Mike Duke stepped away from the day-to-day leadership of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Saturday, (Feb. 1) after five years and some of the most profitable times for the retailer in decades.
Though Duke did not grant any outside media interviews, the company’s internal communications department did release a question and answer format they conducted with Duke in mid-January. Wal-Mart World made that interview public this week.
Duke said in that interview he will continue as a consultant to Doug McMillon over the next year and he will retain his board seat indefinitely to help with the smooth transition, according to company protocol. When asked about the retailer’s biggest opportunity in the next five years, Duke spoke of urgency.
“We have to move even faster, with real speed and urgency, to exceed the expectations that our customers have in how they want to shop. Technology is driving so much change. It’s at the intersection of e-commerce and physical stores where Walmart can serve customers better than any other global retailer,” Duke said in the interview.
He was asked about any advice he might give Doug McMillon. Duke answered, “You may not have enough ink for my answer. But if I could boil it down to one thing, and this is the best advice I got when I became CEO, it is to be yourself. A different role doesn’t mean you should be a different person. You got the job because of who you are, and you will succeed because of who you are. Doug is a fantastic leader. And he has succeeded because he is real, authentic, and trusted. He just needs to be himself.”
Just four other people on the planet have had the opportunity to follow Sam’s Walton’s lead as CEO of the company he founded a half century ago. Duke was asked what he most admired about Sam Walton?
“I’ll mention two things. First, he led with integrity, which is the foundation for everything. If you have integrity, you can be trusted. Without it, you won’t be able to lead. Second, I admire how Sam was able to put the emphasis on customers and on associates serving customers. He was clearly so good at communicating in an informal, approachable, and meaningful way.,” Duke responded.
Duke was also asked to share his proudest accomplishment in his 19 years at the company.
“I’ve seen so many associates – men and women at all levels across our company – learn, grow, and take on bigger roles. If I made even a tiny contribution to encourage that development, to help someone truly excel in his or her job and better serve our customers then that makes me very proud,” Duke answered.
Lastly, Duke said he plans to be out and about in stores and clubs more, which is has been one his favorite aspects of the job.
“I have great memories of visiting associates in the stores, talking with customers in their homes, and representing the company in front of global leaders. It’s been hard work but a great honor and joy,” he said.