Best & Worst CEO Strategic Direction 2012


As we move forward into the new year, we’d like to take just a moment to reflect on some of the best- and worst-performing CEOs of 2012. May we learn from their triumphs and mistakes, making for a better 2013.

Best — Howard Schultz, Starbucks. Just a few years ago, Starbucks fell prey to its own ambitions. The company suffered from a sudden decline after misstepping with overexpansion and experiencing low demand for pricey coffee in a recession. Then founder Howard Schultz retook the reins.

Over the past few years, the company has gained a foothold again by halting expansion and over-saturation, and instead, working to tailor existing stores to local communities.

2012 saw Starbucks open 1,063 new stores worldwide and introduce new products, including energy drinks and a single-serve coffee maker. Revenue increased 14 percent, rounding out the year at a record $13.3 billion.

Worst — Brian Dunn, Best Buy. Though Dunn was only acting as CEO for four months of 2012, his mistakes still take the cake.

With Dunn in the driver’s seat, all of Best Buy’s numbers crashed dramatically. Just how dramatically? Best Buy’s stocks fell by 80 percent under his leadership. Yet, there was seemingly little effort made to improve problem areas, such as addressing the fierce competition from Amazon and Wal-Mart, and improving the company’s abysmal customer service. And last but not least, it didn’t help matters that Dunn had an inappropriate relationship with an employee.

Best — Marc Benioff, is known for standing out from the crowd with its innovations and big, big ideas. In 2012, the company took its boundary-pushing a step further by shelling out $1 billion for two acquisitions.

The risk seems to be worth it.

With Marc Benioff at the helm, the revolutionary cloud-computing company has had revenues increase by an average of 35 percent per year for the past three years — and it plans to keep on growing.

In mid-December, the company announced that it will be the sole tenant of a new 30-story San Francisco highrise, a move right in line with the company’s aggressive expansion strategies.

In addition, the company is making a sunny impact through large philanthropic donations and paid time off for employees to pursue volunteer projects.