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Pung Speaker Series: Leading corporate-level strategy in an evolving world

By Vivian Tran, student writer
Monday, April 24, 2023

Doug DeMartin (B.A. Finance ’08), director of corporate strategy at Steelcase, served as the latest guest in the Roy S. Pung Executive Speaker Series. Steelcase is the leading manufacturer of furniture for offices, hospitals and classrooms, all of which are inspired by innovative research in workspace design. Along with his presentation to a classroom of Michigan State students, DeMartin brought a case study to get the Spartans thinking like a real corporate strategist.

In addition to his expertise at Steelcase, DeMartin gained broad strategic and operational experience across a range of industries such as health care, retail and consumer goods from his tenure at Bain & Company and at integrated global pharmaceutical company Celgene. During his time at MSU, DeMartin was a star athlete on the men’s soccer team and went on to play professionally for the Portland Timbers before transitioning to a business career.

Since joining Steelcase in 2019, DeMartin has been a part of the corporate strategy team. He helped spearhead the company’s adaptative initiatives and helped navigate the unprecedented challenges brought about in the past few years.

“What I do oftentimes is help the team think through ‘What are the right choices to make?’ ‘What are the markets that can help differentiate us and align with our capabilities?’” he said.

DeMartin shared insights about the fundamentals of business strategy, which he defined as “a cohesive set of choices that differentiate a company from its competitors.” This includes identifying where to play, how to win and the capabilities and management systems needed to execute the strategy successfully.

“Strategy is really about all the choices you’re making as a business,” he said. “The whole idea behind how the strategy cascade works is it’s supposed to be circular, and all these choices are supposed to connect, and there should be a clear thread that goes throughout the company.”

With a background in consulting and experience in analytics and marketing roles, DeMartin became equipped with the skills to lead Steelcase’s strategy amid the challenges of the pandemic. He discussed how he has been able to approach Steelcase with a creative lens and emphasized the learning opportunity that comes with pursuing consulting, advising students to look for companies that are growing and that truly interest them.

The whole idea behind how the strategy cascade works is it’s supposed to be circular, and all these choices are supposed to connect, and there should be a clear thread that goes throughout the company.
Doug DeMartin

DeMartin’s interactive case study on Steelcase’s strategy during the pandemic gave students a glimpse of what he encounters on the job and provided an open dialogue about how Steelcase thinks through their strategy. Several of the students’ ideas were ones DeMartin and his team also considered during the pandemic, including leveraging business-to-business relationships to pivot to business-to-business-to-consumer in order to gain exposure to work-from-home consumers.

As the future of corporate workspace continuously evolves, DeMartin said, Steelcase envisions creating new products to reimagine the office space with technology partners such as Microsoft. Despite the challenges he and the company have faced, DeMartin remains optimistic about the future and looks forward to navigating Steelcase toward continued success.

More information on upcoming events in the 2022–23 Pung Speaker Series, as well as information on past events, is available at the Full-Time MBA program page.

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