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Tom Stemberg Speaks At TiE Dinner Meeting

Anoop Kumar

Tom Stemberg spoke at TiE-Boston’s monthly dinner meeting held at Burlington Marriott on October 12, 2005. Stemberg, who is a Venture Partner at Highland Capital Partners, is the founder and former CEO of Staples. He disclosed business processes involved in success of Staples.

In the very interactive talk, Stemberg offered advice and tips on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur and how best to approach investors for funding.  His key piece of strategic advice sounds easy too. "Never lose sight of the customer, I learned it from my first-year marketing professor, and it's still the most important thing to know,” he said.     Focusing on customer needs was the most important to take home from Stemberg’s talk. He gave examples of companies such as Southwest, FedEx and Zoots, which very nicely address customer’s needs.  He also emphasized on paying tremendous respect to frontline associates who work with customers.  

He stated the importance of execution and said that it is 10 times more important than the idea itself.  Competition in the office goods market is steep but Staples maintained its competitive advantage through execution.  Staples had advertised about availability of cartridges for any printer and soon all the competitors did that. Unlike Staples, the competitors did not stock the inventory with all types of cartridges.  Customers got disappointed at competitors’ stores while Staples was able to fulfill the needs of its customers.  

His latest creation, a chain of children’s shoe stores called Olly Shoes, traces its origins to the ill-fitting footwear he found his kids wearing. "No store carried a broad enough selection of children’s shoes, and when standard foot scale says you’re a seven, you’re a six in one shoe, an eight in another, and a seven in a third," said Stemberg. Olly uses an electronic scanning system to trace a child’s feet and match them to pairs in stock

Stemberg’s entrepreneurial spirits allowed him to not only face the many challenges of growing an organization, but more importantly to anticipate where those challenges would arise and to put the appropriate resources in place to deal with them. He knows both entrepreneurship and investing and has mentored several successful entrepreneurs in his career.
Vinit Nijhawan, President of TiE Boston began the meeting by presenting the activities and achievements of TiE-Boston. He described the membership benefits and asked the attendees to make use of them.  More information about TiE and its upcoming events can be found at http://www.tie-boston.org/

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