What began as a part-time job for John Ortiz has evolved into a fruitful thirty-one-year journey through the grocery business. After nearly following his father into criminal law way back when, Ortiz instead was charmed by both the culture and community at Albertsons, the grocery-store company based in Boise, Idaho.
Following high school, Ortiz stayed with Albertsons to fund his education, but as he quickly rose through the ranks, he soon had the opportunity to open his first store in Pismo Beach, California. While operating and overseeing that location, Ortiz jumped at the opportunity to begin classes and watch his lessons play out in front of him. He enrolled at Dale Carnegie and later worked toward his bachelor of science degree at the University of Phoenix.
“Most students go to school but don’t have the opportunity to apply what they learned until many years later. This was not the case for me,” Ortiz says. “I always say that working towards my degree during that juncture of my life and career made the world of business come to life in 3-D.”
While balancing a career and ballooning course load, Ortiz had a family that was also growing. He already had two children with another baby on the way, so sleeping wasn’t necessarily on his to-do list. Instead, he learned to manage a crazy schedule—and he still implements a similar resolve today.
“That taught me a valuable lesson about managing a calendar, managing priorities, balancing those priorities, and really making effective use of time. I don’t think I would have had that work ethic if I wasn’t forced to do that while attending school in the middle of my career,” Ortiz says.
The corporate general vice president of retail operations at Albertsons says some aspects of leadership came naturally to him, but much of the qualities of what makes a good leader has to be learned through trial and error over many years. With more than three decades in the business, Ortiz pulls inspiration from previous leaders, whether they were encouraging or tough. He wants to ensure that his team is motivated and inspired to perform at their best, and he does this by putting into action a lesson he says his children taught him: keep it fun.
“I always try to be positive. If you mix positivity and fun at work, I think you get more out of people,” Ortiz explains.
“I always try to be positive. If you mix positivity and fun at work, I think you get more out of people.”
However, because of a change in ownership at Albertsons, Ortiz took a brief hiatus from the company in 2013, going to work for the Fred Meyer superstore chain while simultaneously beginning his own consulting business and obtaining a publishing company. As a result of the latter, Ortiz was able to not only build his portfolio but gain a new understanding of business.
Just as his ventures began to grow, he received a call from a fellow executive and mentor asking him to return to Albertsons, because a group of investors was purchasing the company back. Ortiz explains that he had always imagined retiring with Albertsons, so the decision was a no-brainer.
“I jumped at the chance to come back, and I knew that the leaders would be able to rebuild the company,” he says.
Today Ortiz has the responsibility to provide support for nearly 2,300 stores and 20 banners under Albertsons Companies—and maintaining consistency is just one of his duties. In late 2017, he and his colleagues started finding ways to help each banner uphold the Albertsons values, and with the help of his team, Ortiz created The Culture Council.
The Culture Council strives to make “Every Day a Better Day” for both the employees and customers. By improving the employee experience, in turn, the employees improve the customer experience.
“We believe focusing on our people, customers, and communities makes for a better company. We call this the employee promise,” Ortiz says. “If you commit to making every day a better day, for everyone, it will make for a better company—and we truly are working to get better every day.”
“If I had to say something to a younger person or a younger leader, it would be investing in people is still the thing that drives success, especially in our business. People make or break a company—so focus on your people.”
Albertsons is hoping to ease the lives of not only its customers but also its employees. Currently, the grocery chain is integrating systems across banners in order to communicate more effectively and schedule employees more easily based on sales and labor forecasts. They’re also implementing an industry-leading fresh item management solution to enhance daily in-store production and period-end inventory count processes, making it easier for employees to manage the perishable departments in the store. Ortiz believes that by making employee jobs less complicated and more efficient it will make their day a better day and, in turn, the customers will reap the benefits as well.
The company’s fresh item management software provider, Invatron Systems Corp., has admired Ortiz’s leadership in action. “John’s commitment to delivering financial and operational benefits balanced with making every day a better day for the Albertsons people is what makes him and the initiatives he leads successful,” says Kurt Brands, chief operating officer.
Ultimately, Ortiz strives to invest in his people—aiming to make the environment a place where people want to work. He feels that in his core. He defines success through the creation of a culture of new leaders and a strong sense of community.
“If I had to say something to a younger leader, it would be that investing in people is still the thing that drives success, especially in our business,” he says. “People make or break a company—so focus on your people.”
John Ortiz is one of the best young executives The Stores Consulting Group has ever worked with. tSCG worked with John and the Albertsons team in 2017 and 2018 on one of the most critical profit-improvement initiatives for the company. John played a key role in driving significant financial savings to Albertsons through his leadership, collaborative approach, and ability to facilitate change. We are proud of our work with John and the combined effort to improve profitability at Albertsons.