On my first day as CEO, I put on the black pants, black shoes, and red shirt that our associates wear and headed to our Brighton store. We opened the very first Staples store in Brighton, Massachusetts, in 1986, and by going there, I tried to rally the Staples troops around a concept that I call “Back to Brighton.” It’s a message to our organization that we’re going to refocus on our core customer base: the small-business customer.

The economic slowdown caused Staples to re-examine every aspect of its business. Over the years, we started catering to the more casual customer. But that’s not where the money is, and that’s not what we’re really good at. Now we’ve stopped carrying about 600 items that appealed to the casual customer and added 650 to 700 items that apeal to the small-business customer instead. We put more into direct marketing, upgraded our Web site, and doubled our direct-sales force in four months. We took the money that we had put into advertising and reinvested it in training, and we added more staff to our stores. hese are important changes. I’m not sure we would have looked in the mirror so carefully if not for the slowed economy.

RON SARGENT made the transition from COO of Staples to CEO last February.