now a Vice President in charge of the company’s business centers, were on their morning trip to get co;ee in the corporate break
room. Phil recalls that an employee passed
by, greeting them: “Hi, Jim; hi, Phil.” ;ey
nodded and continued on their way.
At the co;ee pot, Jim was unhappy, says
Phil. “He said, ‘I didn’t know that person’s ;rst
name, and that really irritates me because I
want to know everybody’s ;rst name who
works in this o;ce. He knew my name, and
I think I owe it to him to know his, too.’
Today, all Costco employees wear name
badges with their ;rst name in large type,
and the company’s in-house phone directory
is organized by ;rst names. Phil says when
Jim travels to Costco warehouses around the
world (he tries to visit each location at least
once a year), he knows the names of an unusual number of employees, from store managers to
forkli; drivers. “He is amazingly in tune with the employees who work for him,” says Phil.
gains. Everybody in the company understands that, says
Chris Sanchez, who started at Price Club and now is
Director of Administration for Warehouse Operations.
It speaks to Jim’s management style: He has always
been an in-the-trenches CEO, acknowledging that em-
ployees are a key part of meeting the company’s goals.
One principle that he continuously stresses to his man-
agers is “If you’re not spending 90 percent of your time
teaching, you’re not doing your job.”
“;e foundation that Jim has brought to the com-
pany as far as his compassion and to really do what is best
and to give back, not just to the employees but to the
community, is something that is instilled in everybody
here,” she says. “Working for Costco, you see how impor-
tant that is and what a di;erence that makes.”
His handprints have been on all aspects of Costco’s
operations, from the company’s ;rst day of operation.
While co-founder Je; Brotman has guided the compa-
ny’s strategic growth and serves as Chairman of the
Board of Directors, Jim has assumed hands-on duties.
No new product or change in operations has gone for-
ward without getting “green ink”—his personal signa-
ture written in green.
;e company philosophy is more than just a business plan, comments Mike Sinegal, Jim’s son, who
helped establish Costco in Japan and initiated e;orts to
launch operations in Europe. Costco hopes to open a
warehouse in France in the near future.
Green-ink decisions have always focused on what’s
best for the company’s long-term success over short-term
“Jim knew to treat people well .... If you treat them well, then a lot
of things will ;ow from that.”
—Jim Cramer, host of CNBC’s Mad Money
THE NEW top executive
at Costco is Craig
Jelinek, who, like his
predecessor, Jim Sinegal,
traces his career back to
Fed-Mart in California.
Craig, 59, started
at Fed-Mart at age 16
as a box boy and maintenance worker. He
worked there through
college and eventually
became a manager for
the company until it
closed in 1982.
Craig in early 1984
about a new company
called Costco, and
Craig came aboard,
becoming the manager
of the sixth Costco
warehouse, in Tukwila,
Washington. He then
worked on Costco
expansion into Nevada
and California during
a time of rapid growth
in the late 1980s and
In nearly 30 years
at Costco, Craig has
served in every major
role related to the company’s business operations and merchandising
activities. In 2010, he
was named President
and COO, and he joined
Costco’s Board of
Directors. Last August,
upon Jim’s retirement
was named President
and Chief Executive
January 1. C
Jim Sinegal, surrounded by employees at he Issaquah, Washington, warehouse, 2008. “I think my dad’s perspective is that by bringing value to people that we’re actually doing something ood for the community,” says Mike. “Helping people make ends meet, helping business owners run their businesses more e;ectively and supporting business owners so their businesses can succeed—all this is healthy for the community.” Jim, 76, is staying on at Costco for a year as an adviser to help in the transition to new President and CEO Craig Jelinek (see “Looking ahead”), and will continue serving on the company’s Board of Directors. Costco’s nucleus of executives remains intact, and the focus now is on expansion—the company hopes to grow to more than a thousand warehouses over the next decade, with signi;- cant expansion occurring overseas. Jim has been called one of the world’s top retailers, but when asked by Mad Money’s Cramer what his proudest achievement is, he simply responded, “I think the thing we’re most proud of is the fact that Je; Brotman and I built a team that’s capable of running a business this size. ;ere’s a management team that’s in place that is very, very good and that has enabled us to sustain the business for a long time.” C Article developed by David W. Fuller, Tim Talevich and Brenda Shecter.