeff Bezos said it when he commented on our turnaround. So, you know, the stores are an amazing experience, our employees are an amazing, you know, assets, the ability that we have to go to people's homes and really, you know, our dream at Best Buy, became to become the CIO or the CTO for your home, right. And we would use all of our asset, the home, online, the stores in building a relationship with you. 

Hubert Joly  17:19

And then, of course, with our Geek Squad capabilities, we're going to support everything you have in your home, right. So that if Netflix is not working tonight, is it because of Netflix, the piping to the home, the Wi Fi, the router, the bridge, the streaming device, the TV, what is it, honey, helped me. Well, we can be honey, right and the world needs honey, right, and so, if you think about it this way, you're going to become the best version that you can be and you refuse, you're not afraid, right, you're on the front foot.

Michael LeBlanc  17:53

Let's say let's dig into the book, you know, the, the Heart of Business, it's available now for purchase, May 4th and forward, it's already been available for pre-purchase already doing really well. And, you know, when I talk to authors, and when Steve and I interview authors, we like to understand, start at the, kind of, basic principles. Why did you write the book, why did you think there was some whitespace on the shelf for what you had to say and talk, just, about, I guess, about the tradecraft and why you thought that there was something you could contribute, you know, obviously, beyond turning the business around, a great story there, but what, talk about the essence of the book, and why you approach it the way you did?

Hubert Joly  18:29

Yeah, it's very exciting to be talking today on the day that the book launches, it's, it's been a journey to get there. It's, why did I write the book, I felt if that, so if you think about this today, most people agree that, you know, the primary focus on shareholders was a mistake. That, you know, we need to inspire our employees to do great things in the world. So, this idea of, you know, purpose, being at the, as the Northstar of companies and embracing all stakeholders, in mobilizing, you know, employees in the pursuit of that purpose, that's the right thing to do. So, in the book, when I articulate this vision that needs to be at the refou-, the basis for a refoundation of business and capitalism, and frankly, that's an urgent need, right, because the world is not working today, right, so we have a, kind of, multiple crisis on our hands, so.

Michael LeBlanc  19:24

And, do you think, and, do you think we're at a unique point in time, where if we can't reset it now, when would we, in terms of, you know, the COVID era, it presents a unique opportunity to do what you're describing because when else Let's hope we never have another time in our lives where we can do this reset, do you think that reset, I'm afraid that we just, you know, COVID era starts to wind up and, and we just regress back to the mean, like, we don't learn, we learn the wrong lessons. What, how do you feel about that?

Hubert Joly  19:53

Yeah, the principle is in laying out in the book. We were relevant before COVID and, of course, this is something I have worked on and practiced, and that there's been, you know, behind the resurgence of business. I know it works. They were relevant before COVID, they are even more relevant post COVID, right. We've all rediscovered the importance of purpose in humanity during this crisis and we know, you know, is so obviously it's, you know, we have this multifaceted crisis, health crisis, economic, societal, racial, environmental, geopolitical. Do you need one more crisis, no. And what's the definition of madness, right, and doing the same thing and hoping for a different outcome. We know who the culprits are Milton Friedman, with shareholder primacy, and Bob McNamara, the inventor of scientific top down management. 

Hubert Joly  20:42

So, we need to change and so the book articulates these principles. I think, though, today, most people agree that this is the right direction. I think, when I talk to leaders at all levels, is a general conviction, we also know it is heart. So, the reason why I wanted to write this book is as a guide for leaders who are keen to abandon the old ways, and eager to lead from a place of purpose and humanity, and who are travelers on this journey and need help. It's not that I have all of the answers, but this is something I've been, you know, on this journey for the last 30 years I was talking about, you know, the purpose of a corporation is not to make money, it's an imperative, it's an outcome, I was talking about this in the 90s. 

