Chicago -- During his first general session speech to the assembled body of True Value dealers, CEO John Hartmann expressed a willingness to embrace change.
He started by announcing a symbolic change at the True Value headquarters, which will be known from now on as the "Retail Support Center."
Hartmann's background includes positions at Home Depot (which also describes its headquarters as "The Retail Support Center), HD Supply and New Zealand hardware co-op Mitre 10. He is also a former field agent of the FBI. He took over as CEO on May 31, replacing the now retired Lyle Heidemann.
"In retail, staying the same is actually going backwards," the new CEO told dealers. "We need to lead change."
He added: "We must change faster to support our membership more directly than we ever have in the past," Hartmann said.
Since taking the helm, Hartmann says he has traveled extensively to meet with members. "You shared with me back that in your opinion, we followed too much," Hartmann said. "You said, 'John, we need to lead. We need to set our own course.' And I couldn't agree more."
Hartmann delivered his address here at the 2013 True Value Reunion in front of an audience of about 5,000 people. He generated spontaneous applause when he explained the co-op was looking for ways to make it easier for existing store members to adopt the Destination True Value store concept and other store upgrades.
He also referred to a project to create a "true one-on-one approach to marketing" for members. He added that he is committed to building a more responsive culture along with the three pillars of engagement, growth and efficiency.
Hartmann said he will be focused in the coming months on putting together the details of a strategic plan to map out the next five to 10 years.
To vendors, Hartmann offered his "personal commitment to continue to engage them on the development of our strategic plan."
To retailers, he said: "We have a terrific solid foundation to build on. We're a recognized brand. We have a large number of passionate retailers committed to their organization." But, he added, "We have plenty to do."