There's no shortage of awards given in society these days, from the Oscars to “American Idol.” The business world bestows its own honors, including awards to food industry companies and executives given annually by SN. So who needs another award program?
That's what we had to consider in deciding to launch the SN Hall of Fame, which debuts in this issue. We concluded this award has a unique reason for being because it fills a void. It becomes our ultimate honor for this industry's leaders and is based on their extensive accomplishments over a career, rather than just a one- or two-year time frame. Hall of Famers are those who make clear and lasting contributions to the food retailing industry in the view of our editors, based on industry nominations and input.
So who was honored in the inaugural roster? Our initial three inductees are undisputed icons of this business who brought new and valuable ideas to their companies and the industry. They are: Charles C. Butt, chairman and chief executive officer, H.E. Butt Grocery Co.; Jim Sinegal, president and CEO, Costco Wholesale Corp.; and the late Robert B. Wegman, former chairman, Wegmans Food Markets. You can read in-depth profiles of each in stories that begin on Page 14.
Now, let's play business-book author for a moment. Do these leaders have factors in common that help explain their overwhelming successes? Here are four shared characteristics worth noting.
Building on the Work of Others: Butt and Wegman took companies started by family members and jump-started growth with new formats, products and services. Sinegal took membership warehouse club concepts dreamed up by Sol Price and added new layers.
Staying in Touch With Customers: Butt encourages executives to understand the needs of low-income customers through an H-E-B program that asks them to feed their families on small budgets for one week. Sinegal values the longtime trust of Costco's members and has gradually extended that relationship to categories such as fresh foods and private label.
Making Employees a Priority: Sinegal credits his career success to assembling the right team, and Costco is known for treating its associates very well. Wegmans has been consistently cited as one of the best employers in the nation. H-E-B has a loyal employee base and puts a premium on character in promoting associates.
Being a Merchant: Each of SN's Hall of Famers has exhibited a strong connection to stores and merchandising. Each learned his business on the sales floor, not just in corner offices. At 18, Sinegal began his association with Sol Price while unloading mattresses for Price's Fed-Mart chain. Wegman was a fixture in stores and was know for his “I am a Merchant” speech, which outlined a core philosophy.
Thanks to these three leaders for their contributions and for setting a high standard for our new Hall. SN looks forward to building the Hall in coming years.