Retail industry leader Stephen Bebis discusses the key to building high performance teams

The CEO coach reflected on the exciting retail industry and shared his management expertise with Martha and Spencer Love School of Business seniors.

Stephen Bebis, CEO coach at CEO Coaching International, addressed senior Martha and Spencer Love School of Business students as part of the “Lessons from Leaders” speaker series on Feb. 18.

Bebis has extensive management experience, having held a variety of senior merchandising roles including: founder, president, and CEO of Aikenhead’s Improvement Warehouse; founder of Reno Depot; president and CEO of Home Depot Canada; president and CEO of Sports and Recreation; founder, president, and CEO of Golf Town, president and CEO of Brookstone; and president and CEO of Liquor Stores N.A. In 2005, Bebis won E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year and was elected to the Retail Hall of Fame in Canada in 2007.

Bebis shared his expertise with the students in a presentation focused on building high performing teams that was followed by a discussion. “No one wants to work hard for a bad leader,” he stated, offering several key steps a strong leader must follow to have successful teams and organizations.

First, Bebis advised that management must evaluate individuals on the team’s capability of execution on a scale of 1-10. He ascertained that a successful team must only be made up of 9.5-10s, as “you cannot, as a leader, surround yourself with executives who are not performing at the highest level.”

Next, the team must be built around the mission. Bebis noted that individuals must not only be smart, but also must have the drive and ability to execute. He remarked, “It is amazing how many people fail in business because they are not able to get the job done.”

He then discussed the importance of chemistry and trust among teams, recognizing that “collaboration builds chemistry, chemistry builds trust, and trust gives teams the ability to get the job done.”

Throughout his presentation, Bebis emphasized the necessity of an empowering leader. He encouraged students to build and support positive conflict, give direction through delegation rather than micromanagement, and offer constant feedback. He explained social intelligence and self-awareness are critical, noting, “If you don’t have an organization of good listeners, you will never hear the problems.”

With nearly 50 years of retail experience, Bebis has a unique understanding of the industry. In the discussion with students, he reflected on the disruptive and exciting business that is quickly changing in response to customization, augmented reality, apps, and the push for ethical companies.

“Stephen Bebis’ steps to building an effective team will help me excel in my career and create value for my employer,” said finance and accounting double major Erin Leonard ’20.

With graduation on the horizon, students were eager to hear the advice that Bebis had to offer them as they prepare for the start of their careers. Bebis recommended all business students have a strong grasp on financial numbers, understanding the balance sheet, how business enterprises work, and how to raise capital. Second, anyone entering the workforce must understand how to program. To do this, Bebis advised students to take courses in coding, PowerPoint and Excel. The bottom line, Bebis said, is to not simply sit in the silo you’re in. “Continue educating yourself on all areas of the company, work hard, and focus on productivity.”