Best Buy executive Shari Ballard once again has been named to Fortune magazine’s annual list of the “Most Powerful Women in Business.”
Shari ranks No. 33 on the prestigious list, up from No. 42 last year. Fortune points to her expanding responsibilities with Best Buy’s e-commerce business and the role she has played in the company’s turnaround.
Shari joined Best Buy in 1993 as an assistant store manager in Flint, Michigan. Now she’s the senior executive vice president and president of multichannel retail. She is responsible for all U.S. Best Buy stores, e-commerce, Best Buy Mexico and real estate strategy.
Shari is no stranger to the list. In addition to this year and last, she also made it in 2010, 2011 and 2015.
We sat down with Shari this week to learn more about what this recognition means to her, how she got to where she is today and what’s next.
This is your fifth time on the ‘Most Powerful Women in Business’ list. What does this mean to you?
There are more than 100,000 people here doing a great job, so it feels quite strange to be singled out like that when everybody knows our company doesn’t work that way. It’s about everybody. So, on one hand, I’m sheepish about it, and I don’t really love the attention of it. On the other hand, I have come to appreciate that it’s meaningful to people in our company. I’ve had people say they’re proud of me and that they think it’s great for the company to be recognized that way. That feels good.
That said, our retail leaders and my peers do a really good job of completely making fun of me about it, so that makes me feel better. A couple of years ago, I was No. 39 on the list, and all of our territory managers came to our meeting that morning wearing T-shirts with the number 39 on them. That’s their way of making sure we don’t take this too seriously. I like it when they make fun of me, to be honest.
You started as an assistant manager at a Best Buy store. Did you always envision going into leadership?
When I joined the company, I knew I wanted to be a store manager because I had been a retail store manager before. And I thought that maybe someday I could be a district manager or, if I got super fortunate, maybe a regional manager. I’ve always really liked working with teams of people. But if you’re asking me whether I ever thought I was going to have this job — no, not in a trillion years.
Why was Best Buy the right place for you to grow as a leader?
I just think there’s something about this company. It’s so special in terms of its ability to have all of these ordinary people, like me, and create all kinds of opportunity for us. I don’t know that that would have happened anywhere other than Best Buy. I love the culture. I love the competitiveness of it. I love the heart of it. I love everything about it. So I don’t know that it could have happened anywhere other than Best Buy.
How have you — and the company — changed through the years?
I’ve had the opportunity to be here through a lot of different phases, and you learn different things about leadership and about yourself in each phase. I was here when we were trying to become national, when we had a lot of revenue but no profit and at a time when I don’t think we made enough decisions fast enough and caused the growth to stall. I’ve been fortunate to be here as we’ve gotten the company stabilized, and now I get a chance to help reposition it for growth. I just feel super fortunate to be part of the Best Buy story.
What are you most proud of?
I’m most proud of who we are as a company. When our people see somebody in need, they organize themselves and take action in ways that you could never dictate somebody to do. They do it because it’s who we are and who they are. I’ve seen it over and over and over. We lost a store employee earlier this year, and what people across the company did to support her kids and her family — no one asked them to do it, they just did. And we’re doing it right now in Puerto Rico, South Florida, Houston and Mexico City. I’m really proud of the soul and morality of our company, and how our team members choose to show it.
What’s next for you? What are you most excited about when you look ahead?
We just finished our investor day, so now we have to make our Best Buy 2020 growth strategy come true. The challenge and responsibility of getting the company truly repositioned in terms of our strategy and what we do for this generation of customers, that’s the work. I’m very excited about that.
Finally, what advice would you give other women who want to leave their mark in business?
Be very, very clear on who and what it is that you’re serving. Make sure it’s something really meaningful and outside of yourself, and then be ready for the world to test you relentlessly on how much you really mean what you say.
Click here to view the full list of “Most Powerful Women in Business” honorees.