Rodney Faldyn ’88 says obsession drives the success of Academy Sports + Outdoors, which led to his recognition as the 2013 M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award. “We are obsessed with always getting better. We build a team, align our goals and let them execute them.”

Rodney Faldyn '88, CEO/President of Academy Sports + Outdoors
Rodney Faldyn ’88, CEO/President of
Academy Sports + Outdoors, with wife Karen

Faldyn says the company’s goal is to be a nationally recognized, regionally relevant and locally merchandised sports, outdoor and lifestyle store. “The market for sporting goods and outdoor gear changes every 100 miles, and we stay on top of that.” With sales projected to exceed $4 billion in 2014 and 21,000 store associates, the company seems to be on the right track.

Faldyn described during his lecture at Mays Business School how his years at Texas A&M University, where he received an accounting degree, prepared him for his career in more ways than one. His juggled a rigorous academic schedule with a job as an assistant manager at a retail store. “I don’t think I could do my role as a manager now if I had not put in that time.”

He says he also learned from the failure of the company he worked for back then — Furrow Building Materials. “So many companies lose touch with the changing consumer landscape and they don’t make adjustments they need to, so they get left behind,” he says, naming other businesses such as Linens ‘n Things and Circuit City.

Before his promotion to CEO of Academy, Faldyn was president and chief financial officer of the company. Prior to Academy, he worked at N.F. Smith & Associates, a privately-held international electronics distributor. He spent eight years at Enron Corp. in several capacities, including vice president in international finance, chief accounting officer for a publicly-held subsidiary and vice president in accounting. Prior to that, he spent eight years at Deloitte & Touche LLP, working in the energy, wholesale trade and construction sectors.

The annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series hosted by the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) highlights the role of innovative merchandising in the success of retail businesses. M.B. Zale was a legendary retailer, visionary merchant and esteemed philanthropist. Past recipients of the Zale award represented companies ranging from Walmart to Crate and Barrel to Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Faldyn’s lecture concluded an invitation-only conference for retail executives, the Center for Retailing Studies’ annual Retail Sponsor Forum. Speakers for the one-day event included Mays faculty members and industry experts who addressed topics such as showrooming, supply chain security, shelf-space allocation and motivating employees for top performance.

Center director Cheryl Holland Bridges said the CRS at Mays has helped prepare thousands of Aggies for careers in retailing. As she introduced Faldyn, she added, “You all are going to have your interest piqued in retailing. If so, come see us at the center on the second floor.”

Mays Dean Jerry Strawser said Faldyn differed from many speakers in that he is involved in an area of retail that directly impacts the students’ lives. The company that started as an Army surplus store now has 159 stores in 13 states, and is still expanding.

“Our culture is very similar to the culture at Texas A&M: friendly, energetic, the highest integrity, respectful and based on family values,” Faldyn says. “We strive to bring active families what they need to stay active.”

Faldyn and his wife live in Houston with four 16-year-olds — two sets of twins they each brought to their marriage.

About Mays Business School

Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.