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探秘好市多:仓储式卖场中的魔法世界

Neal Gabler 2019年08月28日

作为全球仓储式量贩卖场的创始者,好市多早已成为一家现象级零售商。但随着亚马逊越来越强大,千禧一代消费者迅速成长,新一代高管接班在即,这家公司还能继续保持其竞争优势吗?

图片来源:视觉中国

走进西雅?#32487;?#22253;诗般的郊区小镇伊萨夸,你绝对猜想不到,眼前这栋静得出奇,看上去毫无特色,用米色砖和红砖砌成的办公楼,竟然是美国一家巨兽级企业的神经中枢。保安不只是?#37038;?#31034;意放行;她还会花些时间与你攀谈。接待处摆放着一盘饼干,接待员会热情地鼓励你自行品尝。?#25381;行?#22179;,只有一种平静的感觉。鉴于这个星期的种种活动通常会让一家公司惶恐不安,如此祥和的氛围就显得尤为不寻常。

就在这一周,全球第三大零售商,2016财年销售额高达1160亿美元的好市多公司(Costco Wholesale),正在同?#26412;?#21382;三件大事:来自世界各地的经理们飞赴这里参加月度预算会议;董事会会议;还有周末的年度股东大会。就在这个大家族汇聚一堂之际,好市多正在面临一些逆风。在一个以薄利润闻名的行业中,竞争加剧的威胁总是挥之不去,最大的竞争对手当然是以亚马逊为代表的电商零售巨头。此外还有吸引千禧一代的挑战。汇率波动等原因导致好市多海外店铺的零售额?#20013;?#30130;软。好市多即将放弃合作多年的美国运通卡,转而使用维萨卡。?#26434;?#21518;勤系统来说,这种过?#36175;?#24448;是一场噩梦。

但所有这些问题似乎并?#25381;?#24778;扰好市多的领导者们。他们知道,在一个犹如野兔的数字世界中,其仓储式量贩卖场模式使得这家公司似乎成了一只慢悠悠的乌龟。?#36824;?#20182;们坚信,他们将赢得这场竞赛。好市多总是笑到最后。但很长时间以来,有件事一直?#23588;?#22312;他们心头。这件事与经济无关,至少不是直接相关。它与身份有关。

好市多的行事作风更像是一个兴高采烈的邪教组织,而不是一家冲劲十足的企业。让高管们倍感骄傲的是,好市多的最高管理层几乎全部提拔自公司内部。就连以说话直率,从不矫揉做作著?#30130;?#29616;年62岁的首席执行官克莱格·杰利尼克,也曾经是一位收集整理购物车的底层员工,98%的店铺经理都有一线工作经历。其高管团队已并肩工作了大约30个年头,他们既是同事,也是家人。但这也意味着,在月度预算会议现场,?#34892;?#22810;白发苍苍的老者。

You would never guess by looking at it that the eerily quiet, nondescript beige-and-redbrick office complex in the bucolic Seattle suburb of Issaquah, at the foot of a small mountain range called the Issaquah Alps, would be the nerve center of one of America’s corporate behemoths. The security guard doesn’t just wave you through; she takes time to chat with you. The reception desk has a plate of cookies, and the receptionists encourage you to take one. There is no bustle, only a sense of calm, which is especially striking, since this is the sort of week that would typically engender corporate jitters.

It’s the week when Costco Wholesale, the world’s third-largest retailer, with $116 billion in sales in fiscal 2016, is hosting a triple-header: its monthly budget meetings, with managers flying in from all over the world; its board of directors’ meeting; and, at week’s end, its annual stockholders’ meeting. As the tribes gathered, Costco faced some headwinds. In a sector known for thin profit margins, there was always the threat of intensifying competition, especially from e-commerce retailers like Amazon. There was the challenge of attracting millennials. There were weakening sales at Costco’s overseas stores due in part to currency fluctuations. There was the pending transition from a Costco-branded American Express credit card to a Visa card, which would turn out to be a logistical nightmare.

But none of these issues seemed to faze Costco’s leaders. They know that their big-box stores make the company appear to be a tortoise in a hare’s digital world. Still, they’re confident they will win the race. Costco always has. But there was one thing they have been mulling for a long time. And it has nothing to do with economics, at least not directly. It has to do with identity.

Costco acts more like a cheerful cult than a hard-driving business. Its executives are proud of the fact that the company promotes almost exclusively from within. Even CEO Craig Jelinek, 62, plainspoken and without affectation, once collected shopping carts at a Costco predecessor, and 98% of the company’s store managers have risen through the ranks. Its top executives have been working together for 30 years, more or less, which makes them family as much as colleagues. It also means there are a lot of gray heads now at those budget meetings.

