Rick Souder, Crutchfield: Leading with Credibility

Rick Souder, COO and executive vice president of merchandising at Crutchfield, spent his early working years in management positions at The Gap and U.S. Shoe Corporation. While he valued the experience he gained there, he’ll tell you there’s nothing in the apparel business that matches the excitement of selling consumer electronics.

So he followed his passion in 1987, joining Circuit City as a buyer in training and moving up the corporate ladder to vice president and general merchandise manager, a position with responsibility for an A/V and mobile business that was worth about $5 billion in its day.

But at that point, the job became more about people than about product as Souder led a team of 150 whose activities supported the livelihoods of 30,000 others. When he joined Crutchfield, he brought those “people” skills with him, continuing his legacy of leadership there in 2003, just as the crossroads of brick-and-mortar retailing and ecommerce were intersecting.

“Rick is a natural leader, which is something I have heard from many who have worked with him,” David Workman, PRO Group’s executive director and COO, said of Souder, one of the buying group’s board members. “He’s earned the respect from all who have dealt with him and has earned this from both his time at Circuit City and Crutchfield. He is always thoughtful, and brings a broad perspective to any discussion we have at PRO.”

At Crutchfield, that broad view has served Souder well. His wealth of retailing experience has melded well with the DNA of a company that has a storefront but made its name in catalog CE retailing and was, for many vendors, their first authorized Internet dealer when it established an online identity in 1995. “We had a long heritage, from the catalog, of communicating with people when you’re not standing in front of the product,” Souder explained. “That skill as the customer’s main source of information helped us well, and it transitioned to the Internet.”

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