Thursday, May 31, 2007

How Did They Do That? Fearless Flying!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to listen to John Shields, retired CEO of Trader Joe's, speak about some of the key changes that led to creating a successful growth company. For those of you who have never been to a Trader Joe's, describing it as a "unique grocery store" really doesn't it do it justice. At my house on Memorial Day, our party featured a number of Trader Joe's products including wine, cheese, crackers, Mediterranean style hummus, veggie chips and no pudge brownies. With the exception of the wine, each product was made for Trader Joe’s private label.

Beside from their great products, low prices, free samples and always cheerful employees, I'm amazed that this privately owned business has grown so rapidly and successfully to over $5 billion in revenues without borrowing a dime nor asking their owners for a further injection of capital. How many businesses can manage that feat?

Here’s just a few excerpts from his remarks and the follow up Q&A…
  • Successful companies have a long term vision and empower their employees with both the responsibility and authority to execute upon that vision.

  • Promote the growth of your employees understanding that they will sometimes make mistakes. The key is to learn from those mistakes.

  • Disruptive products, such as the wine commonly known as Two Buck Chuck, are vital to achieving success. Two Buck Chuck just enjoyed its fifth year anniversary!

  • Choose a mentor even if you never meet them in person. Shields chose Sam Walton and Herb Kelleher as his mentors for their vision, relentless drive and passion for their respective businesses. He never met either.

  • Choose good employees and take good care of them and they’ll do a great job for your customers. Same philosophy I was exposed to during my six and a half years in the finance & treasury groups at Federal Express. They’re no slouch company either!

A big thank you to Joel Fishman of the law firm Ropers Majeski Kohn Bentley for hosting yesterday’s business networking lunch and to John Thrasher of Management Resources Group for arranging to have Shields as guest speaker.

See you at Trader Joe’s.

Need help finding the right lender or telling your story the right way so you can grow to be as big and successful as Trader Joe’s? Read "Matchmaking for Business Loans" and give me a call!

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