好市多的隐忧就在于此。在那个月的会议上,一众高管温情脉脉,颇?#34892;?#20260;感地送别了其中六位老者,他们皆是高级副总裁,现已退休。尽管他们?#25112;?#34987;一些更加年轻的好市多人取代,但这种继承方式引起了一个问题:随着这家公司即将迎来成立35周年,这些接班人能否延续好市多的经营理念和企业文化?

超级文化

在好市多,这不只是一个问题。它就是问题所在。很多公司都在吹嘘自身的文化。但很少有公司像好市多这样,对企业文化如此骄傲,如此依赖。摩根士丹利零售业分析师西米恩·古特曼称之为“超级文化?#34180;?#20182;将其描述为,“如果我们继续服务于顾客,让他们心满意足,这些顾客就会?#20013;?#36820;回。”

好市多是一个零售巨人。其全球销售额仅次于沃尔玛,以及刚刚坐上第二把交椅的亚马逊。需要指出的是,沃尔玛拥有1.1528万家店面,而好市多仅有715家。好市多是全球最大的精选牛肉、有机食品、烤鸡肉和葡萄酒买主。它的坚果销量甚至连著名坚果?#25918;芇lanters也望尘莫及。从包装商品到饮料,再到服装,其?#26434;釁放?#31185;克兰(Kirkland Signature)几乎无所不售,它创造的销售收入比可口可乐公司还要多。

And therein lies the concern. At that month’s meetings, there were warm and wistful send-offs for six of those gray heads, all senior vice presidents, now retiring. And even though they would be replaced by younger Costco lifers, the succession raises a question: As the company approaches its 35th anniversary, will the replacements keep Costco as Costco?

At Costco that isn’t just a question. It is the question. Lots of companies brag about their culture. But few are as proud of it or as dependent upon it as Costco is. Morgan Stanley retail analyst Simeon Gutman calls it a “super-culture,” which he describes as, “If we continue to serve and delight our customers, they’ll want to keep coming back.”

Costco is a retailing colossus. Its worldwide sales trail only those of Walmart, which has 11,528 stores to Costco’s 715, and Amazon, which just climbed into second place. Costco is the world’s largest seller of choice and prime beef, organic foods, rotisserie chicken, and wine (!), and it moves more nuts than Planters. Its private label, Kirkland Signature, which sells everything from packaged goods and beverages to apparel, generates more revenues than the Coca-Cola Co.

然而,尽管好市多如?#21476;?#22823;,但它始终以自己并非一家典型的亿万美元级公司为傲。这就是文化的作用。高管们经常亲?#36234;?#30005;话。(CEO杰利尼克承认,?#25300;?#21487;能会接一位收银员的电话,她可能会抱怨说,‘我的工作时间?#36824;?#22810;。’” )他们的办公室永远敞开大门。?#28909;?#19968;位记者想预约一次采访,他或她恐怕要费不少周折,这倒不是因为这家公司讳莫如深,而是因为它觉得没必要成立一个公关部来安排这类事务。

“人们会争先恐后地为好市多工作。”质量保证和食品安全业务副总裁,为好市多效力18年的克莱格·威尔逊自豪地说道。一旦?#23588;耄?#23601;从一而终。就工作1年以上的员工而言,好市多的员工保留率高达94%。负责会员制、营销和好市多服务的高级副总裁保罗·?#25104;?#22982;表示,“就算你扔给我一袋?#24551;?#20320;也别想诱惑?#20381;?#24320;这家公司。”他已在好市多干了37年。?#25300;野?#36825;里。”如果?#25381;?#20154;离开,也几乎?#25381;?#20154;会被解雇。?#26412;?#27982;衰退和裁员潮袭来?#20445;?#22909;市多的智囊团?#25381;?#35753;一个人离职。杰利尼克说,?#25300;?#20204;压根就没动过这个念头。”恰恰相反,这家公司反而给员工涨薪,以帮助他们共度时艰。

But Costco, big as it is, prides itself on not being your typical multibillion-dollar company. That is where the culture comes in. Executives frequently answer their own phones. (“I may get a call from a cashier,” admits CEO Jelinek, “who says, ‘I’m not getting enough hours.’”) Its offices are open door. And it takes a journalist forever to arrange a visit, not because the company is secretive, but because it doesn’t feel the need to have a public relations department to make arrangements.

