Clorox Executive Says, You Really Cant Sell Walmart

by Jennifer Joyner ([email protected]) 426 views 

It’s been about eight years since longtime Clorox Co. executive Ed Huber moved from Northwest Arkansas, and he still misses living 20 minutes from Beaver Lake. 

“That’s just unheard of to be able to be that close to something so beautiful,” Huber said. “That was my happy place. There’s not many prettier places than that in the country.”

At the same time, there are definite perks to living in the San Francisco Bay Area.

“I can be in the mountains in three hours and enjoy world-class skiing in the winter, and then I can come back and be an hour away from Monterrey and be on some breathtaking beach,” Huber said.

On the professional side, both regions have benefits to the consumer packaged goods community.

Whereas Northwest Arkansas offers an advantage in proximity to Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Clorox’s California-based headquarters offers Huber more access to the tech world.

“From my office I can look right across to San Francisco. All the technology changes that are influencing our industry, they’re right there in the backyard,” said Huber, who has worked with Clorox for 25 years.

The evolution of technology represents the biggest transformation in Huber’s career since he was named one of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 members in 2003.

“It’s really changed the way you build your brands,” he said. “It’s not a matter of just simply making pretty packaging and a nice television commercial anymore. You have to have this broader, deeper relationship with the consumer on your brands, and that’s something that 13 years ago we didn’t think as much about.”

Back then, Huber was vice president and global Walmart leader, and he is now vice president, general manager, in charge of the Glad and Brita business units, operating on a larger scale in many ways.

“The numbers are bigger,” he said, “but the core elements that I learned in Bentonville around building a good business plan with a retailer are still kind of at the core of what I do today.”

To Huber, that element of a close partnership with retailers is key. 

“You really can’t sell Walmart. They’re so big. They’re so influential. If you’re going to be big in Bentonville you have to build a business with Walmart,” he said. “That’s what was pretty special about working in NWA, working with Walmart. You kind of get your Ph.D. in business.”

And Huber took a lot of pride in what he accomplished for Clorox while he worked in Bentonville. The office had a staff of 25, primarily sales people, when he joined in 2001. It had a staff of almost 100, a “truly cross-functional team,” when he left in 2008.

“That was how I could improve the interface between the company and Walmart and Sam’s Club,” Huber said. “I got a lot of pleasure out of making a difference.

“You can ask the people I work with: I’m not Mr. Status Quo. I like to mix it up. I like to take on new challenges,” he added.

Huber grew up in the Midwest and was the first person in his family to go to college, attending Eastern Illinois University for his undergraduate degree and Bradley University for his MBA.

He said part of his motivation to succeed comes from a wish to give back to his children — one daughter is a junior in high school and another is a senior looking to attend Illinois University — what his family afforded him.

In his spare time, Huber likes watching sports, so it was pretty exciting when Brita recently signed Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors as a spokesman. “That’s fanned my fandom even more-so. He’s a really legitimately good guy, so that’s fun,” he said.

He also likes to play golf. “Whenever I’m back in Northwest Arkansas I try to bug the guys to get me back to Pinnacle, because that course keeps getting better and better,” he said. “Also, fly fishing, hiking — anything up in the mountains. Anything dealing with sports or the outdoors, I’m in.”