Pathmark’s Jim Donald Sets a Sailing Course for a Flat Economy

May 07, 2002

In a Monday morning FMI Super Session, Jim Donald, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Pathmark made use of his own turn-around story to illustrate his chosen techniques for “putting the wind back in your sales” during a flat economy, reports Rick Moss, co-founder of RetailWire.

Mr. Donald began with a poignant portrayal of their lower Manhattan store’s
post 9-11 response and moved on to colorful anecdotes of his mold-breaking efforts
to rouse employee confidence and risk-taking. As the presentation progressed,
he checked off his seven-component plan:

  1. Go where you’ve never been before. “Throw a Frisbee over the wall
    and then go get it.” Try new things; see the competition; get out among
    the associates every day.

  2. Communicate consistently with everyone in the organization. Mr. Donald sends
    out a company-wide voice mail message every morning, covering different topics
    of concern, and backs it up with emails and printed memos posted in break

  3. “What’s YOUR fish story?” Mr. Donald had his own… as
    an example of leaving workers and customers with “something to remember
    you by.” (His fish story began with a desperate effort to get fresh fish
    for a trade show, and somehow ended with whole salmon sliding under the stall
    in a women’s room. Not a story anyone will forget soon.)

  4. Encourage risk-taking. Mr. Donald’s own “turtle awards” inspire
    associates and managers to “stick their neck out.” Give them the
    “freedom to fail,” he says.

  5. Leverage your associate selling force. Everyone in the organization has
    an opportunity to sell. “Allow them the opportunity to be successful.”

  6. Never be bigger than a front line selling associate. A message to top management:
    “The higher up the ladder you go, the more your ass shows.”

  7. Celebrate the success of your associates. Mr. Donald likes to set a performance
    challenge for individual departments and rewards them with lunch or dinner
    out. The celebration can be contagious… within the company and with customers.

Moderator Comment: What are your recommendations for
businesses trying to turn it around?

Leadership starts at the top and requires commitment
to become ingrained in the corporate culture. Jim Donald has demonstrated that
at Pathmark. Too often today, organizations confuse the words manager and supervisor
with leader. In our experience, there are plenty of managers but far too few
leaders. [George
Anderson – Moderator

  • Pathmark’s Jim Donald Sets a Sailing Course for a Flat Economy by Rick

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