Stand Up and Be Heard!

Stew Leonard Jr., president and chief executive officer of the Norwalk-based grocery retailer that bears his family’s name, discussed “Managing Business Excellence in a Challenging Economy” at a lecture in March 2011 before an audience of about 100 students and faculty at the WCSU Ancell School of Business.

Leonard, who succeeded his father, Stew Leonard Sr., as president of the company in 1987, now manages stores in Norwalk, Danbury and Newington, Conn., and Yonkers, N.Y. Founded in 1969, Stew Leonard’s has been named by Fortune Magazine for 10 consecutive years over the past decade on its annual list of the “100 Best Companies to Work for in America.” The company’s commitment to excellence in customer service was featured as an example in management expert Tom Peters’ books “A Passion for Excellence” and “Thriving on Chaos.”

Leonard’s lecture at WCSU focused on the importance of building loyalty among customers and employees. An essential element of creating an environment for excellence in customer service is a commitment to promoting extensive employee involvement in addressing business issues, he said. Comparing management dialogue with employees to a tennis match, he noted, “the key is keeping the volley going. The original server isn’t the one with the ideas — it’s the fifth, 20th or 30th volley where the solution comes up.”

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Clockwise from top:
Stew Leonard Jr. and several of his staffers join Ancell School of Business students and faculty in the audience.

Leonard shared his ideas for "Maintaining Business Excellence in a Challenging Economy" during the lecture.