Craig Jelinek is president, CEO and a board director of Costco Wholesale Corp., which operates 768 membership warehouses throughout North America, parts of Europe and Asia, as well as Australia, with 239,000 full and part-time employees worldwide.
“Costco is able to offer lower prices and better values by eliminating virtually all the frills and costs historically associated with conventional wholesalers and retailers, including salespeople, fancy buildings, delivery, billing and accounts receivable,” Jelinek writes on the company’s website. “We run a tight operation with extremely low overhead which enables us to pass on dramatic savings to our members.”
In February, Jelinek told Money Inc. that he believes in low overhead by focusing on products only and not trendy-looking facilities, and the company also likes to rotate products on a regular basis to keep shoppers engaged. Still, Jelinek said that Costco has an intentional policy of putting its store-branded products towards the front, because that familiarizes customers with what Costco is like compared to its competitors.
Jelinek also believes in happy employees.
“It is interesting to note that while Costco believes in paying its employees well by the standards of its chosen industry, it also believes in maintaining a relatively small workforce without actually cutting into its service for its customers — something that helps to keep its costs manageable,” Money Inc. wrote.
The CEO also strives to balance the interests of Costco’s stakeholders.
“There are some companies out there that believe in maximizing the payments that are made to the shareholders, but Costco isn’t one of them,”Money Inc. wrote. “Simply put, Jelinek believes that too much focus on the priorities of shareholders to the exclusion of other stakeholders can endanger a corporation’s long-term viability, which is why he prefers to balance the needs of his stakeholders to ensure that everyone is happy with what is happening.”
Another division of the company is Costco Wholesale Industries, which operates manufacturing businesses, including special food packaging, optical laboratories, meat processing and jewelry distribution. These businesses have a common goal of providing members with high quality products at substantially lower prices, the company writes on its website.
He’s No. 17 on Chief Executive and RHR International’s CEO1000 Tracker, a ranking of the top 1,000 public/private companies.
Craig Jelinek, CEO, Costco
Headquarters: Issaquah, WA
First joined company: 1984
Positions prior to being named CEO: President, chief operating officer of merchandising
Named CEO: 2012