Hubert Joly  21:28

And I think, the beauty of this delightfully surprising, turn around and resurgence of Best Buy is that it gives credibility, so the book is a guide, very practical with, you know, full of stories and examples and practical advice on how to move in that direction. And as we, as fellow tra-, it's for my fellow travelers on that journey, there's questions at the end of each chapter, that can be very helpful. So, that was the mission of the, of the book and my mission now that I've passed the baton to my Best Buy, is to add my voice and my energy to this necessary re-foundationing and help others on that journey, though. So, that's why I'm, I'm coaching and mentoring a bunch of CEOs and Senior Executives. That's why I've joined the faculty at Harvard Business School to help train the next generation of leaders. I think this to your point, Michael, this is now, right and this is,

Michael LeBlanc  22:24

We don't have as much time as everyone thinks, by the way, to change, to make this change, right.

Hubert Joly  22:27

We have a few ticking time bombs, and we'd better pay attention to them and so that, I'm very optimistic when I see the next generation of leaders. People want to do the right thing, and I'm happy to add my contribution to this urgent refoundation.

Michael LeBlanc  22:43

One, one quick question, then I want to pass it back to Steve, when did you have you know, your whole first part of your book is really about, you know, the meaning of work and you've got a great quote by (inaudible) Brown, Work is Love Made Visible. What was your epiphany though because you as you start at the beginning of the podcast, you said, you know, I was a hard charging McKinsey operations, by the numbers, like, when did you have this epiphany that, that you're encouraging us to have today, what was it that, when you looked at, what was it the transition of Best Buy, you said, listen, I've got to do something different or did it start before that?

Hubert Joly  23:14

It's, it's been a long journey over the last three years. So in fact, in the book, I talk about that a highlight a few milestones, one was back 20 years ago, I'd been quite successful, arguably and I had been a partner at McKinsey & Company, I was on the executive team of a large multinational media and entertainment company, Vivendi Universal, as and so, in many ways, had been at the top of my first mountain to quote, David Brooks, his book, The Second Mountain, and but I felt emptiness. There was nothing there. It was not fulfilling and so that led me to introspection, which is something, I highly recommend to everybody, right, being clear about, who do we want to be, what's the purpose of our life, as a leader how do we want to be remembered, write down your retirement speech is a good exercise or even better, your eulogy. I did the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits at that time to really revisit my life and try to discern my, my calling, so that was a milest-, an important milestone. 

Hubert Joly  24:28

Another one was in 2009 I started to work with a coach before that if somebody had asked me or told me you know, Jack or Mary is working with a coach or with it, what's wrong with them, right, are they in trouble, they're going to be fired and ends up you know, I realized that exactly 100% of the top 100 tennis players in the world have a coach, including Roger and Rafa. All of the NFL teams have a coach. And so, there was this guy Marshall Goldsmith, is a great friend and was my coach for many years, is the inventor of helping successful leaders get better and the inventor of feet forward, it's not about feedback, what I did, you know, yesterday I cannot change it, but how can I decide what I want to work on, on getting better and how can I ask people around me to help me. So, to make it very concrete, well, three months after I joined BestBuy, I told my team, look, this turnaround is going to be hard, right, let's agree. The reason why I know this is everybody thinks we're going to die, so that's how you know, right.

Michael LeBlanc  25:36

Right, the smart monies against us on this one. 

Hubert Joly  25:40

Right, that's right. So, that means that all of us are going to need to be the best leader we can be and that starts with me. So, I have a coach, Marshall, he's going to come in, he's going to ask you for feedback and then I'm going to tell you what to do with it. So, Marshall collected all of this, the good and the, and the other. And, he actually told me, Hubert, you don't need to do anything about it, right, it's your decision and so, you say, okay, I get that, let me decide that I want to get better on these three things, number one, number two, number three, and then I went back to my team and believe me, that's painful. Now, I've gotten better at this, but initially, when you do this, it's really hard. 

Hubert Joly  26:17

Thank you for all the feedback. Based on what you've told Marshall, I have decided to work on these three things, one, two, and three. I'm going to follow up with each one of you to ask you for advice on how I can get better. And, and, then I'm going to follow, you follow up in three or four months from now to see how I'm doing in one of the things I've worked on. You know, in the years I've worked with Marshall, is how to move away from being a leader who is trying to be the smartest person in the room, who's adding too much value. 

