Best Buy has learned that the best man for a job is a woman times three.  Financial Officer Sharon McCollam, President eCommerce Mary Lou Kelley, and US Retail President Shari Ballard have architected the turnaround of Best Buy under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer Hubert Joly. They serve as three shining examples of women leadership that saved the day by saving Best Buy — when turnarounds are not for the faint of heart.  Fortune Magazine tells the story and it is a good read.

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Best Buy CFO Sharon McCollam
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Sharon McCollam, Best Buy CFO

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Mary Lou Kelley Best Buy President eCommerce
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Mary Lou Kelley Best Buy President eCommerce

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Shari Ballard Best Buy President US Retail
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Shari Ballard Best Buy President US Retail

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What did the triptych of women leaders manage to pull off? Fortune Magazine puts it this way:

The largest consumer-electronics retailer in the world (No. 72 on the Fortune500) and the only surviving U.S. nationwide chain, Best Buy has redesigned most of its 1,433 U.S. stores, put its retail employees through retraining boot camp, become a force in e-commerce, and excised $1 billion in annual costs.”

In doing so, the women are giving Walmart and Amazon a run for their money.  That’s right, Walmart and Amazon — the brick-and-mortar and eCommerce companies that ate retail.  Unlike Amazon, Best Buy’s big box retail category is mature and, as a result, is more challenging to grow given its company lifecycle constraint. Yet Best Buy has set a strategy to provide the Geek Squad, a mobile tech support team to help its customers install —  if not figure out how to use — the increasingly technical things that we buy in this, the era of the Internet of Things. It also has streamlined its supply chain and rearchitected the bestbuy.com website more effective and less prone to crashing.  In doing so, Best Buy has become a electronic gadget toy store for grown-ups. Despite its nerdy focus, women lead the charge:

In a wrinkle that defies gadget-geek stereotypes, Best Buy’s leadership team is largely female: Women run operations accounting for 90% of its revenue. Inspired by a McKinsey colleague’s gender-diversity research—on which Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In is partly based—Joly has fully committed to it at Best Buy.”

Why do I keep writing about women diversity at the senior executive level? I head an executive search (The Good Search) and recruiting research (Intellerati) firms help companies become more diverse at the board and C-level. Most companies want to be more diverse: they simply don’t know how to get there.  CNNMoney reports only 14.2% of the top five leadership positions at the companies in the S&P 500 are held by women. Worse, only 24 of the CEOs are women, less than 5%.  The playing field will not be officially level until that percentage hits 50.

Wanting to be more diverse is a good thing, but a simple wish is not enough to affect change. Successful diversity initiatives require that we begin with the realization that yes, women can do this. Best Buy gets that and the company has benefited mightily. CEO Joly put it this way:

If it had been Lehman Sisters instead of Lehman Brothers, maybe it would not have been the catastrophe that it was.”

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