Supermarkets Can Impact Lives, Dillon Tells Grads

Being a grocer provides a prime opportunity to touch people's lives, David Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer of Kroger Co., Cincinnati, said in a speech to the graduating class of the Food Industry Management program at the University of Southern California. He described the grocery business as ordinary people doing ordinary jobs that touch the lives of other people, citing

LOS ANGELES — Being a grocer provides a prime opportunity to touch people's lives, David Dillon, chairman and chief executive officer of Kroger Co., Cincinnati, said here in a speech to the graduating class of the Food Industry Management program at the University of Southern California.

He described the grocery business as “ordinary people doing ordinary jobs that touch the lives of other people,” citing two examples of how grocers have touched the lives of others:

  • An assistant manager at a Ralphs store in Malibu, Calif., who evacuated others from his store when a fire threatened the area last summer but stayed on the job and kept the store open “because he believed the firefighters might need food and other supplies,” Dillon said.

  • The employees at a Fry's store in Arizona, who paid special attention to a 4-year-old boy stricken with spina bifida and encephalitis when he visited the store with his grandfather and, after the boy died, brought food to his family at Thanksgiving, provided gifts at Christmas and donated money for a headstone.

“That's the grocery business,” Dillon said.

As the graduates move through their industry careers, Dillon said, they ought to think about three objectives for getting better each day:

  • “Stay grounded in your values. Values are what define you as people, so know your values and live them.”

  • “Develop your own personal growth program. Use what your employer gives you, but use your own imagination to go beyond that and take steps to become better.”

  • “See the world as it really is, not as you wish it was. Don't believe your own press clippings because you'll lose a sense of reality. Be honest about how you're doing, and maintain the capacity to accept honest feedback.”

Dillon said that, of all the advice he could give, “the most important is, listen to the people around you. To see how you look physically, you look in a mirror. But to see how you look as a leader, you must rely on your friends and peers who are willing to tell you how you're doing, if you are willing to listen.”