Hubert Joly  26:51

Marshall has written this great book, what got you here won't get you there highly recommended. You know, he lists the 20 quirks of successful people. I had 13 of the 20 quirks, keeping in mind.

Steve Dennis  27:05

Now I'm afraid to read it.

Hubert Joly  27:07

No, no, here you go. You know, my name is Hubert, I need help. The key thing I learned with Marshall and during my years at BestBuy is that indeed, my role as a leader is not to be the superhero, who knows everything. Who is there to save the day, who is driven by power, fame, glory or money, but my role as a leader is to create an environment in which others can be successful? It's too pick, maybe the most important decision I make is who should I put in position of power, what kind of leaders, right, do we want and so being clear about, you know, our expectations of leader and again, I think today, the world needs leaders who are purpose forward, their career, but their purpose, what’s, you know, what drives them, they're curious about what drives people around them, and they're able to connect what drives these individuals with the purpose of the company that's, you know, of course, I share a number of stories about this. And then who are there to create an environment where others can be successful and blossom anywhere vulnerable, you know, my most frequently used phrase now is my name is Hubert, I need help, I don't know, it's a major shift.

Steve Dennis  28:26

Well, that's one of the things I really love. One thing, I meant to say earlier, is that, and we talked about this off-mic, this is not a retail book. I mean, I think it's certainly valuable to people in retail because I'm sure lots of people will connect to the Best Buy story in particular but, but it's a leadership book, to me it's, and I'm using this term loosely, it's a very spiritual, sort of, book. 

Steve Dennis  28:45

So, I just, I just love how you inject so many different perspectives, but just quickly on this issue of vulnerability. You know, one of the things that I've observed in my own career, just touch on it really, in the book is this idea of well, it's somewhat humility, it's somewhat of realizing we're probably wrong, it's asking for help, you know, not, not trying to be just this all powerful person, can you just this talk a little bit about how you, you know, realize that kind of the power of vulnerability for you, Brené Brown fans out there, just curious how you got to that and what advice you would give to people to, kind of, let their guard down and, and let people see them.

Hubert Joly  29:28

This is such an important transformation, right, and it's hard because so many of us, myself included, were trained to want to be perfectionists and for many years, I confuse perfection and performance. And if I'm, if I'm expecting perfection of myself, I'm not going to like myself, because guess what, I'm not perfect. And I'm not gonna like people around me, right, because they're human beings, so they're not perfect. Now, if I can, you know, relax a little bit and start to appreciate, yes, I'm not perfect. It's okay. You know, in that it can learn to love, you know all of the quirks and vulnerabilities, then that's how you build genuine human connections. 

Hubert Joly  30:10

Kamy Scarlett, wonderful head of HR at Best Buy, one day at the company she shared with everyone that for years she had struggled with depression, following the death of her two parents, do you know many senior executives at fortune 500 companies who are at any company for that matter, we're okay to, to share with everybody that they're struggling. That's not how we've been trained. This created though, you know, a flow of emails to her for-, from people who said, oh, I strug-, I'm so sorry. And then I struggled with it, and that's what led us to learn that more emphasis on mental health programs would help with, with anxiety, 20% of any human population suffers from mental health issues. During COVID, let's assume it's 80% and the secret to the resurgence of Best Buy. It's the hum-, it's the humanity of the organization. You know, I'll illustrate that with a story because I think it's, it's how you learn, right, and it's not a made-up story. It's a true story. 

Hubert Joly  31:23

One day, there is a, remember first, back in 2012, you know, a quality of service at Best Buy, you guys probably experimented, right, or experienced, it was not good. But fast forward to 2018 or 2019. There's a young woman who comes to one of our stores. With a young boy three or four year olds, for holiday, the child had gotten a dinosaur toy. Unfortunately, the dinosaur is very sick, the head has been dismantled from the body, so really sick. Now, they go to the store and most stores, you know, you would have been sent to the toy Island, with some luck, you know, there's still a dinosaur that you can buy, but boy, that's not what he wanted, he wanted a cure for the dinosaur and so there's two BestBuy associates, two blue shirts, who see what's going on and take the dinosaur. There's the sick dinosaur, go behind a counter and start performing a surgical procedure on the sick dinosaur, and like a good doctor on Amazon, you know, they walk the boys through the steps and of course, at the last minute, they substituted a new dinosaur, but give the child a cured dinosaur.

