Inside This Issue - Opinion
When execs reach for next rung
January 27th, 2014
by David Pinto, Editor
Add Mike Bloom to the rapidly growing list of senior executives who are no longer in the position they had filled as recently as six weeks ago.
As most members of the mass retailing community know by now, Bloom and Family Dollar, the retailer he joined less than 18 months ago as chief operating officer, have parted company. Who asked for this divorce is beside the point. So, too, are the reasons behind the separation. Suffice to say that the announcement that came out of Family Dollar’s Charlotte, N.C., headquarters early in January stunned industry people, especially those close to Bloom, people he reassured as recently as a month ago that he had found a permanent home in North Carolina.
Of course many of these same industry people were equally stunned in 2011 when Bloom left the CVS drug chain after a career there that had spanned more than three decades.
No one has any illusions about Mike Bloom. He is a hugely capable retailing executive. If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t have ascended to the position of senior merchant in a company at which there is no more important job. If he wasn’t an exemplary retailer, he wouldn’t have attracted the interest of Family Dollar’s chief executive, Howard Levine, no novice when it comes to evaluating retail talent. If Bloom wasn’t capable, Levine would not have brought him to Family Dollar as chief operating officer, a hire made all the more interesting for the fact that Bloom turned down a similar offer from Levine a decade ago.
No. The issue here is not Mike Bloom. Nor is it Joe Magnacca, who left Walgreens early last year to take a job as chief executive officer at RadioShack, a move many industry people advised against. Nor is it Mark Cosby, who left Macy’s a few years ago to accept a job as CVS president. Nor is it …
We could go on and on. Fact is, this is about a senior business executive, any senior executive, reaching for the next rung on the ladder, perhaps prematurely, in the sense that such a change was not expected or even anticipated. To the contrary, most people who change jobs at this level do so not because they have become bored with their current jobs but rather because they are anxious for the next challenge — especially when that challenge involves running something.
No one yet knows how Bloom will eventually be evaluated as COO of Family Dollar. But his many friends will tell you that he loved his time in Charlotte, and he especially embraced his role as president. If pressed, these friends will tell you as well that, in their view, Bloom was progressing nicely in a job and at a level he had never previously experienced. Family Dollar, by most estimates, had made important strides in converting sometime shoppers to regular shoppers by expanding and deepening the merchandise assortment. Equally significant, the retailer’s staff had been considerably strengthened by the new faces Bloom brought to the company and the older faces who gained broader responsibilities under his leadership.
Then too, though Family Dollar announced results in the most-recent quarter that could best be described as disappointing, Bloom’s results for most of his Family Dollar tenure were far more impressive.
So Bloom’s performance, and the short tenure he enjoyed, appeared to be insufficient grounds for the severing of his relationship with Family Dollar.
What will happen to Mike Bloom in the wake of his departure from Family Dollar? That depends — on what he wants, what’s available, what he’s willing to accept, how aggressively he pursues the opportunities that come his way.
The bigger question is this: Did this have to happen? Is it a rite of passage that executives at Bloom’s level automatically seek the next-higher level because they perceive the time is right, or they believe the opportunity, especially when it involves running or helping run a company, looks to be more appealing than the current situation?
In fact that question has many answers. But none can satisfactorily explain why senior executives of exceptional ability suddenly change careers at a time when no such change is called for, dictated, warranted or compelled by circumstances.