Stanley Black & Decker President and CEO James Loree’s tools for success can be stripped down to a few simple rules: Be innovative, never stop learning, do the right thing and be forward-thinking.
Loree told his story of growing Stanley Black & Decker, detailed his goals for the future, and talked about being a good corporate citizen to an audience of students, faculty, staff and guests on Nov. 6 at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. Loree was on campus for the fall 2018 installment of the CEO @ Smith speaker series, a conversation moderated by Maryland Smith Dean Alexander Triantis.
On innovation: Loree said the pace of changing technology is the biggest challenge in doing business today. When he took the helm of the 175-year-old Stanley Black & Decker in 2016, he made innovation a top priority. “Everything is being disrupted, so if you’re not on the leading edge of innovation, you’re at risk,” he said.
He wants to “innovate with purpose” and get the most mileage out of money spent on R&D. He has led the company to create innovation teams, invest in startups through a venture capital arm, and support incubator programs and new technologies. “Innovation to me means taking advantage of the technological pace of change and the technologies available now and in the future and reengineering all those things to make them better – more customer satisfaction, more cost-effective, more efficient,” said Loree.
On learning: Loree said the current academic system is actually one area ripe for innovation. Many tasks will soon be replaced by technology, as artificial intelligence rises, so it is critical that students become “aggressive lifelong learners,” he said. “I think the relationship between academic institutions and their students may be more appropriate to be a lifelong relationship, where you take your education in phases throughout your entire life.”
“I’ve done a lot of unlearning and relearning – to stay current you have to,” he said. Loree, who went to Union College, studied economics, computer science and creative writing. “That broad-based combinated suited me and enabled me, over the years, to have a broader perspective, to be able to apply concepts in real-life situations, to have critical thinking, logical thinking,” he said. He encourages people to go deep but also broad with their education.
On doing the right thing: Staying true to values is a non-negotiable for Loree, especially integrity. “Whatever we do, we’re going to do the right thing,” he said. “We’re also going to be compassionate when it comes to our employees.”
He says people are looking for more than just a company that goes around chasing financial success. “It was important for us to make a commitment to be socially responsible in this day and age. I think all corporate leaders should do that. We are doing it. That has been a real powerful change.”
Loree is pushing global sustainability efforts with a stretch goal to be carbon positive by 2030. The company has embraced the Paris Agreement and the United Nations sustainability goals to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. He has emphasized the importance of diverse and inclusive teams within the company, and has worked to determine Stanley Black & Decker’s purpose as “For those who make the world.” He says those words have resonated in a deep and meaningful way. “It has been so impactful.”
On keeping an eye to the future: Loree encourages students to always be thinking about the present, and about how they’ll need to change. Companies need forward-thinkers who are agile, adaptable, and able to think both short-term and long-term.
He continues to drive high performance for the Stanley Black & Decker. Since 2000, the company has undergone a restructuring, transforming from a toolmaker and hardware company that relied on big box retailers to a more diversified portfolio that includes a large security business and an oil and gas division.
Loree has led over 150 acquisition in his tenure, beginning as CFO in 1999, then COO before becoming CEO. “The creme de la creme was the 2010 transaction when we combined Stanley and Black & Decker. It’s been a fantastic success story,” he said, adding, however, that at the time, during the Great Recession, it was seen as a huge risk. The company’s tool business now is worth $10 billion, up from $600 million when Loree joined, and with the recent acquisition of Craftsman, he is projecting continued growth.
“One of the great benefits of having a great organization is over the course of time, I’ve been able to focus much more on the intermediate to long-term because I have such talented people executing at the customer level and the market level,” he said.
Loree offered some “tried-and-true advice” for future leaders: Conduct yourself with integrity, have values and add value on a regular basis. Remember that great leaders need to be great followers too, and they need to be able to keep their egos in check. Be confident, but not too confident, and always be open to learning.