“People will bang down a door to come to work for Costco,” says Craig Wilson, vice president of quality assurance and food safety, and an 18-year Costco veteran. And once there, just about no one leaves. The company’s retention rate for employees who have been there a year is 94%. “You couldn’t throw enough money at me to make me leave this company,” says Paul Latham, VP of membership, marketing, and Costco Services, with 37 years under his belt. “I love it.” And if nobody leaves, almost nobody gets fired either. When the recession hit and most companies were laying off employees, Costco’s brain trust didn’t let anyone go. “It wasn’t even something that we thought about,” Jelinek says. Instead, the company actually raised wages.

从底层干起

克劳汀·阿达莫是这些员工中的一员。她代表着好市多的未来。当现年46岁,主修金融营销的阿达莫从西华盛顿大学毕业?#20445;?#22905;申请?#23588;?#22909;市多,因为她的两个姐姐在该公司会计部门工作。阿达莫原本希望在公司总部找份差事,但她被告知,在好市多,每个人都是?#21360;?#20179;库?#20445;?#35813;公司这样称呼其宽敞无比的店面)干起的。她最初的梦想就这样破灭了。阿达莫?#31181;?#20303;自尊心,前往科克兰。她在那里的工作是迎接会?#20445;?#26816;查收据。“朋友们都认为我疯了。”她说。

Claudine Adamo is one of those employees. And she is Costco’s future. When Adamo, now 46, graduated from Western Washington University, where she majored in finance marketing, she applied to Costco because her two older sisters were working in the company’s accounting department. Her initial dream was dashed when, hoping to land at headquarters, she was told that everyone at Costco starts in the warehouse, which is what the company calls its capacious stores. Adamo swallowed her pride and went to Kirkland, where she greeted members and checked receipts. “My friends thought I was crazy,” she says.

25年后的今天,她正在被推荐为下一届高管团队候选人,后者将在未来某一天取代杰利尼克和他的团?#21360;?#32780;就在此时此刻,她和其他高级副总裁已经开始物色自己的接班人。在许多方面,阿达莫的故事正是好市多领导层的经典写照。

此外还有好市多?#28304;?#21592;工的方式。这家零售巨头乐意为员工支付高薪(其平均时薪为22美元,远高于沃尔玛的13.38美元),并提供慷慨的福利——就连兼职员工也能享受充分的健康和牙科保险。就职一年后,新员工的退休储蓄账户就可获得股票期权奖励。?#26434;?#20241;假和探亲假等传统福利更是自不待言。MIT斯隆管理学院副教授泽伊内普·托恩说,好市多员工也被给予了更大的责任,由此造就了一支快乐和进取的员工队伍。“他们不断创新,不断改进,这就是为?#35009;?#22909;市多能够给他们支付高薪。”托恩说。

阿达莫的整个职业生涯都是在这家公司度过的。在“仓库”干了一年后,她成为一位库存控制专家,负责向西北地区的店铺配给糖果。她的晋升之旅仍在继续:糖果采购助理,公司邮购业务(它后来演变为Costco.com)采购?#20445;?#25152;有店铺的计算机采购员。随后,她还以商品经理的身份在南加州开设了一家区域办事处。阿达莫最终返回西雅图,出任家庭事务部副总裁,负责家具、小家电和家庭用品业务。她现在是消费电?#21360;?#29664;宝和办公用品业务副总裁。

这是一?#28201;?#38271;的旅程,但正是这?#28201;?#31243;,让她相信好市多不会屈从于下一个时尚理念的诱惑。“在好市多,你真的是从底层干起的,然后经历每个岗位的磨炼,边干边学,在这种氛围中一路成长。”

Now, 25 years later, she is being groomed for the next executive cohort, which will one day replace Jelinek and his team, even as she and her fellow VPs are already identifying candidates for the cohort after her own. In many ways, her story is typical of Costco’s leadership.

Then there is the way it treats its employees. Costco pays them well—an average wage of $22 per hour, vs. $13.38 at Walmart—and provides generous benefits like full health and dental insurance even to its part-time employees; a 401(k) with stock options after a year; and liberal vacation time and family leave. Zeynep Ton, an adjunct associate professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, says Costco employees are given greater responsibilities too, which makes them a happy and highly motivated workforce. “They are constantly innovating, constantly improving, and that’s why Costco can pay them a lot,” says Ton.

Adamo has spent her entire career at the company. After a year at the warehouse, she became an inventory-control specialist doling out candy to warehouses in the northwest region. Her company voyage continued: assistant buyer for candy, buyer for the company’s mail-order operation (which morphed into Costco.com), computer buyer for all the warehouses, general merchandise manager to open a regional office in Southern California. Adamo then returned to Seattle as VP of the home division for furniture, small appliances, and housewares. She is now VP of consumer electronics, jewelry, and office.

