Magazine article Communication World

On EXCEL-Lence: An Interview with the Recipient of the 2002 EXCEL Award

Magazine article Communication World

On EXCEL-Lence: An Interview with the Recipient of the 2002 EXCEL Award

Article excerpt

The No. 1 specialty retailer of digital technology and entertainment products, Best Buy Co. Inc., operates 1,900 stores internationally, generates US$20 billion in annual revenues and was ranked by The Wall Street Journal as the best-performing stock over five years among 1,000 publicly traded companies. Best Buy Chairman and CEO Richard M. Schulze spoke at the opening general session at IABC's international conference in June, where he was presented the EXCEL (Excellence in Communication Leadership) award. This award is given annually to a business leader who supports, encourages and practices exemplary communication and whose organization reflects that philosophy and standard. Gloria Gordon, Communication World editor, sat down with Schulze to find out how communication has contributed to his company's success.

Gloria Gordon: Since you founded your first store, you've been one of the world's leading retailers. In addition to your obvious business acumen, what communication strategies do you feel contributed to your success?

Richard Schulze: I'd have to say that one consideration stands out as the most important--the ability to listen carefully to those constituents you value highly. In our case, it's obviously customers, No. 1; employees, No. 2; suppliers; and, of course, shareholders. You can make adjustments in your business by listening to the constituents you engage with each and every day.

GG: Could you describe the areas that most challenged your leadership and communication skills when you first began your venture?

RS: That would have to be consistency. You have to develop consistency in your messages, then identify your audience and understand what it takes to reach that audience so they're actually received, learned and understood.

GG: Could you describe any specific communication tactic, such as face-to-face meetings, newsletters or the Internet, that has helped you achieve the results that you accomplished?

RS: It's a combination of everything. Of course, I don't think there's a substitute for face-to-face. If you can be face-to-face with the people who ask the questions or who need to know, you can communicate most effectively one-on-one. But the reality is that the need to approach each and every one of our constituencies varies. There are times when regional meetings can best serve your objectives. On some occasions, investor conferences are the best medium. We use TV or video to reach our large, diverse population of employees, which is often the most looked forward to because of its delivery, entertainment, personality and communication. Because of the Internet, or in our case, an intranet, the ability to continually provide up-to-date news and information goes a long way toward making it a stronger, easier way to communicate with our employee base.

GG: What roles do your communication employees take in helping you achieve your goals?

RS: It's the consistency of the message. They focus on understanding who the various employee groups, or constituencies, are. There also are investors and suppliers, so essentially it's making sure we're consistent and timely in our communication. The message is clear, concise, on time and delivered in such a way that the audience sees it, knows it and can respond to it.

GG: If you were to write a description for a communicator applying for a job with your organization, what would be your requirements?

RS: It begins with the individual's ability to become a problem-solver. As a corporation spends considerable time and dollars in creating a business plan for the future, what's critical here is that it's properly communicated and ultimately properly implemented. You have to have people who are strategic--they understand the value of what it takes to solve that problem, and they're not afraid of details. They have to be people who will work and rework. They'll challenge their own work and open it [up] to others for advice and information to make sure we get the best quality product. …

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