As part of the Dean's CEO Speaker Series, Dean Maryam Alavi welcomed Ted Decker, chair, president, and CEO of The Home Depot, for a discussion at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business on Thursday, January 19.
Decker joined The Home Depot in 2000 as director of business valuation. He currently serves as chair, president, and CEO and oversees more than 2,300 stores and 500,000 associates. He served as the chief merchant and executive vice president of merchandising for over six years, and from 2020 to 2022, he served as president and chief operating officer and was responsible for global store operations, global supply chain, outside sales and service, real estate, merchandising, marketing, and online strategy. During this time, the company worked to blend the online and in-store worlds and better serve customers. It is currently a Fortune 17 company.
He earned a bachelor's degree in English from The College of William and Mary and a master's degree in business administration from Carnegie Mellon University.
At the onset of the talk, Decker described The Home Depot's culture, explaining that the company follows two main principles: the "inverted pyramid" and the "values wheel."
Unlike many organizations where the leaders are at the top, in the inverted pyramid model, the customer comes first, then associates, followed by field support, corporate support, and finally, the CEO. The values wheel contains eight principal values, including excellent customer first, taking care of our people, entrepreneurial spirit, and giving back to the community.
"Those two principles are really how we run the company," he said. Based on these principles, Decker remarked that if you take care of your associates, they’ll take care of the customers and the rest will take care of itself.
During the pandemic, which accelerated The Home Depot’s growth by five years, their online business grew tremendously. In fact, The Home Depot is the fifth largest e-commerce business in the U.S.
"E-commerce is here to stay," he said, explaining that the company invests in data analytics and other benchmarks to help them continue to grow in the online space, investing in research for online and brick-and-mortar stores in part, he noted, to stay ahead of consumer expectations.
Decker also talked about The Home Depot's commitment to giving back to the community, particularly when natural disasters occur.
"We do these things because it's the right thing to do," he said.
He described a recent documentary video The Home Depot created to show the work they do to help rebuild communities and their commitment to veteran causes, including investing over $400 million to support this population.
When asked what advice he'd give to 22-year-olds, he suggested finding a passion in an industry one cares about and identifying the right company or organization to express that passion. He also noted that working hard will always bring success.
"The only thing I can control is how hard I work," he commented. "Whatever you do, whether it's being a doctor, building bridges, or working at a home improvement store, there is no path that doesn't require hard work."