Greg Rubin '75 MBA '76 Provides a View Into the World of Retail Consulting
Greg Rubin '75 MBA '76 started his Cornell studies with Chemical Engineering, but found that Industrial Engineering and Operations Research (as ORIE was then known) was "perfect for me, even though I didn't know what the heck it was." He has an analytical mind and likes dealing with people, both characteristics that have been essential to his success as a consultant to retail companies and manager of consulting organizations.
Using a series of case studies based on his experience, Rubin told an Enterprise Engineering Colloquium audience about the work of the "industrial engineering company with an organizational development flavor" with which he has been associated through various incarnations for the past 34 years. He joined Senn-Delany Consulting as the ninth or tenth employee and now heads SD Retail Consulting, a "relaunch" of the organization, which had become part of a succession of consulting companies over the years.
He characterized the company, which numbers a broad array of well-known retail names among its customers, as relentlessly focusing on measurable and sustainable results. "If you can't measure it, maybe you shouldn't be doing it," he said.
Among the case studies Rubin described was one in which his organization helped American Girl, adept at selling dolls at retail through a catalog, develop physical stores. This meant planning for all operational aspects, from training, point of sale systems and labor scheduling, to integration of in-store and catalog supply chains, to optimization of customer traffic using queuing analysis and flow modeling. Another, for department store chain Saks Fifth Avenue, used modeling software to determine the ideal number and locations of distribution centers. For all of the case studies, Rubin described substantial increases in productivity, inventory turnover, profitability, and service levels.
"As a consultant, you have to be broad as heck," Rubin said. He mentioned systems, tax law, information technology, personnel management, retailing, forecasting, budgeting, and several other fields of expertise that his company's work touches. To work for his company, applicants have to be smart, analytical and excellent communicators, he said. "Ten percent of our new employees don't make it, usually because they fall short on communication skills and the ability to put themselves in the customer's shoes. They have to relate at the CEO level and at the stock clerk level."
Half of the consultants at SD retail consulting have graduate degrees and a third have engineering degrees. "We like engineering graduates because of their problem solving mindset," said Rubin.
The Enterprise Engineering Colloquium is sponsored by the Cornell Engineering Alumni Association.