Q&A with Meg Major
Welcome to Endcap, Nick, and congrats on
your recent promotion to lead Ahold Delhaize USA’s Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant Food
Stores as president, which is clearly well deserved. What is your leadership philosophy?
Nicholas Bertram: I started out in a family business, and my leadership philosophy
is grounded in a mindset that no one is too
good to do any task, and that we do whatever
it takes, and know how to do that. It’s something I learned from my dad and my grandfather that’s stayed with me in every job I’ve
ever had. Aside from that, I base my philosophy on values-based leadership, which means
you must remain inflexible on the things that
you most strongly believe in, and always
ground your decisions against them.
Beginning your retail career as a part-time
grocery stocker and working your way
through the ranks in past senior roles at
Walmart, Jewel-Osco and Supervalu, it’s
safe to say you’re a grocery “lifer.” What do
you most enjoy about working in the retail
food industry that others could benefit
What I love about retail is that there is more
variety with opportunities in this industry
than any other I’m aware of. You can literally
do anything. Retail also provides an oppor-
tunity to work in different geographies, and
that’s when it really gets interesting, because
the Chicago customer is quite different than
the Philadelphia customer, and so on across
the country, where there are unique features
to learn about in each market. So if you’re
a curious person who likes to ask questions
and figure out how to solve puzzles and learn
about the way things tick, then retail is for
you. I also think retail is more fulfilling than I
would have ever expected when I was a part-
time stocker, since you get to build relation-
ships not just with the people you work with,
but also with families you see in the stores
week in and week out. It gives you a chance
to connect with people in a way that is quite
literally helping to make their lives better, and
that’s really fun and fulfilling. As you get into
multiunit and other roles, the focus changes
to be more about colleagues and the associ-
ates you work with. But when you’re in the
store, it’s really cool because you get to meet
the customers and know their life and how to
connect with them; and when you move on,
you get to expand on those experiences that
stay with you forever.
When announcing your appointment,
Ahold Delhaize USA CEO Kevin Holt recognized your talents as a key architect
of the company’s ongoing brand-centric
strategy that puts the customer at the
forefront. What do you believe is most
crucial to achieving that evolving mission?
What’s most crucial is never slowing down
in the pursuit to understand exactly what the
customer wants. Our recent reorganization
is focused on putting more leadership closer
to the customer while still hanging on to the
great systems, processes, and access to data
and technology that comes from being part
of a big organization. [We] couple that with
the direct access to local communities, where
all of our skills and resources come into play,
and build from the new model we’ve created,
which is slightly unique in the industry. In
fact, I think it will be the competitive advantage for each of our brands.
What are you learning—either about yourself, company associates and/or customers—right now that most surprises you?
I’m most surprised by how confused customers are by all of the messaging they get from
the various channels about what “healthy”
actually means. It’s fascinating how shoppers
are just trying to figure out exactly what is
healthy, and how to provide better meals for
their families. There’s almost too much information, which has created a need for us as
grocers to make it easier for them to figure it
out. And I didn’t expect that. You would think
that with more technology, social media and
access to information in general it would be
the opposite, but it’s actually led to greater
confusion. And that’s a big opportunity for
all of us.
As the father of three sons, it’s safe to assume that your home life is extremely lively and equally fulfilling. What traits do you
most appreciate about each of your boys?
My 7-year-old is the bravest person I’ve ever
met. My 5-year-old is the most passionate
person I’ve ever met. And my 3-year-old is the
happiest person I’ve ever met.
Nicholas Bertram is president
of Ahold Delhaize USA’s Carlisle,
Pa.-based Giant Food Stores.
Which words or phrases do you
most overuse? I’m constantly
talking about the importance of
being an entrepreneur, as well as the
95-year-old startup we’re creating.
Do you play a musical instrument?
I play the piano. I was supposed to be
a musician—I had scholarships and
everything, but I chose retail instead!
How would you describe yourself
in one word? Tenacious. I L