Hubert Joly  32:36

So, you can imagine the extraordinary joy and happiness of the child and his mother. Now, do you think that it was standard, standard operating procedure at Best Buy or how to deal with sick dinosaurs. A memo for me the very smart CEO on what you do if that happens, of course not, 

Michael LeBlanc  32:59

All right.

Hubert Joly  32:59

but, you know, what happened is that these two associates found it in their heart to create this happiness and they also felt, right, that they had the freedom to do this. And so, you know, my view of leadership, it's about creating an environment where you can unleash human magic, that's human magic, when you see it, right and at the same time as our comps were going through the roof. 

Hubert Joly  33:24

And so, you know, what I want to share is, you know, all of the ingredients, what does it take to create this environment where instead of being focused on numbers, and or you didn't hit the numbers or you hit the number, no, you create an environment where people can be beautiful human beings, the best version, the biggest, the most beautiful version of themselves, and do great things, to each other, to customers, to the community in which they operate, you know, all of the stakeholders with a focus on the noble purpose of the company, and with that, resulting in extraordinary economic performance, as well as an outcome.

Michael LeBlanc  34:05

I mean, what you're describing is a false narrative between either or, you know, performance and, and magic because it's a false narrative that you can't, that you have to make a choice. It's, it's a wonderful, it's a wonderful way to wrap our time with you today. You've been very generous. Thanks so much for your time. The book is the Heart of Business, available at all places where you love to buy books. It's a fantastic read. I've had the privilege of having it a little bit early to read through it. So, I've got the, the jump on everyone, but I encourage it, Steve, last words to you.

Steve Dennis  34:38

Well, first of all, thanks. Thanks for joining us. I really just love and, I think, it's one of the things I've been working on. I'm a little bit more of the glass is half empty, sort of, guy. And so, I just loved not only the very pragmatic advice in the book, but just this, sort of, joyful, uplifting, positive message, that not only comes through in speaking with, with you, but certainly comes out in the book, so, thanks, thanks so much and, yeah, everybody check it out.

Michael LeBlanc  35:10

It's time for another episode edition of Remarkable or Forgettable. Let's sta-, let's start with Amazon, the flywheel. She be a spinning great results coming out of, out of Amazon, but I suspect you know when we look at these results there's more to it, but on the surface they look pretty good.

Steve Dennis  35:28

Yeah, I'd have to deem this remarkable, sales increases that were fantastic I believe the stat that I read, and we're doing this just for inside knowledge, we're doing this just right after the earnings came out, so, we haven't had a full chance to dissect them, but I believe their total earnings in one year were greater than the prior three years combined, so, hard not to say remarkable. But we do know to your point that, I mean, they, they're just well positioned. The AWS business firing on all cylinders, retail growing like crazy, advertising growing like crazy. So, the foundation they built, their leveraging and they also have just started benefiting from so much of this shift to digital, whether we're talking about AWS, advertising or their retail business.

Michael LeBlanc  36:12

And as we talked about last episode, you know, 200 million Prime members, the flywheel is just, you know, this, this idea of geometric growth is really, is really moving and they’ve got a bunch of tailwinds behind them. Department stores are still a destination for shoes, but I sense I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop on that part of the story, what's the background on that?

Steve Dennis  36:32

Wow, we're like pun central or something. Well, I know this got a fair amount of pickup in the media. I thought it was kind of forgettable. The reason why I thought it was forgettable is I think it's, kind of, obvious that department stores are big players in footwear. And that has a lot to do with the way this particular study, it classifies folks into different categories and it just turns out that department stores have both a lot of square footage devoted to footwear, they have a lot of units and the average price point is high and there really aren't any significant general footwear stores except at least in the US, DSW, maybe, but I mean, you know, they, there's just way more department stores relative to just that one, one chain. So, I don't think this says anything about department stores' resurgence or, you know, didn't give us any real indication as to whether they've been losing share or gaining share. Spoiler alert, they've been losing share. So, I just didn't think it was particularly interesting.

