The 2016 Top 25 Consultants: Al Sambar


Al Sambar Kurt Salmon Excellence in Retail

Al Sambar’s colleagues at Kurt Salmon say he’s “a true dichotomy,” that is, “half visionary, innovative thinker, half pragmatic planner and business leader, seamlessly melded together in one mind.” Clients say it’s this unique combination that makes him among the most impressive consultants in North America and globally. High praise to be sure. Now, in addition to the obvious esteem from his clients and peers, Sambar can add a Top 25 Consultants Award as a feather in his cap.

Ask Sambar what he’s most proud of over the last 12 months and he says it starts with the work Kurt Salmon has done with clients around the globe, which include some of the top names in retail and consumer goods.

He says he takes preserving Kurt Salmon’s brand reputation, which goes back 85 years, as a personal obligation, and that it’s been a big point of pride to see investments and modernization initiatives made by the company come to fruition, particularly in the areas of digital and innovation. Sambar calls 2015 “a breakout year for innovation” at Kurt Salmon.

Maintaining his level of success, Sambar says, comes down to mentoring and not being afraid to take risks.

“I’m simply a product of good mentoring by those who went before me and of supportive colleagues who pick me up when I fall short. I am exceptionally grateful for my mentors at Kurt Salmon, who provided countless hours of coaching and guidance. I would not be where I am today without them,” he says

“I’m also a bit of a risk-taker, open to trying new things even if I don’t always have the precisely applicable experience. While scary at times, this fearlessness has pushed me to consider and attempt new challenges most others wouldn’t. As a result, I’ve been able to do more with my career than I ever anticipated. The past 20-plus years have been a whirlwind, and I’m excited about what comes next!”

Sambar says as he gets older he gets more satisfaction from the journey than from the end prize. “A terrifically complex challenge that requires all your skills of intellect and emotion to resolve is a great gift. Thankfully, retail is filled with these challenges!”

Like so many of our winners, Sambar thrives in an environment of problem solving and where he can find opportunities to lead change, especially if he learns something new in the process.

“I’ll also admit to having a short fuse for repetitive work. We leave most projects a hero after we start out as a goat…just another consultant who has to prove his worth. I still enjoy that challenge, vastly preferring it to repeated management of something I’ve already mastered.”

Winning the Top 25 Consultants Award is both humbling and an honor, Sambar says.

“The award demonstrates the creative thinking each and every one of us does in service to our clients. I look forward to seeing how my colleagues continue to innovate and disrupt the status quo in the years to come.”

What achievements are you most proud of in your career? 

“When I first entered the field as a project consultant, I worked with many junior executives who were also just cutting their teeth on the client side. It’s been a distinct honor to grow and learn with this same group over the past 20-plus years, many of whom have gone on to become senior retail executives. I am very proud of these long-lasting relationships and that I am able to call many of them my friends, not just my clients. Essentially, their and their companies’ successes are my successes.”