Ace Hardware’s latest high-level hires came from three of the large public companies that compete with Ace stores—and that’s an advantage, according to the co-op.
Many of Ace’s corporate positions are filled with people whom Ace has promoted internally. But also acquiring “more and better leaders” from competitors offers strategic advantages, says Kane Calamari, vice president of human resources, organizational development and communications for Ace.
“We think it’s a pretty potent combination,” he tells Hardware Retailing.
Since April, the co-op has announced the hiring of former Grainger executive Mark Spanswick to serve as president and general manager of Ace’s wholesale division; John Sommers Jr., a 23-year Home Depot veteran, as vice president of merchandising; and Lisa Doyle, who previously worked for Lowe’s, as Ace’s new head of retail training.
Lowe’s and Home Depot, among others, are world-class companies that Ace staffers watch carefully, despite their very different business models, Calamari says.
“Although we’re battling them day in and day out, we’re making sure that we’re learning from them,” he says.
The big-box hires bring experiences and differing perspectives that add important new insight and healthy friction to decision making within Ace’s leadership team, he says.
“We like to say at Ace that iron sharpens iron,” Calamari says. “If everyone’s living the values and working together as a team, it can be really, really good for our company.”
Executives from big-box companies, who are accustomed to working with corporately owned stores and very different shareholder owners, do have a learning curve when Ace hires them to serve independent retailers, Calamari says.
“The people coming and joining us need to understand our culture. Our shareholders are our customers,” Calamari says. “The big thing for us in the onboarding process is to make sure they get out in the stores as soon as possible.”
Within the past 12 months, Ace has also hired new staffers from Academy Sports, Sears, Ulta and Walgreens. The co-op has used recruiters to find some of its new corporate employees, but the high-level hires have been word-of-mouth referrals, Calamari says.
“I don’t think transitioning from one company to another company is ever easy,” Calamari says. “But if you understand retail, you understand the basics of how you win at retail. I think the transition process quickly moves into the rearview mirror.”