Insights from leaders of market-leading companies

moderated by Alan Murray

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Session recap

Market leaders: stay true to self

How do you keep your company growing once you’re “big”? That’s a quandary, whether you’re a leader in selling shoes online or delivering IT services. The answer, according to Wednesday’s panel at the Forum “Insights from leaders of market-leading companies,” is to never stray from who you are — as a person and as a company. might be all about shoes, but Tony Hsieh, its CEO, is all about people. In fact, Hsieh confessed, “I’ve never been interested in shoes — it’s all about customer service and culture.” And he will fight for that belief. Before he agreed to’s acquisition by Amazon three years ago, Tony insisted that Zappos needed to be free to continue to build its own distinct brand and culture.

Geraldine McBride, President, SAP America, Inc., stressed that internal hierarchies cannot be allowed to stifle innovation. Also, market leadership means putting the customer at the center of the value chain. “People want information presented in the way they want it — and when they need it,” she said.

Any walls between customers and employees must be torn down. “They’re both part of the same experience,” she noted. She believes her role is to help foster renewable innovation among employees via a three-step path: “Dream it, say it, do it.”

Ralph de la Torre, MD, Chairman and CEO, Steward Health Care System LLC, said his role has evolved as his company has grown. Previously, he was “involved in managing all the details.” Today, his mission is ensuring that all 20,000 employees understand the organization’s goals and feel engaged in achieving them. He also needs to “make sure that the right roles are created, and that they all fit together.”

For Nina Vaca, CEO, Pinnacle, keeping her company on the growth path means sharing lessons learned from her immigrant parents. “Entrepreneurship is a state of mind,” she stressed. Her challenge is to instill that same spirit throughout the company that she launched 16 years ago with a $300 investment. That involves tapping into a basic human desire.

“People want to be passionate about what they do every day," she explained.


Nina Vaca photo

Nina Vaca

Geraldine McBride photo

Geraldine McBride
SAP America, Inc.

Ralph de la Torre, M.D. photo

Ralph de la Torre, MD
Chairman and CEO
Steward Health Care System LLC

Tony Hsieh photo

Tony Hsieh
CEO, Inc.



Alan Murray photo

Alan Murray
Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor, Online
The Wall Street Journal