At the time of writing, Arden Costen is just days into his new role as director of facilities management for Dollar Tree. Speaking just a week before his new job was set to begin was an incredible moment to check in with the veteran of both the US Navy and retail facilities—the Navy for 24 years and facilities management for the past 17 years.
Dollar Tree sought out Costen to help build out its burgeoning facilities team. The merging of Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, an acquisition that dates back to 2015 and only continues to grow in 48 states and 5 Canadian provinces, places the new director in the driver’s seat of a massive operation, one he’s excited to tackle.
The excitement of a new job has to compete with a fair level of heartbreak Costen is still feeling about those who aren’t as lucky as him. The director’s mantra, for as long as he can remember, has been “reach one, teach one” with a penchant for bringing up new talent and trying to act as a role model for all who hope to thrive in the construction and facilities space.
As he worked to help keep Bed Bath & Beyond facilities operating amid bankruptcy, liquidation, and selloff to Overstock in 2023, Costen knew countless good people who wouldn’t be as actively sought out as him for their next opportunity.
“The thing that hurts me most about leaving is those great, great employees who have been there for 30 or 40 years,” Costen reflects. “They lost their jobs, and it has nothing to do with their performance. They were amazing. It was decisions made over their head. I was able to land on my feet, and I know there are others who haven’t been that fortunate.”
The final days of Bed Bath & Beyond were as hectic as one might assume. Costen says he learned a tremendous amount about working creatively, focusing funds, and thinking outside the box in a way he’d never had to before. Toward the end, he was working off a spreadsheet, speaking daily with vendors about late payments and just how he could continue to keep stores operational with virtually no budget to speak of. The facilities veteran wasn’t being asked to do more with less; he was being told to do everything with nothing.
“The stores were still open,” Costen says with an understandable level of frustration. “They still needed services, and I was having to call vendors to ask them if we could pay them in a week. Obviously, things eventually went downhill pretty quickly.”
In coming to Dollar Tree, Costen says he’s been given wide latitude to build out his role. After an extensive interview process, the director was selected for his strong résumé of retail facilities management, but one has to expect the ingenuity displayed in his most challenging career moment also has something to do with his hiring.
Costen’s willingness to set himself up for a challenge is well documented. Coming out of the Navy, Costen wasn’t sure where he belonged in the corporate world. His last week of active duty, he attended a job fair for those looking to transition into the civilian world.
“I have to be honest,” he says with a laugh. “They were instructing us on how to dress for job interviews, and I just completely checked out. It seemed to go on forever.” It had. The presenter following the speech had almost no time to talk, but mentioned if veterans with skills were looking for their next challenge, to come see him. Costen did.
Eventually, he found himself interviewing for a job with CVS, which had just consolidated its entire facilities team in-house. It’s where Costen would spend almost fourteen years managing facility services for 2,500 CVS stores, 200 Target Pharmacies, and other Omnicare and infusion service locations.
“I didn’t know anything about retail facilities,” Costen admits. “But I worked with great people who taught me and mentored me. I was a sponge. I’m still a sponge, all these years later.”
The director’s penchant from soaking up the best of those around him is uneasy about being the smartest guy in the room. Even if it’s the reality, Costen says he works overtime to get those working under him to offer up their ideas.
“I might be making the decision, but they’re the ones who have to execute,” the director explains. “That’s why I need all the people at the table willing to share their ideas. That’s how you make the best and most-informed decision.”
Costen is a coach, a mentor, and operates with the assumption that no one is trying to do their job poorly. That said, the rubber eventually meets the road. He is known for “keeping my vendor base hot,” as he describes it. That is to say, he refuses to let complacency set in. Those who keep up will likely be seeing work along with his transition to Dollar Tree.
“Arden Costen, a remarkable client, exemplifies true leadership by consistently adding value to his team in the most productive and cost-effective manner,” says Bill Schaphorst, vice president of business development at MaintenX International. “His unwavering commitment to excellence sets a powerful example for others to follow.”
How’s it going so far at Dollar Tree? Probably not even Costen knows yet.
It’s too early to tell, but given his track record, it’s easy to assume Dollar Tree will continue its expansion emboldened by a veteran who is always endeavoring to learn something new.
The combination of MaintenX and Arden over the last decade has been a smooth problem-solving relationship. MaintenX looks forward to adding value to the facilities in his care in the future. Arden is a true professional!