Profile: Joe DePinto '99
leadership guides 7-Eleven CEO Joe DePinto '99
retail chain 7-Eleven has built its image on convenience and
service. So it makes sense that the company's president and
CEO, Joe DePinto '99 (EMP-42), encourages "servant
leadership" among employees. He says this management
style is based on the premise that to lead, one must serve.
an approach that relies on personal influence versus power,
one that requires leaders to coach and work alongside others
to build credibility," says DePinto, who brought this
perspective with him when he returned two years ago to 7-Eleven.
DePinto was head of the firm's operations from 2003 to 2005,
but for about 8 months between his former and current role
at 7-Eleven, he was president of videogame retailer GameStop.
"I left what I thought was a great opportunity (at GameStop)
for a job that was really difficult to pass up," he says.
to DePinto's tenure as CEO, the company was centrally controlled.
"When I came back, I wanted to make sure that we set
up the organization to develop leaders at all levels and that
decision making was being done across the board." That
meant communicating 7-Eleven's strategy clearly. "When
the strategy is in place and folks understand it, decisions
become very easy." DePinto and his colleagues implemented
these ideas and established metrics to evaluate progress —
including performance reviews that assess business results
and servant leadership.
more than 33,000 "small-box" stores worldwide, DePinto
says a significant part of 7-Eleven's strategy is retailer
initiative, or a localized product assortment. Shelf space
is allocated according to how well a product sells in that
market, and if it is slow to sell, it is cut back or replaced.
"Each week our merchandising department identifies 30
to 40 new items that we believe are high potential."
This method requires a robust pipeline of new items, he says,
something that being a global organization enables. "We
can tap into product trends that are occurring in different
parts of the world and share that information across all our
example of this is green tea, traditionally popular in Japan.
Once introduced in the U.S., it has performed well also. Similarly,
U.S. stores, which sell about 10 percent fresh food items,
will work toward the 40 percent sold in Japanese stores. "Fresh
food items are in demand in the U.S. as customers are looking
for convenience and trying to simplify their lives."
strategy connects with one of the valuable lessons DePinto
says he learned at Kellogg: Everything starts with the customer.
"This means not only putting products in the store that
we know will sell, but also forecasting trends to determine
products that we believe will sell in the future."
example of how the retailer recently connected with consumers
was through a marketing effort tied to the release of "The
Simpsons Movie." The company redesigned 12 of its stores
as "Kwik-E-Marts" and brought to life fictional
items like Sprinklicious doughnuts, Buzz Cola, Squishees and
KrustyO's cereal. "'The Simpsons' has satirized parts
of American culture, including convenience stores," he
says. It was a unique opportunity to partner with the movie
producers, and DePinto says customers particularly enjoyed
creative leadership is something he traces back to his Kellogg
experience, and to his earlier military service as a West
Point cadet and, later, as a member of the U.S. Army.
military was a tremendous learning and leadership experience
for me. Kellogg helped enhance that leadership and provided
a solid business foundation, as well as a network of intelligent
folks that I can always rely upon."