It has been a long journey, but the journey is the reason she believes Costco won’t succumb to the lure of the next trendy idea. “At Costco, you really start at the bottom, work your way through every position, learning along the way,” as she puts it, “growing up within the environment.”

几乎每位高管都经历过类似的成长历程,包括CEO杰利尼克。?#25300;?#30693;道收集整理购物车是怎么回事。”他说。?#25300;?#30693;?#26469;?#25195;卫生间是怎么回事。我可以走进卫生间,告诉员工他忘记了清理小便池附近的哪一块瓷砖。我知道采集农产品或者?#24515;?#29983;牛肉是怎么回事。所以当你和员工交谈?#20445;?#20320;并不是某个骑着大白马?#29369;?#32780;降,不食人间烟火的贵族。他们知道你来过这里,干过这事。”长期担?#38382;?#24109;财务官的理查?#38534;?#21152;兰蒂如是描述公司文化:“?#25381;写赖啊薄?/p>

总是做正确的事

好市多的每个人都会告诉你,这家公司的文化直接来自吉姆·辛内加尔,一位身材矮小,留着一撇小胡子,慈爱可亲的老人。现年80岁的辛内加尔是好市多联合创始人,曾经长期担任CEO(1983年到2012年)。时至今日,你每天仍然可以在伊萨夸总部看到他的身影。辛内加尔反过来将他的经营理念归功于索尔·普莱斯。1954年,这位脾气暴躁的律师在圣地亚哥创办了堪称仓储式卖场?#20146;媯?#22857;行?#22270;?#25209;量销售原则,主要服务于小企业的FedMart公司。最初在FedMart工作?#20445;?#36763;内加尔还是一位年仅18岁的大学生。他很快成为普莱斯的门徒,特别认同后者在大萧条期间?#24951;?#20154;们漫天要价之后领悟到的?#24179;?#20934;则:总是做正确的事。

1983年,西雅图律师杰弗里·布罗特曼主动联系辛内加尔,并提议两人携手创办一家自己的仓储式卖场。在他们的构想中,它不仅仅是一家公司,更是一项使命;它不仅仅是一门生意,更是一种营商方式。“做正确的事”过去是,现在仍是该公司的口头禅。它可能听起来很陈腐,像一个空口?#29275;?#20294;好市多员工们真的在努力践行。(阿达莫说她每天都会听到这句话。)

Just about every executive has grown up that way, including CEO Jelinek. “I know what it’s like to shag carts,” he says. “I know what it’s like to clean bathrooms. I can come in and tell you where you missed the tiles around the urinals. I know what it’s like to cull produce or to grind beef. So when you talk to people, it’s not somebody coming in off their white horse. They know you’ve been there and done that.” Longtime CFO Richard Galanti has a term for the company’s culture: “jerk-free.”

To a person, everyone at Costco will tell you that its culture comes directly from Jim Sinegal, now 80, a short, grandfatherly man with a brush mustache. He was Costco’s cofounder and its CEO from 1983 to 2012, and he is still a daily presence at the Issaquah headquarters. Sinegal in turn attributes his business philosophy to Sol Price, a gruff attorney who founded FedMart in 1954 in San Diego—the original warehouse store that sold in bulk, primarily to small businesses, at good value. Sinegal began working at FedMart as an 18-year-old college student and became Price’s protégé, subscribing to the golden rule of business that Price drew after seeing people gouged during the Depression: Always do the right thing.

In 1983, Seattle attorney Jeffrey Brotman approached Sinegal with the idea of opening their own warehouse store. They conceived of it as more than a company. It was a mission—as much a way of doing business as a business itself. “Do the right thing” was and still is the company mantra. It may sound corny—or like an empty slogan—but employees really try to live up to it. (Adamo says she hears the phrase every day.)

