Chip Molloy suggested that boards should have term limits and more transparency. / Image by Joe McAdory
Chase your dreams. Have a plan. Never stop learning.
Those are three bits of advice former PetSmart Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice President Chip Molloy told Raymond J. Harbert College of Business management, finance and MBA students on campus Oct. 21-28.
“Great leaders, or great success stories, are dreamers who have a plan,” he told students. “Think about your dreams and then formulate a plan.”
Molloy, a Navy veteran who climbed the corporate ladder and helped PetSmart stock prices rise from $16 per share in 2008 to $70 per share today, talked with students about the importance of networking, explained the purpose of corporate boards, and discussed his time as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for Retail at former electronics giant Circuit City before making the move to PetSmart.
“Put yourself on Linked In,” he told students, “but don’t post pictures of frat parties. People are looking at it. One of the most important things you can do is meet your classmates. That is your network as you leave here.”
Interpersonal communications remains important in the corporate world too, Molloy said.
“If I had to do it over again, I probably would have spent more time with them (board members) personally,” he said. “I would have taken the time out to visit them and try to understand their points of view, try and help them, to some degree, see who I was as a human being. It’s easy … when they don’t know you, it’s easy to be critical, it’s easy to pass judgment and it’s easy for them to just tell you what to do. But if they know you and you know them it just takes the edge off.
“That’s the same thing no matter whether it’s with a board or in a company with peers
– human relationships are so much more important than I thought they were.”
Molloy explained that board members’ purpose is “to be the voice of the shareholders to the management team” with focus on compliance within the law and rules of integrity, and CEO succession.
“They should take that (CEO succession) very seriously because at the end of the day, if they have a good CEO then they shouldn’t worry about strategy, they shouldn’t worry about the operations of the company,” he said. “They should worry about that person they hire and fire -- the CEO.”
Molloy suggested that boards could do better.
“There are no term limits on boards,” he said. “Some have evaluation processes. Some don’t. You’ll see some really well-run companies doing great things. You’ll see some great companies do stupid things.
“What’s the fix for it? It’s going to take things like term limits, evaluation processes and potentially having the results of those become public knowledge. Maybe more transparency. Right now, on paper the framework (for boards) is good, but there is work to be done to make it a better environment for all companies.”
Today, Molloy lives in Birmingham, is retired from his position as PetSmart CFO, but serves in a special advisory role to the CEO. He also serves as an independent board member at Sprouts Farmers Market, a $2 billion growing retailer that just recently went public.