Rare is the company CEO who says, "Sure, I'll take a $250 million hit to do the right thing."
Meet Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods. Under his leadership, Dick’s, America’s largest sporting goods chain, has overhauled its gun sales policies. First the stores removed all AR-15 assault-style weapons from its shelves, converting its $5 million inventory to scrap metal rather than return it to manufacturers for resale. After internal review, Dick’s took additional steps. The chain’s 100 stores stopped selling weapons to customers under the age of 21. The company also banned sales of high-capacity magazines of ammunition and “bump stocks,” which effectively convert semiautomatic weapons into machine guns. And in March of 2019 Dick’s Sporting Goods removed firearms from 125 of its stores.
In his new book, It’s How We Play the Game: Build a Business. Take a Stand. Make a Difference, Stack details the how and why of the company’s new stance on guns. It was the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, one of so many, that spurred his action.
Sixteen people were killed that day in 2018. Stack remembers leaving the office “in a deep state of melancholy, not only at the day’s news, but… at the realization that it would happen again.” He and his wife resolved to try to do something.
The decision to restrict gun sales put Stack in the midst of a months-long “emotional and at times even threatening” national debate. The consequences of the company’s stand soon became clear. There were boycotts – some 60 employees quit. Overall, revenues fell by about 3% for a time. But then, gradually, they began to return to previous levels.
Competing and winning is in the DNA of Dick’s Sporting Goods, says Stack. But so are being guided by conscience and accepting short-term hardship, when necessary. As he told the Philadelphia Inquirer recently, he found he just couldn’t wait for someone else to take action anymore. “If… you feel that it’s important to say,” he believes, “you should stand up and say it.”
In business, money mostly does the talking. But, Stack is one CEO who understands that how he uses money can get people to listen.