它意味着永远不要欺骗供应商、客户或员工。它意味着直面错误,主动矫正,而不是被迫这样做或找借口。(当好市多发现一件他们此前宣称100%丝绸质地的衬衫其实并非丝绸的时候,他们主动联系每一?#36824;?#20080;者,并退还价款。)它甚至意味着坚持一项无条件退货政策,尽管他们知道它会被一些客户滥用。?#25300;?#36807;去总是认为自己很优秀,诚?#25285;?#24456;有信誉,我现在也这样认为。但当你遇?#37066;?#22982;?#20445;?#20320;会由衷地发出惊叹,‘哇!’”首席财务官加兰蒂说。正如辛内加尔所说,“文化不是最重要的事情。它是唯一重要的事情。”

尽管这种道德律令特别严苛,但辛内加尔的管理风格绝非如此。他创造了一种非正式的,?#25381;?#19968;丝?#36130;?#24863;的环?#22330;?#22312;这种氛围下,?#25381;?#20154;害怕犯错误,?#25381;?#20154;耍手?#25991;?#21033;。在好市多,平等主义犹如空气一般无所不在:无论是辛内加尔,还是现在的杰利尼克,好市多CEO领取的薪酬?#23545;?#20302;于大多数同等级别公司的掌门人。(杰利尼克说,?#25300;?#25379;的钱足够好了。”他的基本工资还不到70万美元。)就连停车位也?#21069;?#29031;工龄长短,而不是职位高低来分配的。

It means never trying to gouge vendors or customers or employees. It means facing up to mistakes and making them right without being forced to do so or making excuses. (When they discovered that a shirt they had advertised as 100% silk wasn’t actually silk, they contacted each purchaser and refunded the money.) It even means maintaining a return policy without restrictions, though they know it’s abused by some customers. “I always thought I was pretty good and honest and reputable, and I do think I am,” CFO Galanti says. “But then you meet Jim, and you go, ‘Whoa!’” As Sinegal puts it, “Culture is not the most important thing. It’s the only thing.”

Though the moral imperative was stern, Sinegal’s management style was anything but. He created an informal, unintimidating environment in which no one was afraid of making mistakes and no one was jockeying for position. Egalitarianism permeated everything, from Sinegal, and now Jelinek, taking a substantially lower salary than most other corporate executives of their standing (“I make more than I’ll ever spend,” says Jelinek, who earns a base salary of just under $700,000) to assigning parking spaces on the basis of seniority, not hierarchy.

伊内普·托恩表示,好市多“激光般地专注于为客户创造价?#25285;?其运营系?#25345;?#21147;于惠及客户,而不是投资者。“一个传统的零售商会说,‘我买进这件商品花了29美元,我想以35美元的价格卖出。’” 辛内加尔说。 “但我们会说,‘这件商品我是90美元买进的,我想?#23548;郟?#20197;18或17美元将其卖出。’这已经成为我们的营商之道。你必须不断思考,如何以更低的价格将商品和服务?#33889;?#24066;场?” 当然,人们欣赏好市多员工待遇好这一事实。“但如果我?#21069;?#21830;品价格提高一点点,我想他们就不会关注这档事了。”他开玩笑说。

好市多是一家?#38750;?#39640;效率的公司。?#28909;紓?#20854;基本费用(包括销售费用、一般费用和行政费用)只占总收入的10%,而沃尔玛则为20%左右。体现好市多效率的事实包括,它不做广告;它的商?#36153;?#25321;有限——好市多只有3700种商品,远低于沃尔玛和亚马逊,后者的商品类别?#30452;?#20026;14万和5亿。这使得好市多能?#25381;?#20379;货商讨价还价。加兰蒂表示,好市多的分销系统能?#24822;?#20805;其95%的货运能力,这是一个闻所未闻的数字。

好市多不得不一?#20889;?#31616;,因为布罗特曼和辛内加尔早早就立下一条规矩:任何一件?#25918;?#21830;品的价格上调幅度不得超过14%;?#26434;釁放?#31185;克兰的零售价不得超过其成本的15%。这是一条不可侵犯的红线,它是好市多的价值主张。(低售价在一定程度上被每年55美元的会员费所抵消,会员可享受在那里购物的特权。会员费收入占好市多利润总额的3%。)正如该公司的计算结果所示,鉴于汽油和碎牛肉等商品的利润?#22987;?#20302;,好市多的平均价格上调幅度是11%,远低于沃尔玛(24%)、普通超市(30%)、家得宝和劳氏公司(35%)。

Costco, says Zeynep Ton, has a “laser focus on creating value for the customer,” and its operating system is dedicated to benefiting customers, not investors. “You look at a traditional retailer, and he’ll say, ‘I’m getting $29 for this item,’” says Sinegal. “‘I’d like to get $35 for it.’ We look at it and say, ‘I’m getting $90 for it. I’d like to get it down to $18 or $17.’ And that’s got to be the MO of running your business. You have to constantly think, How can we bring goods and services to market at a lower price?” Sure, he says, people like the fact that Costco pays its employees well. “But,” he jokes, “if we raised the prices a little bit, I think they could get past that.”

