Hubert Joly Turned Around Best Buy. Now He’s Trying to Fix Capitalism. Photograph: Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images
This article is part of our special report The Big Four.
Joly is a former McKinsey and co-founder of the disruptive startup 1-800-FREE-COOKIES. His new book is a compendium of stories and essays, from the former McKinsey management consultant, that contends market failures, financial derivative bubbles, disruptive technology, ageism and corporate ethos are at the heart of modern corporate dysfunction.
Joly has had a ringside seat to observe corporate crises: as the acting CEO of the electronics retailer in the aftermath of the US holiday shopping season 2011 and subsequent credit-default swaps, auto-industry bailouts and Wall Street meltdown. He looks back wryly on how different it would have been for more comparable companies in less traumatic times.
Joly had arrived at the company, which he knew from McKinsey client meetings, with his small French family business of 2,500 employees. He saw a lot of missed opportunities, but he was also inspired by the beginning of a new era for big companies in which big American companies were reinventing themselves.
He is not a fan of the “outsourced CEOs” movement that advises laypeople to spend 30 days or more in senior roles after leaving their day jobs. He believes they are often created by “kite-toting capitalists” in service to their own self-interest. In the case of the jobs, to nurture their enterprise and reap its returns.
Instead he says executives need the necessary time to learn about and execute an unfamiliar new business model and determine whether the company is worth investing in.
In a company’s transformation process, at the top, there will always be continual improvement. Joly says CEO tenure should be measured in months, not years. For the moment, he feels safer in his job than at any other place, “because no one can accuse me of procrastinating”.