“Successful leaders are not pessimistic or optimistic—they are realistic. Seeing things for what they really are is a hallmark of a good leader,” said Bob Loeffler ’77, COO of H-E-B grocery stores. Loeffler, who received his MBA from Mays Business School at Texas A&M University, returned to campus recently to share with current Mays MBA students about his company, his career journey, and most importantly, about becoming an effective leader.

Loeffler speaking
Bob Loeffler ’77 recently returned to campus to speak to current Mays MBA students.

Loeffler suggested to students that one way to learn leadership is to seek out different experiences with a single employer and to “use the whole company as your playground.” He has worked for H-E-B for 28 years in a number of capacities, from IT to warehouse management to president of e-commerce. Prior to joining H-E-B he also spent several years in the Navy. These experiences have shaped him into the dynamic people manager that he is today.

Loeffler explained to students that he used to have a problem with conflict avoidance that was a stumbling block to his career. He stressed the importance of communication with team members about good things and bad things—as it is only by addressing the areas of weakness that a team can improve. He says the door swings both ways, though. “Constantly assess yourself and ask others to assess…that way you’ll get better.”

In all areas of management, Loeffler stressed the importance of being team oriented and motivating your employee team by making work a game. This way team members work together for a common goal with measurable results.

Loeffler also talked about H-E-B and the innovations the Texas mega-chain store is experimenting with, such as the creation of new store brand products and labels, and opening niche stores like Mi Tienda and Central Market. He also mentioned H-E-B’s shift in focus from a traditional grocery store to adding other goods and services, like cell phone plans and insurance.

“We’ve said, ‘let’s rethink who we are. We’re not just a great food market. We are a great retailer,’ ” he said of their growth.

Despite their changes, H-E-B’s commitment to community service is unwavering. “We want the communities we’re in to be better because we’re there,” said Loeffler, stating that H-E-B donates 5% of pre-tax earnings to public and charitable programs.