Where is the Greener Grass?




By Ed Avis

It seems fashionable these days to hire outsiders to fill retail executive positions. Retailers of all sizes have looked beyond their own ranks to find new leaders, from Target hiring a Pepsi executive as its new CEO to PCC Natural Markets naming a Starbucks leader its new boss.

“There is a lot of transition in grocery retailing right now, and I think this environment can bring about more external hires,” says Tony Frey, senior vice presi-dent of The Carlisle Group, an executive search firm. “And I think a lot of grocery retailers are rethinking how they go to market, and that can cause them to look outside their own leadership pool.

”On the other hand, some grocery retailers are known for developing talent from within. J.K. Symancyk started at Meijer as vice president of perishables in 2006, even-tually climbing to president seven years later.

What are the pros and cons of bringing in outside leadership talent versus promoting from within? Each has its advantages and disadvantages, experts say. The shakeup skills of an outsider are sometimes required, while in other cases the steady hand of a familiar insider is preferred.

“Having an internal individual who knows the corporate culture, the players involved, and those internal non-stated drivers within the organization can be a positive,” says Robert Perrin, president and CEO of Magellan Associates, a business consulting firm. Yet, “if the organization desires to transform to something different, the knowledge and ties to the legacy organization may, but not in all cases, inhibit change or cause resistance to change.”


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