WOMEN AT LIBERTY

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Motivational Moments

May 29, 2012

Laura Sen, CEO, BJ's Wholesale Club

In honor of Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Leadership Tuesdays is featuring Laura Sen, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of BJ's Wholesale Club, a low-cost, low-margin, high-volume, membership-only warehouse club that sells food, electronics, office equipment and other general merchandise.


Sen was promoted to CEO of BJ's in 2009, but her rise to the top job took a circuitous route.  After spending 14 years at BJ's, she was an Executive Vice President and considered one of a few internal candidates for the CEO job in 2002. Six months after one of her peers was named CEO, she was asked by him to leave the company.  She went home to spend more time with her teenage children and her husband of over 20 years.  During her time away from BJ's, she also started a consulting business providing her expertise to consumer retail companies, some of them suppliers to BJ's.


In 2006, she was asked by the then acting CEO and Chairman of the Board, Herb Zarkin, to rejoin BJ's and promised that she would become the company's next CEO. Shortly after becoming CEO, she suffered a personal loss when Michael Egan, her husband of 27 years, died of cancer.  She came back and plunged herself into her work after taking a short time away.  Based on reports, Sen has been well-received.  Before the company was sold in late 2011 and became a private company, The Boston Globe reported in January 2011 that company profits and sales, as well as employee morale, was up. At that time, the company's share price had increased by more than 50% to $45.   

 

Most notably, Laura Sen believes in communication and she spends at least 20% of her time in the field meeting and talking to employees and customers. She is a graduate of Boston College with a Bachelor of Arts. Before coming to BJ's, she spent 10 years at Zayres Corporation.

 
In a interview with Michel Martin of NPR's Tell Me More, Ms. Sen talked about her family, background, leadership style and values.

 

To listen to the interview:

http://www.npr.org/2012/05/24/153226066/laura-sen-s-keys-to-ceo-success-be-nice-speak-up