Target Names New CEO
Today, Target named PepsiCo executive Brian Cornell as its new CEO.
The retail chain has had a rough year and for the first time in its history has turned to an outsider to help repair battered company culture and navigate the changing retail landscape.
Cornell, 55, will take on the role of CEO left vacant three months ago by Gregg Steinhafel. He will be tasked with developing a new strategy to overcome a drop in store traffic, declining sales and data security.
Cornell has spent almost a decade at PepsiCo and was an outside contender to succeed current CEO Indra Nooyi. For the past two years he has headed up PepsiCo’s Americas Foods business, which includes brands such as Quaker and Lay’s. Before that he spent three years at Walmart, where he ran the Sam’s Club warehouse chain. He was also CEO of arts and crafts chain Michael’s Stores for two years.
Can Cornell Turn Target Around?
Target has more than 1,900 stores in the U.S. and Canada and reported revenue of $73 billion in 2013, however the retail giant has had a difficult year. A massive data breach during the holiday season derailed the company, which saw a sharp decline in customer traffic and thus sales. Although footfall started to increase in March, the retailer has been forced to offer major discounts. Target forecasts same-store sales will be flat in the U.S. for Q3.
Cornell will be responsible for fixing these problems and steering the household name in the right direction once again. He will also have to make a call on Target’s expansion into Canada, which has so far been disappointing. Furthermore, Cornell will need to look at the company’s approach to ecommerce, which remains weak with only two percent of sales coming via the Internet.
On top of these pivotal strategic changes, Cornell will also be charged with rejuvenating company culture, which is said to have suffered under Steinhafel’s reign. Current and former executives have said decision-making slowed down during his six-year tenure, and even blamed him for the erosion of creativity and innovation at the company.
Target is paying Cornell $19.3 million in equity grants to make up for what he's giving up at PepsiCo, however this amount could fall if Cornell is able to retain any of the PepsiCo money.
CFO John Mulligan, who is serving as interim CEO, is currently leading target. Cornell will take over his position at the helm of the company on August 12.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.