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Philip Francis Chairman and CEO, Petsmart

First Job: Philip Francis

Philip L. Francis
Chairman and CEO, Petsmart

Describe your very first job and what lessons you learned from it.
I’m going to give you two. I grew up on a farm, so the first thing I remember is cleaning up barns and building fences and bailing hay, and I worked for room and board. What I learned is to get a good job and get a good education. And straight out of college, I was an assistant nature director at a 4-H camp. I controlled the 10-year-olds and smart 12-year-olds who knew more about nature than I did.

Describe your first job in your industry and what you learned from it.
In terms of a real job, I was a trainee out of college in a grocery store, and what I learned is it’s all about the customer.

What were your salaries at both of these jobs?
Assistant nature director was room, board and $200 a month. And my first full-time job (in 1971), was $13,500 a year, and I thought I was rich.

Who is your biggest mentor and what role did he or she play?
The guy’s name was Winslow Smith, now deceased. He was president of the small grocery business that I had gone into. And, he let me go as fast as I could, as long as I performed. I am (now) willing to put young people in at or over their heads … if they’re good performers, they can go.

What advice would you give to a person just entering your industry?
Get a varied, rather than a narrow set of experiences early, and if you’re in a business where there are operations, make sure you include operations early in your career. If you can be in a good finance job early, but never learn the operations of the business, you’re going to top-out quicker than somebody who understands what really goes on in the business. That’s why I said get a varied set of experiences.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing instead?
Well, I like what I’m doing. I think at my age and stage I would be doing something in the give-back mode. So, I’d probably be working for a social service agency or group of some sort helping other people, old or young, who can benefit from help.