Michael LeBlanc  37:36

Well, it's a good segue there, talking about footwear. I was reading All Birds and Warby Parker, and the Honest Company, they're all planning in some stage away IPO. So, what's going on there, why now and what's the, you know, what's the, what's driving them to, to go public?

Steve Dennis  37:53

I think two things, the, I guess, the remarkable part is how hyped up all things ecommerce are and you know, just the stock market is super frothy. So, just in general, in terms of a time to go to the public market is, it's like the perfect storm. And, when we talk about Allbirds, Warby, Away, the Honest Company, you know, these are some of the brands that are larger, you know, more well known and have a bit more of a track record. So, in terms of it being, you know, kind of, being IPO ready. I mean, particularly Warby Parker, I think Warby is, you know, like 12 years old now and,

Michael LeBlanc  38:32


Steve Dennis  38:33

you know, 100 stores and great growth and rumored to be profitable, which may not be the case with the other three we mentioned. So, that I think it's just, its timing, and these are just some of the brands that are more on the mature side of the curve than, than plenty of others.

Michael LeBlanc  38:51

You know, I think they're reading the right tea leaves because as you probably, you know, we've talked about before, when you look at stocks, there's story stocks and performance stocks. Yeah, each one of them have a great story, you know, Warby Parker, Allbirds, the Honest Company with, with the product they make and with Jessica Alba behind them with a little tail winded superstar. So, they're all great story stocks, and they may or may not be great performance stocks, but sometimes that doesn't matter as much that, you know, gets, as you said, the IPO markets, kind of, frothy. Speaking of frothy, look at the segues I'm making in this episode.

Steve Dennis  39:22


Michael LeBlanc  39:23

Walmart hits the 16 million number for their, I guess, what would call it, subscription model, their, kind of, Prime type loyalty program, paid loyalty program, what do you think about that?

Steve Dennis  39:36

Yeah, so Walmart Plus, I think is, it's only been rolled out I think about a year, I may, I may have that a little bit wrong, but yeah, it's essentially the, the Amazon neutralizer and so, paid subscription for free delivering and some other benefits and, I don't know, you know, on the one hand, you could say, for a company as huge as Walmart is and comparing to Amazon's 200 million number, 16 millions not amazing, but you know, it took Amazon a long time to get to 100 million. So I think 16 million at this point is, is pretty good. It's a good trajectory. What I wonder, and I haven't seen any data on this is how many customers sign up for both Prime and Walmart, I think that would be interesting, interesting to know, as well as what kinds of products are people using it for, for delivery and pick up the most but, you know, Walmart obviously has the advantage of the visit, the better, or the bigger physical store presence. So, it's a little bit of a different offering. 

Michael LeBlanc  40:34

Yeah, well, and, and one of the other key metrics that we know something about is, is retention, right and it's super, super high with the Prime program. I think they're in the mid 90s, which is just, you know, Costco like retention. And, I guess, that's, you know, it doesn't really matter how many subscribers you get, it's how many subscribers you keep. So, that'll be something that I'd keep an eye on, learning about the, about these programs. All right, well, that was a great episode, short, sweet, insightful. That was Remarkable or Forgettable.

Michael LeBlanc  41:10

All right, Steve, take us home.

Steve Dennis  41:12

If you liked what you heard, please follow us on Apple, Spotify, Amazon Music or your favorite podcast platform, so you can catch up with all our guest interviews and insights and new episodes will show up every week. And please take a minute to drop us that elusive five-star rating and tell a friend in the retail industry. I'm Steve Dennis, the expanded and completely revised second edition of my bestselling book, ‘Remarkable Retail: How to Win and Keep Customers in the Age of Disruption’ is now available on Amazon, Indigo, or just about anywhere books are sold.

Michael LeBlanc  41:46

And I'm Michael LeBlanc, producer and host of The Voice of Retail podcast and you can learn more about me on LinkedIn or on Steve, have a safe week.


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