As many of you are probably aware, Jim Sinegal will be stepping back from Costco in 2012, he’ll still be around as an advisor and a board member, but will no longer be the CEO. As a result of that big announcement, it seems like I’ve written quite a bit about Jim Sinegal in the last year. Though, he’s such a big part of how Costco operates (obviously, as founder and CEO) that I’ve written quite a bit about him on this blog over the last four years too. Someone always seems to want to interview him about how they can do so well, have such loyal customers, and such great employees. Does it seem as sad to anyone else that all of those things seem like such a foreign concept in business? In the last year though, I’ve also written a fair amount about Craig Jelinek since he is to be the successor to Jim Sinegal.
I think most everyone that knows anything about Costco was a little shocked to hear that Jim Sinegal was going to retire. But, you know, he’s 75 (soon, very soon to be 76) did we all think he’d stick around forever? LOL It’s a credit to him though, that so many people are such fans of the company that he created. And it isn’t just about the concept of shopping in bulk or the products that Costco carries, though those do play a part in the total picture. But Costco has gotten a reputation as being fair to both their customers and their employees; and that is almost impossible to do in retail. That reputation is all down to the strong leadership from Jim Sinegal and the company culture that he has created at Costco. So why is he retiring now?
Of course, there will be a new CEO, Craig Jelinek, running things soon. He’s been at Costco right from the beginning, joining just a few months after Sinegal and partner Jeff Brotman founded Costco. So, he’s quite well versed in the way the company operates and what makes it such a success. He has also spent a lot of time working with Jim Sinegal, especially in this last year. So, how will he handle being CEO? Is he going to have the same dedication to better benefits and salaries for employees? And the same commitment to serving customers as well?
There are so many questions I have. Luckily, there were a couple of really nice interviews in The Seattle Times recently that should definitely shed some light on the answers to some of these questions. The first interview is with Jim Sinegal and actually manages to cover some stuff that I hadn’t read before because mostly articles written about him all seem to contain the same information over and over again. It’s a great interview that gives a lot of insight into how he thinks and how he’s made such a success of Costco. He also briefly touches on the hot topic of putting so much money into the voter initiative of changing the liquor distribution system in the state of Washington. It’s so refreshing to read an interview with a CEO that seems to have a sense of humor and some convictions about making something better for his employees and customers.
The other interview is with Craig Jelinek and equally as good. He actually seems to have a similar personality to Jim Sinegal, so you can see some of the reason why he’s been chosen as the next CEO. He has a funny little story that he tells about making a complete hash out of a new store and how Jim Sinegal simply said: “Why don’t you rethink this?” It’s nice that he will talk about making a huge mistake, of course, it is also very telling about the kind of leadership that Jim Sinegal provides. The interview covers lots of interesting topics though, like how they compare to Wal-mart and how he’ll respond when Wall Street tries to get him to change employee benefits and pay. Hopefully after reading the interview we can all rest a little easier that our favorite store will be in good hands when Craig Jelinek takes over next month.
To read the full interviews: