Big shoes to fill as new JB CEO plans expansion and strong management

By Patrick Avenell

MELBOURNE, VIC: Although he has already received a ringing endorsement from outgoing CEO Richard Uechtritz, the new boss of JB Hi-Fi, Terry Smart, has admitted these are big shoes to fill. Smart, currently the Chief Operating Officer, will step up to the new role later this year, and he’ll be looking to emulate the incredible success of his predecessor.

In an interview with Current.com.au shortly after the announcement this morning, we asked Smart if these were big shoes to fill.

“There’s no question that that’s ‘yes’,” he said, “But I’ve been with [Uechtritz] through that whole process: I’ve worked with him, it’s been very collaborative, we’ve made decisions on the growth and the way forward for the company through the years; so while I have enormous respect for Richard and they’re definitely big shoes to fill, I am confident in going forward with the business.”

With Uechtritz and Smart working closely together to make key decisions, it was unsurprising that Smart stressed to investors a ‘business as usual’ mentality. He said the market should not be concerned by this transition.

“I see no reason why [the market] should be [worried]. One of the good things about having worked with Richard over that time is the [education] that I’ve had working with him: I’ve learnt a lot over that time and I’ve brought a lot to the table as well with the operations of the business.

“We’ve got a great business model which is running extremely well, great culture in the company, solid business metrics, and combining that with what is now a very solid management team – we brought in recently a merchandising director with a 29-years Coles background – we’ve got a very strong management team behind us as well.”

For the future, Smart will immediately prove his credentials in this ‘business as usual’ strategy. He plans to continue Uechtritz’s aggressive expansion policy, with the 210 JB Hi-Fi store goal intact.

“We’ve had this plan for 210 JB stores, 122 of those exist, so we’re only 58 per cent of the way through the store rollout program…that is the major growth strategy.”

Aside from expansion, the second topic that constantly shadowed Uechtritz was acquisitions. We posed the question – undoubtedly not for the last time – whether JB was currently considering any. And in the surest evidence yet of a smooth transition, Smart answered with a resolute “no”.

Smart concluded by paying homage to all JB Hi-Fi staff.

“One of the beauties of JB is the culture of the people and the enthusiasm and the willingness of the staff at the stores: it is what makes us successful.”

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