After starting work at FedMart as a bagger in 1954, Jim Sinegal discovered that he loved the retail business, and quickly worked his way up to become the company’s executive vice president.

He then worked in similar roles for several companies, including the Price Company and Chamberlin & Associates.

Together with Seattle retailer Jeff Brotman, he co-founded Costco, and, from 1983 until his January 2012 retirement, Sinegal was Costco’s president and chief executive. He remains on Costco’s board of directors.

Sinegal was a protégé of the legendary Sol Price, widely considered to be the “father” of the “warehouse store” concept. As of 2014, Costco was the second largest retailer in the United States and the third largest in the world, and had the largest membership of any warehouse club chain in the US.

Key achievements

  • A 2012 CNBC documentary stated that from 1985 until Sinegal’s retirement, the value of Costco’s stock had increased by 5,000%.
  • Sinegal, through Costco, provided his employees with compensation and benefits that were much higher than retail industry norms.
  • In 2009, Mr Sinegal was considered one of “The Top Gun CEOs” by Brendan Wood International, an advisory agency.

Lessons for your store

  1. “You have to take the shit with the sugar” – a favourite quote attributed to Sinegal on his philosophy on dealing with success.
  2. Be accessible – Sinegal’s offices were in the hallway at Costco’s headquarters.
  3. Treat your employees well –  Costco is well known for offering above-average pay for warehouse-store workers.