Costco is a lean company. The company’s spending on basic overhead—the selling, general, and administrative category—is only 10% of revenues, compared, for example, with about 20% at Walmart. Among Costco’s efficiencies are the fact that it doesn’t advertise; it has a limited selection—only 3,700 products compared with 140,000 at a Walmart superstore and half a billion at Amazon. That allows Costco to drive hard bargains with suppliers. And it has created a distribution system that, according to Galanti, fills 95% of its freight capacity, an unheard-of number.

Costco has to be lean because Brotman and Sinegal long ago established a rule that no branded item could be marked up more than 14% and no Kirkland Signature item more than 15% over cost. It is an inviolate line: the very value proposition of the company. (Prices are partly offset by a $55-a-year membership fee, which customers pay for the privilege of shopping there and which constitutes 3% of Costco’s profits.) As it has worked out, given the very low profit margins on items like gasoline and ground beef, the average markup at Costco is 11%, which compares with markups of nearly 24% at Walmart, 30% at supermarkets, and 35% at Home Depot and Lowe’s.

好市多丝毫不能容?#20504;?#20309;商店的售价低于自己。公司食品和杂货副总裁南希·格里斯表示,“如果我们发现?#24515;?#23478;店面的商品售价比我们更低,”好市多将在“日落前”下调价格。?#36824;?#22909;市多永远不会做亏本生意。

辛内加尔还有一项不可侵犯的价值主?#29275;?#21806;价低不能意味着质量低,因为他知道,?#28909;?#27492;,好市多会失去客户。“质量,质量,质量。”好市多商品首席运营官?#26639;瘛?#33298;特说。?#25300;?#20204;最大的挑战是,确保商品质量一如我们宣传得那样好。”好市多有一个严格的质量保障体系。从腰果的大小到残留在桃子罐头上的果皮数量,这家公司事无巨细地测试一切商品。1993年,在Jack-in-the-Box快餐店爆发大肠?#21496;?#20043;后,好市多特别担心碎牛肉的质量,最终决定建造一家自己的牛肉加工厂。这家工厂每15?#31181;?#23601;会对牛肉进行一次测试。现在,它甚至在内布拉斯加州启动了一个牛群饲养试点项目。

好市多的利润?#25163;挥?%。这个微不足道的数字一?#28909;没?#23572;?#30452;?#24616;连连。无需赘言,大多数零售商都在竭力扩大利润率。?#25300;?#20204;的文化是违反?#26412;?#30340;。”从Price Club跳槽至好市多,现担任该公司董事的理查?#38534;?#33713;本森这样说道。“向员工支付尽可能高的薪酬和最好的福利,同时坚持低利润率原则,以尽可能低的价格销售商品。”但这样做是因为,辛内加尔总是觉得,如果你满足了客户和员工,你最终?#19981;?#35753;投资者心满意足。

如今,华尔街几乎与8100万好市多会员一样迷恋这家零售巨头。瑞银集团零售分析师迈克尔·拉瑟表示,这家公司始终恪守其创立原则:“以非常注重价值的价格提供高质量产品,公平?#28304;?#23458;户和员工。”他补充说,好市多不必重新考虑与亚马逊等野兔竞争。“好市多的模式在今天仍然与20年前一样有意义。我们不认为这真的会改变。”

变与不变

变革通常被视为一种商业需要,但在伊萨夸,人们并不这样认为。好市多的高管?#32423;?#20250;援引百年老店西尔斯作为前车之鉴:如果失去身份感,即企业文化,一家曾经伟大如斯的公司也难以摆脱关门大吉的命运。

好市多不愿重蹈覆辙。“这家企业将不断演变,”杰利尼克说。“你需要做出改变。但你不能改变的是,如?#21619;源?#20154;、吸引人,包容人。这不能改。”抵抗变革并不容?#20303;?#19968;说到变革,往往就会谈及电子商务。好市多?#24403;?#30005;子商务的速度一直很缓慢。例如,竞争对手山姆会员店?#24066;?#23458;户在线订?#28023;?#28982;后在商店提货,而且不必离开他们的汽车。除药店之外,好市多不提供这样的服务。通过收购电子商务网站Jet.com,沃尔玛升级了其在线销售库,以便更好地应对亚马逊的咄咄攻势。但好市多和华尔街似乎都不认为这笔收购会构成威胁。好市多有会员费,会员们似乎很享受在实体店购物的乐趣。事实上,他们增加了去好市多购物的?#38382;?#20174;几年前的每3?周一次,增加到现在的每周一次。

