When unexpected events lead him to a crossroads early in his retail technology career, Greg Buzek didn’t give up. Instead, he used his industry knowledge and relationships, (and a leap of faith), to create global research and advisory firm, IHL Consulting Group, Franklin, Tenn.
As IHL celebrates its 10th anniversary, Buzek is nostalgic as he recounts his career. But Buzek is not taking his experience for granted.
An undergraduate student at Ohio State during the 1980s, Buzek studied industrial psychology. While earning his MBA there in 1988, however, Buzek’s interest in computers earned him an internship at NCR. He was responsible for breaking the security of the IBM 4680 system.
NCR offered Buzek a full-time position as product manager in charge of competitive analysis in 1989. “This helped me learn about solutions across the industry—not just one company’s,” he told Retail Technology Quarterly.
In 1993, Sensormatic recruited Buzek, and he became product manager of deactivation products for loss prevention. After a tremendously successful product launch, however, he began to re-evaluate his career options.
“I was dissatisfied with the business world and considered changing careers completely,” he explained.
An active member of his church, Buzek considered going to Bible college and leaving for a mission in Liberia, Africa. In 1995, Buzek left Sensormatic and began preparing for his journey.
These preparations were short-lived however. A second civil war broke out in Liberia in 1996, and Buzek’s travel plans were grounded. But when NCR colleague Des Martin asked unemployed Buzek to assist with some company press releases, IHL was born.
The IHL evolution: Not many realize that IHL stands for In His Light. “This is my constant reminder of how I put my future in the hands of faith and that I need to ethically make a difference in the industry,” he said.
To uphold his promise and bolster IHL’s reputation, Buzek set out to revamp the quality of industry reports. “I was frustrated by syndicated studies written by companies that didn’t defend the results,” he said.
Along with his associate, Lee Holman, IHL focused on providing reliable analysis “that corporations use to accelerate revenue and expand their market share,” he said.
Over the last 10 years, IHL has become synonymous with its store systems studies. It produces up to 12 syndicated research studies annually.
Buzek further extended IHL’s brand in 2001 with the help of another former NCR alumnus, Tom Lichtford. Charged with expanding Microsoft’s Retail Group’s sales opportunities, Lichtford tapped Buzek to create a data service that tracked the hardware, software, services and key personnel of thousands of retailers.
“This was our jump into data services,” he said. This division now accounts for about 60% of IHL’s employees.
A new service is keeping IHL’s momentum strong. Bothered by retailers’ growing investments in time and capital when making POS decisions, Buzek partnered with C-CORE Consulting Group to introduce the Rapid Project Toolkit to streamline the process.
This framework can cut vendor selections from 12 or 18 months to as short as 60 days. Based on business processes, and pinpointing features from the National Retail Federation’s ARTS standards, the toolkit enables retailers to electronically prioritize their needs and objectively score their potential vendor’s results.
“The framework also helps retailers design training and deployment plans, service levels, contract terminology and more,” Buzek noted. He added that it is being used by many innovative companies, including New York & Company, Coldwater Creek, AMC Theatres, The Pantry and Sobey’s.
Ten more years: Buzek’s favorite projects are those where he “makes a contribution to the industry,” he said. This was evident in his work with PSC Inc., Eugene, Ore.
When the data-capture solutions vendor was on the block earlier in the decade, Buzek was instrumental in convincing venture-capital firms to invest in the company.
“I feel like a kid in a candy store surrounded by data. This insight enabled us to evaluate that PSC was a viable company,” he recalled. “Our recommendations helped save PSC. It was extremely rewarding to be part of that.”
Buzek describes IHL as a journey of faith. “IHL is more than a business. It’s our mission to better our industry and use the profits to better our world,” said Buzek.
Buzek donates profits to support causes for widows and orphans in crisis worldwide. “That’s the bigger picture, and why getting out of bed each day is so much fun,” he added.