All-American kicker, former Walmart exec leads SupplierLife

by Jeff Della Rosa ( 1,432 views 

Before starting a 25-year career with Walmart, Kendall Trainor, seen here wearing No. 22, was an All-American placekicker for the University of Arkansas. His 24 consecutive field goals in 1988 is a school record. (photo courtesy University of Arkansas)

The second time he met Sam Walton, former University of Arkansas placekicker Kendall Trainor was still looking to make it in the NFL. The Walmart Inc. founder told the 1988 All-American placekicker about an opportunity to work for the retail giant.

Trainor inquired about the offer but didn’t realize it was for a full-time position. At first, he took a temporary warehouse position, allowing him time to continue to work out in the afternoon.

“I’d been so close and had good camps and felt like I was good enough to play,” he said. “But like many others, it’s just about getting that break. There’s a lot of great players that never played in the NFL.”

About halfway through the 90-day temporary position, he signed on full time with Walmart. It was the start of a more than 25-year career with the retailer, which ended in October 2017 when he left the company. Trainor then spent some time as a consultant for suppliers before he joined Bentonville-based Firefly Marketing to oversee SupplierLife, a website focused on suppliers. He started with the company Aug. 2, the day the website launched.

In his senior year in 1988, the Fredonia, Kan., native made 24 of 27 field goals, including 24 straight, a UA school record and one short of the national record. He also scored the Razorbacks’ only points in a 17-3 loss to UCLA in the 1989 Cotton Bowl.

Early in the season of the highlight year, he had missed three field goals and was concerned he would be replaced by a freshman placekicker, his toughest competition. But when he announced to his team that he wouldn’t miss again, he didn’t. He said telling the team and holding himself accountable to the goal went beyond setting a goal and writing it down.

Former University of Arkansas placekicker Kendall Trainor of Rogers recently was hired to oversee supplier information website SupplierLife. In 1988, Trainor was named to the All-American team that included players such as quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Barry Sanders and defensive back Deion Sanders.

It was a life lesson: Make a goal public and do everything possible to make it happen.

In 1989, he was drafted in the ninth round by the Phoenix Cardinals and played preseason games, but was cut before the regular season started.

He also spent time with Sacramento and the New York/New Jersey franchises in the World League of American Football. After a handful of other NFL opportunities didn’t pan out, Trainor gave up his pursuit of professional football in 1992 and started working for Walmart in store operations.

Since he moved here for college, Northwest Arkansas has been his home, but he traveled a lot as a district manager in Pennsylvania and regional manager over stores in the Midwest. He recalled the area in Pennsylvania in which he’d worked reminded him of Northwest Arkansas.

After working in store operations for about eight years, he went on to work in IT development for Walmart. The operations positions gave him the opportunity to lead an IT team without being an expert in the field. Through his experience, he could better interpret the needs of customers in order to improve the company’s systems.

Before he transferred from IT development as senior director of replenishment systems into more of a business role, he and a co-worker pitched the idea for a global replenishment system, dubbed the Global Replenishment Solution.

The goal was to save the company from having to add 100 people to the replenishment team, and the idea would take the company from various replenishment systems to a uniform system internationally. Walmart executive John Westling put Trainor in charge of implementing it, and Trainor said it was a project that was completed over eight years under the leadership of several CEOs. He considered the project a career highlight and compared it to doing open heart surgery while running a marathon.

Before he left Walmart last fall, he was senior director in merchandising and supply chain and had worked on a project to find the best ways to use the company’s assets, taking the retailer into the next generation. Out of the project, Next Generation Supply Chain, he and the retailer’s suppliers would co-develop on-time and in-full. The company initiative set delivery requirements on goods from suppliers.

“It’s definitely caused a stir in the industry,” Trainor said.

His work on the project gave him the opportunity to work directly with suppliers, and after he left Walmart he was consulting for suppliers. As a consultant, he noticed a lack of information for vendors in Northwest Arkansas and met Tim Whitaker, who developed the SupplierLife website. One of its key features, the Supplier Concierge, provides a list of businesses that are dedicated to suppliers, including categories such as event services, e-commerce agencies, distributors and conference centers.

The website also includes an event calendar, which incorporates the Walmart calendar and includes meetings like the Supplier Summit, Year Beginning Meeting and holiday show. Other features include an anonymous forum and a news section, which aggregates news stories related to Walmart.

“This is the only outlet that is free and exists specifically to help suppliers calling on Walmart,” Trainor said. “I’m excited and proud to create this partnership with suppliers and the local businesses that support them. It’s a great way to combine my passion for the supplier community and for providing them with solutions or answers to their many questions when working with Walmart.”

Trainor lives near Beaver Lake in Rogers and has three children, including a daughter who plays volleyball for the UA.