How do you know when an organization is best of class in developing leaders?
One way is to look at the long-term career paths of those who have worked for the organization. That is a useful exercise in the case of Stop & Shop, which is part of Ahold USA.
This issue of SN presents a special anniversary focus on Ahold USA's completion of 25 years operating in this country. A package of stories begins on Page 16.
Stop & Shop became part of Ahold in 1996, some 19 years after the Netherlands-based company first entered the United States. The Stop & Shop acquisition provided a major momentum boost to the parent company's U.S. efforts. Today, Ahold's U.S. retail operations also include Tops; Giant Food, Landover, Md.; Bi-Lo; Giant Food Stores, Carlisle, Pa.; and Bruno's Supermarkets.
"The watershed event was the acquisition of Stop & Shop in 1996," Cees van der Hoeven, Ahold's president and chief executive officer, told SN in an interview.
"From that base we were much more confident we'd be able to add significant value to the existing chains."
That brings us back to the topic of leaders. Today, the lineup of top Ahold USA executives reads like a who's who of former Stop & Shop personnel. Consider the following list of Stop & Shop alumni who are now steering Ahold USA: Bill Grize, president, CEO, Ahold U.S. Food Retail; Brian Hotarek, chief financial officer, Ahold USA; Donald Sussman, chief merchandising/supply chain officer, Ahold USA; Dick Baird, president and CEO, Giant of Landover; Dean Cohagan, president and CEO, Bi-Lo and Bru-no's; and Tony Schiano, president and CEO, Giant Food Stores of Carlisle, Pa. And we can't forget that Robert Tobin, who ran Ahold USA from 1998 to 2001, also formerly headed Stop & Shop.
This is a striking record of leadership development and advancement for a single chain. Veterans of Stop & Shop will point to earlier luminaries responsible for creating and honing the chain's culture of people development, customer focus and constant improvement. These include longtime leader Sidney Rabb (Mr. Sidney to those who knew him) and, in more recent times, Lew Schaeneman, a mentor to many who followed.
All of this produced a culture that led to innovation ranging from the chain's groundbreaking first supercenter back in 1982 to its new format that emphasizes innovative co-branding.
None of this is meant to take anything away from the other chains in Ahold's U.S. stable. Ahold's 25th anniversary wouldn't be much of an event without their successes and growth over the years. Each of these chains contributed to the advancement of the entire group through a meticulous program of fostering synergies. That model will certainly play a big role in Ahold USA's future.