In her first year as CEO of Best Buy, Corie Barry was tasked with navigating some extremely uncharted waters. During her conversation with CEO of Fortune Media, Alan Murray, at CES 2021, Barry explained they ways her team adapted and how she personally adjusted her leadership strategies in the face of COVID-19.
“Overnight, everything began riding on the back of technology,” Barry explains. And on top of that, the way in which customers wanted to purchase their products changed as well.
Best Buy stores were forced to switch to curbside pickup only in March and opened back up to foot traffic in June, but a big chunk of the country was still working, learning and entertaining from home. Like many stores, Barry admits there were supply and demand imbalances that were simply beyond their control. As people got more comfortable in this new digital world, they began tacking on additional purchases that they didn’t know they needed. In the beginning, webcams were flying off of the shelf, which snowballed into consumers purchasing microphones, speakers, ring lights, and more. As comfort level with technology grew, it opened up the doorway to an entirely new segment of customers. But this comfort level also came with a new set of expectations, she explains.
“If you have a good pickup experience at Best Buy, you’re going to expect that same experience everywhere, and vice versa,” says Barry.
Even after stores opened, it remained important to keep the customer in control and provide an exceptional experience whether they were making purchases from their couch, curbside or in a store. This also meant that employees had to become more adaptable. Rather than having them hyper-focus on one particular segment of the store, they had to become familiar with several different categories and product types. Barry commended the flexibility of her team and mentioned the sense of unity that was felt amongst them as a positive result of the pandemic.
During the discussion, Barry also touched on the topic of diversity and inclusion throughout Best Buy. With over 1,000 stores in all different parts of the country, the need for Best Buy stores to reflect the communities they are located in became increasingly evident, she says. Along with her team, Barry instituted a number of changes directly related to diversity. These “bold commitments” state that 1 out of 3 non-hourly corporate positions will be filled by a BIPOC employee, 1 out of every 3 non-hourly field roles will be filled by a female employee. Externally, Best Buy is reaching 30,000 teenagers through 100 teen tech centers, they are committing $44 million to expand college prep opportunities, and adding scholarship opportunities for HBCUs.
As she looks ahead, Barry remains committed to incorporating inclusive leadership behaviors of vulnerability, empathy, courage, and grace into Best Buy. She feels that this authentic approach to leadership and the shakeups brought on in 2020 will inform a slightly different leadership team of the future.