Childhood & Early Life
Steve Odland was born in 1958/1959, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He moved to Denver with his family when he was 6 years old. There, he joined a local school.
Steve had big career aspirations ever since he was young. While he was attending high school, he began working as a stocker at a local store named ‘King Soopers.’ He was excellent in academics and completed a summer internship at a local news channel.
By the time he graduated high school, he had made up his mind about becoming a businessman. He joined the ‘University of Notre Dame’ and obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
He then joined the ‘Northwestern University’s ‘Kellogg School of Management’ and earned a master’s degree in business administration. He then dived into the American job market.
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For the first few years of his career, he worked primarily in the grocery industry. In 1981, he joined the ‘Quaker Oats Company,’ and over the next few years, he worked at various positions within the company. He worked in the pet foods, international foods, “Golden Grain,” and cereals departments.
After earning sufficient experience from his first job, he began working at ‘Sara Lee Bakery,’ as the president of its “Foodservice Division.” He worked at the company from 1996 to 1998.
After quitting ‘Sara Lee,’ he earned the first big job of his career when he was hired as the president and CEO of ‘Tops Markets.’ He remained in the position until 2000.
In the early 2000s, his reputation increased greatly. He was hired as the president, chairman, and CEO of ‘AutoZone’ in 2001. The U.S. economy was going through a difficult phase back then, with many industries facing severe lack of profits. The auto industry was one of the worst-affected during the period.
Steve’s work experience in the relatively dynamic grocery industry had somehow prepared him to handle such problems with expertise. He focused on the company’s merchandising strategy. He argued that the ‘AutoZone’ stores were experiencing less customer visits, resulting in low sales, which needed to be corrected.
During a conference held in 2001, he proposed some ideas to increase the sales of the company. Such strategies included changing the appearance of the older vehicles, selling sunglasses and other accessories at the stores, and targeting the customers’ pride of ownership.
He also increased the company’s advertising budget to a whopping $20 million. He mainly targeted the young customers who considered their vehicles to be an extension of their own personality. As a result, within 2 years of Steve taking charge of the company, it registered an 11% increase in profits.
The stock value of the company tripled, and the market share became 12%, while none of the competitors could even reach the double-digit mark. Steve also took the bold decision to shut down the company’s non-profitable subsidiaries.
By the time his tenure with ‘AutoZone’ ended in 2005, the company had registered $5.6 billion in net sales. Many more stores had been opened across the U.S.A and Mexico. The success story of ‘AutoZone’ became quite popular among the country’s corporate hubs. In 2002, Steve was named the top new CEO by the ‘Bloomberg Markets Magazine.’
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He left ‘AutoZone’ in 2005 and began working as the CEO and chairman of ‘Office Depot,’ an American office supplies company. During his tenure there, apart from increasing the profits of the company, he also earned praises from environmentalists, as he promoted quite a few environmental initiatives. He preferred green products and green buildings. He installed other energy-saving measures, too.
He also focused on increasing diversity in several positions in the company. His work won him many awards and honors. ‘The National Association for Female Executives’ later listed ‘Office Depot’ as one of the top 30 companies that worked toward the advancement of women executives.
The ‘Women’s Business Development Council’ honored ‘Office Depot’ with the ‘Florida Corporation of the Year’ title. The company also employed many other socio-cultural measures that increased its goodwill.
In 2007, Steve received the ‘Business Leader of the Year’ award from the ‘Florida Atlantic University.’
He left ‘Office Depot’ in 2010. For the next 2 years, he worked at the ‘Florida Atlantic University’ and the ‘Lynn University’ as an adjunct professor for their respective graduate schools.
He also received mentions in books such as ‘Nobodies to Somebodies: How 100 Great Careers Got Their Start’ and ‘Leaders on Ethics.’
He currently works as a director at ‘Analogic Corporation’ and ‘General Mills, Inc.’ He also holds several major positions in organizations such as ‘PJ SOLOMON,’ the ‘Council on Foreign Relations,’ and ‘The Conference Board.’
He also serves as a contributor to ‘The Hill’ and ‘CNBC.’ He has earlier been a contributor to ‘Forbes,’ too.
In 2013, he was hired as the president and CEO of the ‘Committee for Economic Development,’ a public policy organization that provides research analysis and solutions to tackle the U.S.A.’s most critical issues.
In 2017, Steve co-authored a book titled ‘Sustaining Capitalism: Bipartisan Solutions to Restore Trust & Prosperity.’ The book explained in a clear manner how prosperity for business and society could be generated while making the capitalistic forces sustainable for the future generations. The book received coverage from major media organizations, such as ‘CNBC’ and ‘Bloomberg.’