President and CEO
Dan Starr has served as president and CEO of Do it Best since 2016. He has previously served in a variety of roles since joining the company in 2006. Starr is only the fifth CEO in the company’s history.
Hardware Retailing (HR): What does the current landscape look like for Do it Best members now?
Dan Starr (DS): We have a lot of members who are pursuing growth opportunities in many markets. There’s a lot of positive activity. As the economy has grown, there has been a great deal of strain on the labor markets, and we’ve seen that a lot of our members have labor as their No. 1 concern. Finding qualified available talent in a very, very competitive pool is challenging.
HR: What’s your strategy to help encourage additional growth for your members?
DS: We tend to focus on our three key mechanisms for growth. The first focus area for us continues to be to drive more sales to our existing members. We do that through a number of particular strategies. Second is by supporting better retail execution, which is more about increasing foot traffic and overall sales. And then, of course, the third would be to add members to the fold however we can. Each of those three focuses has a number of strategies associated with it, but they’re three very different types of growth.
HR: How does Do it Best successfully serve both lumberyards and retail-focused operations?
DS: I think one of the biggest keys is that it’s just been part of our DNA from the very beginning. We haven’t had to try to learn a different side of the business, owing to the fact that from the very start, in 1945, we were serving both hardware retailers as well as the pro or the lumber dealers. Truthfully, there’s a great deal of overlap between the two. But there is a degree of specialization required for both, and for us, that is a key differentiator. It’s kind of staked out who we are as the only c0-op provider in our industry that is able to do both really well. It’s been a great competitive advantage.
HR: How can Do it Best help retailers face potential future challenges?
DS: One of the greatest challenges all retailers face is getting their business on the map and drawing people into the store once they know it’s there. Everyone talks about the impact of Amazon because it’s such a phenomenal presence, so retailers not only have a requirement to participate in an online environment, but they also have a bit of an unknown impact in large areas of our retail space. Amazon has a known impact, for example, when you look at clothing retail, and Amazon has decimated that industry. Fortunately for our industry, there’s still quite a bit about the retail experience that is unique and necessary, which makes us more competitive.
Another challenge for our members is the need to make sure they are creating what we refer to as a “first and best choice experience” for their customer segment. That would mean making sure the retailer is top of mind for their customers, making sure they are the first choice within their marketplace.
Regardless of the nature of the shopping experience, whether it’s online or in-store, it’s important that their business is the destination customers have in mind. Then, once customers are through that door or through that shopping portal, it’s entirely about making sure that the experience customers have rates among the best they can ask for.
And that’s a real challenge for anyone. This expectation isn’t new, but it has evolved. I think every retailer spends their day or wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about the best ways to make sure the retail experience they offer is one that is absolutely gratifying for the consumer. Retailers just need to continue to do that.
HR: How has Do it Best’s approach to giving retailers the freedom to choose the programs and services that make sense for their business evolved in recent years?
DS: Our practice has never been “you must do this,” but has instead been, “you should do this.” Our evolution, especially in the last three years, along all touchpoints, is being more strategic and consultative with members and giving them guidance and recommendations as opposed to just saying, “Here, you pick.” We tend to look at that strategy as a necessary component in order to truly add value for our members. It’s great to provide them a menu, but in such a complex, fast-moving world of retail, we really need to take every step possible to make it easier on them. Retailers have a lot to do every day. If we can improve their experience with us and make it easier to do business with us, we’re going to have a better relationship. We exercise our expertise to deliver value for the member in a world where they’re looking for easier ways to do their job.
HR: How does Do it Best show its members and prospective members that the company is the best choice for them?
DS: That’s an interesting parallel we have. For our members, we just continue to drive the retail programs, the support and the expertise we offer through some of the best people in the industry who make sure we’re delivering that best choice experience for our membership. For our first choice, we continue to drive the most important element of who we are: We exist to serve solely and exclusively the needs of our members, and that has become a more unique aspect in a crowded field. We’re the only co-op with a board of directors made up entirely of retailers. That’s our sole shareholder group and that’s our entire focus—supporting our members and driving their profitability. We think our successes are the end result of doing that first job with excellence.
HR: What does the next decade look like for Do it Best?
DS: The next 10 years are going be about continuing to build and nurture a team. That’s a key part of my job responsibility, which I look at as twofold. One part is to try to be a good coach for the team, to select and put the people on the field who are going to make a difference in the game. Another key component that I believe is absolutely critical is to continue to build and strengthen the culture of this great company.
Our philosophy is serving others as we’d like to be served, and that approach to doing business is critical to our success.
I want to make sure that our cultural ethics don’t take a step backward in any respect—that we continue to build on that great strength that we were so privileged to inherit. We didn’t create that culture; we were the beneficiaries of that culture. We all have a great sense of responsibility to those folks who spent a lifetime building this company. We want to carry that torch in the best way we can so it continues to burn brightly.