Adam Bryant of the New York Times interviewed Brian Dunn on August 15, 2009. Brian, who’s the chief executive of Best Buy addressed questions ranging from staying in touch with people, determining which senior leaders might fit into the organization, the importance of curiosity, lessons learned, and big picture thinking. He also talks about customer complaints and how their organization will try to turn a negative into a positive. In terms of customer feedback, his company utilizes a program to search the Internet to get positive, negative feedback on any comments associated with Best Buy, and he welcomes this feedback as an opportunity to improve.
After reading and reviewing the interview a few times, I thought it would be useful for me to provide the key points of the interview in my own words.
IT’S SO IMPORTANT TO BE CURIOUS…
One leadership example mentioned by Brian Dunn is that it’s important to be curious or curious learning. That applies to inside and outside his enterprise. Ask questions. Look for new ideas. Look for things that work. Get to the front lines and experience. Look for opportunities to learn new things. In other words, it’s important for him to get out to locations where customers experience the Best Buy brand. This includes the call centers, visiting stores and talking to associates. Are there opportunities for improvements? Are there lessons learned in some stores that can be duplicated in other locations?
KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH EMPLOYEES AND CUSTOMERS
1. Quarterly town hall meeting with folks from operations from around the world and provides an update and then he handles questions from around the world.
2. He’ll also go on Twitter and figure out what people are saying about Best Buy.
3. He also uses this program which can search all Internet content anytime Best Buy is mentioned. Sometimes it’s really positive and uplifting, and other times, it’s filled with obscenities. That feedback is a gift and Brian will have the appropriate person at Best Buy contact the customer. He’s also contacted the customer with certain complaints.
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PASSION
He also talks about the hiring process in the interview. Of course, by the time the candidate is interviewed by senior level executives, it goes without saying they have the necessary qualifications (capability and competence) but there’s still some work to be done. He’ll try to understand more about their passion. What do you really care about and how do you deal with that? Regardless of the position, he wants to understand how they think and deal with their passion. How do they use their passion? What have you done with it and how you feel and think about the impact it’s had on people.
EARLY LESSONS LEARNED
Brian mentioned a lesson he learned when he was 14 years old stocking shelves at a grocery store. The manager asked him about a process inside the store. He gave it little thought and provided a canned answer that everything’s fine. Well, it didn’t sit very well with the manager because the person in charge really wanted Brian’s feedback. Considering Brian was spending a lot of time in the store, the manager felt he should have ideas and insight on how to improve processes in the store. He goes on to say that lesson conveyed to him that it’s important to get a lot of information and feedback from those who are actually doing the work.
BIG PICTURE THINKING
His leadership style has evolved over time according to Brian into seeing the big picture or seeing the big rocks. Of course, sometimes he may fall into a trap by losing the big picture but he’ll ask himself; is it important or is this just a little ego thing for me. That helps provide the necessary perspective to keep him focused on the big rocks.
ADVICE HE GIVES HIS KIDS
It’s interesting that that the advice he gives his kids about work is to listen carefully and participate. When you’re asked your views, provide them. Even if they are not considered, you’re better off in the end to add your input to the discussion.
HIS BEST BOSS SPENT QUALITY TIME WITH BRIAN
Brian tells the story as a young man when his boss really took an interest in Brian’s personal life and mentored him in his professional life. Brian fondly tells the story of his boss spending extra time on Saturdays teaching him to sell. Once you know how to sell, you can feed yourself for a lifetime. Learning to sell also opened doors for Brian. In addition, his boss taught him other things. These things helped Brian develop many skills; he was not aware of many of these skills at the time.
HOW WOULD A CONSUMER FEEL TO HEAR FROM THE CEO OF BEST BUY AFTER WRITING AN ONLINE COMPLAINT?
According to Brian, often, it will scare the heck out of them, they’re not sure what to think, but he feels this social media can be used to make those connections and fix the problems.
1. Because he’s spent so much time in the United States, he wants to branch out and spend more time in China and Europe and be better connected with those businesses.
2. Continue learning.
3. Continue to insulate people from things that really happen. If you don’t, you run the risk of being insulated and ineffective.
INSULATE THE CEO
Most people do not want to bring bad news to the CEO. It’s natural that everyone wants to look good. Everyone wants the optics to all line up but you need to look at this objectively. The performances of the store could probably fit into a class bell curve. So you have 20 percent stores are great, 60 percent are good and 20 percent have serious work to do.
HOW ARE MEETINGS RUN?
Needless to say, he does not like endless pontification. He likes people to get to the point. And talking just for the sake of talking is useless, unnecessary and wasteful.