在最近一次财报电话会议上,首席财务官加兰蒂详细阐述了好市多的电子商务问题:?#25300;?#20204;认识到我们的网站面临一些挑战。”他告诉分析师。“在接下来的几个月里,下单所需的点击?#38382;?#23558;大幅改善。在未来六个月或八个月内,网站的搜索功能也将出现一些大的改进。”加兰蒂补充说,“便利?#28304;?#26469;都不是我们的优势所在。我们的成功向来基于价格?#22270;壑担?#36136;量和数量。我们确?#31561;?#35782;到,便利性也是一种价值。我们将大大改进我们的工作。但这并不意味着我们会在两个小时内就会把货物送到你的面前。”

尽管如此,如果你认为好市多应该仿效亚马逊,不妨再想想:正如一位分析师给我指出的那样,杰夫·?#27492;?#26031;推出的亚马逊金牌会员服务其实是在仿效好市多的会员模式,而不是好市多正在采用亚马逊的电子商务模式。这位分析师甚至认为,由于好市多拥有一支训练有素的员工团队,它或许比电子商务公司更适合服务客户。就连你或许认为更?#19981;?#29992;手机购物的千禧一代,也正在成为好市多的忠实拥趸。在好市多的客户中,千禧一代是增长最快的人口群体。总的来说,这家公司的会员正变得越来越年轻。

好市多面临的问题并非公司之外,而是公司内部的千禧一代。华尔街仍然看好这家公司,但让分析师有点担心的是,在如今这群老臣子相继离开之后,好市多还会是我们熟悉的那个好事多吗??#25300;?#35748;为这种卓越的文化可能会一代代相传下去。”摩根斯坦利的古特曼说。“但我们并?#25381;?#24456;多例子,因为大多数零售商都相?#38405;?#36731;。我们还?#25381;?#35265;证过一家零售商的元勋们即将在事业高峰期离去的情形。”而在好市多,这一幕正在开启。“所以?#19994;?#24515;,权杖交接后的好市多究竟会发生?#35009;?#20107;情。”

当他退休?#20445;?#36763;内加尔选择时任总裁杰利尼克作为自己的接班人。杰利尼克表示,他现已开始规划自己的继承计划,尽管?#25381;?#20154;认为这一天即将来临。他说,好市多有一个高管交班十年规划。克劳汀·阿达莫表示,早在离职前,辛内加尔就制定了一项计划,邀请迅速?#32469;?#30340;高管们“相互认识?#20445;?#32780;杰利尼克也在延续这项计划。

瑞银集团的拉瑟似乎吃了定心丸。他说,“他们拥有非常强的板?#25910;?#23481;,”而且在任何情况下,“文化都不是?#26639;接?#26576;一个人的。?#26412;?#31649;如此,谁都不能保证接班人将永远拒绝诱惑,不会把好市多转变为一家更酷更快,非常不一样的公司。“从下面来的人也懂得这种文化吗?他们是否出身于这种文化?这是他们经历的唯一工作吗?”好市多董事会成员莱本森这样问道。这些都是极其迫切的问题。

阿达莫的职业生涯给予所有这些问题以肯定答复,而?#19968;?#27880;入了另一剂强心针。“这项事业的终极核心是,你不仅要在工作中做正确的事,而且它会涉及到你生活的各个方面。”

这就是为?#35009;?#22909;市多很可能在未来很长时间内,仍然是我们熟知的那家零售商。数十载光阴转瞬即?#29275;?#36825;家公司始终在灌输一种现在比以往更加竭力坚守的经营理念。或许还需要再经历几十年,以及一些目?#23433;?#21487;预见的事件,才能削弱这种理念。(财富中文网)

本文的一个版本发表于2016年12月15日的《财富》杂志。

译者:Kevin

Costco is determined not to let any store undersell it. “We look at anyone who beats our price,” says Nancy Griese, VP of corporate food and sundries, and Costco will change its price to compete “by sundown.” Still, Costco will never sell at a loss.

Sinegal had one other inviolate value proposition: Inexpensive couldn’t mean cheap, because he knew Costco would lose customers that way. “Quality, quality, quality,” says Doug Schutt, Costco’s chief operating officer of merchandise. “Our biggest challenge is making sure the quality is what we say it is.” Costco has a stringent quality-assurance program to test everything from the size of cashews to the amount of skin left on canned peaches. After the E. coli outbreak at Jack-in-the-Box in 1993, Costco was so concerned about its suppliers of ground beef that it built its own beef-processing plant, where the meat is tested every 15 minutes. Now it has even started a pilot project in Nebraska of its own cattle herd.

