An inside look at Tractor Supply Company’s growth

Retail Gets Real episode 224: Rob Mills, EVP and chief technology and strategy officer, on creating a culture of change

As consumers across the country leaned into gardening, farming and outfitting their homes this past year, Tractor Supply Co. became the go-to destination for those living the “Life Out Here” lifestyle. Rob Mills is the executive vice president / chief technology and strategy officer at TSC and is in charge of the retailer’s digital business as it relates to technology and corporate strategy.

TSC is the largest rural lifestyle retailer across the United States, with around 1,900 stores in 49 states. With products that range from animal feed to farm equipment, TSC saw pandemic-accelerated growth with customers shopping differently through increased home investments over the last year. Mills said watching consumer activity, utilizing real-time data and reacting with agility allowed the company to accelerate foundations that were already in place like curbside pickup through its mobile app.

The retailer is known not only as an “essential-needs-based retailer” but also as an educational resource. “We pride ourselves on our team members, really focusing and ensuring that we're providing that knowledge and that expertise,” Mills said. “You'll hear us talk about how we hire our customers. We're known for advice and providing advice.”

There are a few things that become incredibly important as leaders drive change, Mills said. First, you have to understand your team. Second, you have to listen to your customers. And then you have to take that feedback and show people that you’re making improvements.

“It's about training, but it's about creating a culture of change, willing to accept failure, celebrating failure, but also celebrating success, being able to move quickly, change course, redirect, but having the ability as leaders to listen.”

Listen to this episode to learn how Tractor Supply is operating its business efficiently through merging technology, digital and strategy.

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