CEO of Smith's Consumer Products
Beau Parker (MS in Marketing 1997) is the Chief Executive Officer of Smith's Consumer Products, which is a market leader in the design and manufacture of knife sharpeners and kitchen tools under the Smith’s® and KitchenIQ brands. Previously, Parker was featured in the fall 2014 issue of ONE magazine when he was General Manager of Oreck. That article is below.
You probably recognize TTI brands such as Hoover, Dirt Devil, Oreck, Milwaukee, and Ryobi from major retailers or even from your own garage or closet. But how do those brands get their reputation and shelf space in a highly competitive and global market? Beau Parker, a 1997 graduate of the Johns Hopkins School of Continuing Studies (now Carey Business School) MS in Marketing program, can tell you how.
Beau is the General Manager of Oreck at TTI, an industrial company that manages a diversity of top brands in sectors ranging from power tools and outdoor power equipment to floor care appliances.
His prior roles included President of Accessories at Stanley Black & Decker, Vice President of Sales, Marketing & International Divisions at Stanley, and Vice President of Sales at Hunter Fan.
“After Oreck was purchased by TTI in 2013, I was offered the opportunity to lead and grow the business,” he says about his latest leadership position. “The potential is significant and very exciting given its 50-year history premium and high-performance brand heritage, and Oreck Customers love the brand and the service they get from local stores.”
Brand heritage is also a big reason that Beau chose Johns Hopkins for his graduate business degree: “It’s an incredible reputation; if I‘m in Europe or Asia, everybody knows Johns Hopkins. It’s Marketing 101.”
It’s also a family affair.
A Legacy of Johns Hopkins Business Education
Beau’s father and sister went to Hopkins. Beau’s father studied business, earning his master’s degree in the Evening College in the late 1960s. His father worked for Commercial Credit, which after a series of mergers and acquisitions became Citigroup. Beau’s sister earned her undergraduate business degree from JHU in 1996.
A self-described “marketing & growth guy” who was already based in Baltimore when he chose to hone his business chops, Beau selected Johns Hopkins because of its reputation and global brand. He took classes at each of the several locations in the Baltimore-D.C. corridor where Hopkins business courses are offered, and the convenience allowed him to continue his professional education on the job even as he got unique opportunities and new perspective in class.
Among the most memorable courses Beau took for his MS degree was the capstone class where all students incorporate classroom lessons in a practical environment: “We had to put a plan together and a presentation for a given company, and in my group’s case we more or less said they needed to change their strategy. They went bankrupt a couple of years later, so I think we were right.”
On a brighter note, Beau fondly remembers competing against other classmates during an assignment to run extended computer simulations of real businesses. As the academic term went on, companies matured, and the students learned lessons about profit and loss. In addition to being his favorite class, those lessons were critical in transforming this “marketing guy” into a leader who grows businesses profitably.
“You can love to sell or market something, or be a product guy who loves to create something,” he observes, “but you have to understand how what you’re doing impacts the short, medium, and long term P&L and balance sheet of what you’re involved in. That’s what makes you a business person.”
Planning to Succeed
“The reality is that in every business I’ve had, I’ve had to address challenges (including the recent recession) which can be a lot of fun when you find a path to profitable growth,” Beau says. He recalls one case early in his career in which the challenges seemed to keep piling up—one customer shut down, and another halved its number of retail locations to sell the product Beau’s team was responsible for—but he still built a plan and drove a strategy to increase his overall sales by 50% over two years, despite those very significant losses.
To business students, Beau emphasizes that as a leader it is critical to know your business at both the customer (i.e., retailer) and consumer levels. “That knowledge enables you to build a plan based on market opportunities, assume and plan for challenges, and make sure the plan is very clear and visible to your staff and leadership relative to key strategic and financial priorities,” he says. “When you’ve done a good job of developing and explaining the plan, the whole team is aligned and ready to execute, and when you’ve hired the best people with industry experience on your team and equipped them with a well-designed strategy, you’ve got a plan to succeed.”