Costco profit margins are a whisper-thin 2%—a figure that has caused grumbling on Wall Street in the past. Most retailers, needless to say, aim to expand margins. “Our culture is counterintuitive,” says Richard Liebenson, who came to Costco from Price Club and is now a member of the board, “paying people the highest wages possible and the best benefits in a business where you’re working on a very low margin and you’re trying to sell merchandise for as little as you can.” But that’s because Sinegal always felt if you satisfied customers and employees, you would eventually satisfy investors too.

Nowadays, Wall Street is nearly as smitten with Costco as its 81 million members are. Michael Lasser, a retail analyst at UBS, says it is a matter of the company being true to its founding principles: “delivering high-quality products at very value-oriented prices and being fair and treating its customers and employees with respect.” And, he adds, Costco doesn’t have to rethink itself to compete with hares like Amazon. “Costco’s model remains as relevant today as it was 20 years ago,” Lasser says, “and we don’t think that is really going to change.”

Change is usually considered a business necessity, but not in Issaquah. Costco executives occasionally invoke Sears as a cautionary tale of a company that was once great and then lost its sense of identity—basically, its culture.

Costco is determined not to let that happen. “The business will evolve,” says Jelinek. “You’ll make changes. Where they won’t be able to change is how you treat people, how you engage people, how you include people. That can’t change.” Resisting change isn’t easy. That topic tends to lead to talk about e-commerce, which Costco has been slow to adopt. For example, rival Sam’s Club allows customers to order online, then pick up the order at the store without getting out of their cars. Costco does not offer such a service other than at its pharmacy. For its part, Walmart upped its online-selling arsenal, to better keep up with Amazon, with its purchase of e-commerce site Jet.com. But neither Costco nor Wall Street seems to think the acquisition poses a threat. Costco has its membership fees, and members seem to enjoy the physical shopping experience. Indeed, they’ve increased their visits from once every 3? weeks just a few years ago to once every week now.

Galanti addressed Costco’s e-commerce issues in some detail on a recent earnings call: “We recognize our site has had some challenges,” he told analysts. “You’re going to see in the next few months a big improvement in the number of clicks [needed to place an order]. You’re going to see in the next six or eight months some big improvement on search.” Galanti added, “We’ve never been big on convenience. Our success has been based on price and value, quality and quantity at the lowest possible price. We do appreciate that value also is convenience. We’re going to greatly improve what we do. But it doesn’t mean we’re going to get something to you in two hours.”

Still, if you think Costco should be emulating Amazon, consider this: Jeff Bezos’s company has adopted Costco’s membership model with Amazon Prime, as one analyst noted to me, rather than Costco adopting Amazon’s e-commerce model. Ton even thinks that because Costco has such a well-trained workforce, it may actually be more adaptable in serving customers than e-commerce companies are. Even millennials, who, you might assume, would prefer shopping via their phones, are coming onboard. They’re Costco’s fastest-growing demographic. Overall, the company’s membership is getting younger.

It isn’t the millennials outside the company who are the issue; it is the ones in it. Wall Street remains bullish, but analysts have some concerns that Costco might age out of itself. “I think these transcendent cultures probably move from generation to generation,” says Morgan Stanley’s Gutman, “but we don’t have a lot of examples because most retailers are relatively young. We haven’t seen a retailer where this generation is going to be exiting at their peak,” which is what is beginning to happen at Costco. “So I do worry when a changing of the guard happens.”

When he retired, Sinegal finessed the problem by tapping Jelinek, then the company president. Jelinek says he is already planning for his own succession, though no one thinks it is imminent. He says the company has a 10-year plan for executive replacements. Before he left, Sinegal had already instituted a program in which he invited rising executives to “get to know each other,” says Claudine Adamo, and Jelinek has continued it.

UBS’s Lasser is reassured. “They have a very strong bench,” he says, and in any case “the culture isn’t based on a single person.” Despite that, there is no guarantee successors will permanently resist the temptation to turn Costco into a cooler, faster, different company. “The people who are coming up underneath—do they know the culture as well? Were they born into it? Was it the only job they ever had?” asks board member Liebenson. Those are pressing questions.

Adamo’s career answers all of them in the affirmative and adds one more fillip. “When it comes down to the extreme core of what we do,” she says, “it truly is that you get not only to do the right thing at work, but it goes to all aspects of your life.”

And that is why Costco is likely to remain Costco for a long time to come. It has taken decades to inculcate a philosophy that is now more fiercely held than ever—and it will likely take decades more, and events that are currently unforeseeable, to weaken it.

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