How Arthur Blank drove The Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons to paydirt

Lead by example

In the early days of The Home Depot, Blank had every person in his senior management learn the business from the ground up.

“The first three months, you’re going to be working in the stores,” Blank told the first legal counsel he hired.

“I’m an attorney,” the man told Blank, looking at him like he was crazy. “Why would you want me to spend three months in the store?”

“You’re not going to understand the legal issues that are going to come across your bow or the environment they were created in or be able to talk effectively to our associates about what happened in stores unless you actually have some of that experience,” Blank said.

And Blank himself didn’t have immunity. He spent up to 50 percent of his time walking around the stores, working with customers and talking to associates. When he returned and sat in meetings, Blank could communicate problems and issues from the front line that nobody else knew about.

He did the same thing when he acquired the Falcons, living in the dormitories with players during training camp so he could see first-hand the issues facing larger men. Then he took those problems into account when he built their new training facility.

To solve the parking woes identified by fans, he and his team spent five hours walking all the lots within a quarter-mile of the stadium searching for inefficiencies.

“Great leaders have a lot of integrity, and they do what they say they’re going to do and they mean what they say,” Blank says. “They don’t feel like all the wisdom resides in their office and they’re happy to get out amongst real people and do real work and find out what the world is thinking about the company and the organization and what they’re doing.”