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Indiana University Bloomington

Marketing

The Innovator with an Impact

Phil Francis MBA'71

Chair and CEO, PetSmart

Phoenix, Arizona

“The world each day gets full of more and more noise and more and more data. The challenge becomes having a style of presentation or a communication channel that breaks through the noise and rises above the massive data so it can be heard and taken on board and accepted.”

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Today he’s CEO of PetSmart, the largest specialty pet supply retailer in the country, but there was a time when Phil Francis was just another grad student at the Kelley School of Business. He entered the program with an open mind—and no background in business.

“When I got there, I was pretty much a blank slate,” says Francis, who received his Kelley MBA in 1971. “I could just fill myself up with the right academic learning and the right discussions so I could try to both stay theoretically true and practically sound when I got into the marketplace.”

The business principles he learned at Kelley enabled him to knowledgably create a product and services-driven business model for PetSmart while also trying to understand customers’ needs and providing a positive in-store experience.

“We live in a world with unlimited choice available instantly on the Internet; the thing that hasn’t been commoditized yet is the experience. Marketing is about figuring out how to provide a better experience than anybody else.”

Francis’ daily responsibilities include creating goals for his marketing and merchandising teams and ensuring that those goals are met. Finding new and better ways to communicate with the customer is increasingly challenging in today’s communication-rich culture, but it is paramount to the company’s success.

“The world each day gets full of more and more noise and more and more data," he says. "The challenge becomes having a style of presentation or a communication channel that breaks through the noise and rises above the massive data so it can be heard and taken on board and accepted."

“I think we’re doing pretty well because we have a better in-store experience than everyone else, and that’s our differentiator. We try to design and think of both products and experiences that will bond our best customers to us more strongly than anyone else.”

Published April 7, 2011