Walmart boss says company ‘can’t get comfortable’ with recent success

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,024 views 

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon challenged the 2.2 million employees around the world to go for the gold like Simone Biles, win championships like NFL quarterback Peyton Manning, or NBA star Michael Jordan. He said focusing on past success is not a ticket to future prosperity.

McMillon made the challenge at the company’s 54th annual shareholders meeting held at the University of Arkansas’ Bud Walton Arena on Friday (June 7). Around 14,000 Walmart employees, shareholders and others attended the event and millions streamed online.

Dylan Beard of North Carolina is a Walmart employee, a recent college graduate, and an Olympic qualifier. Beard joined McMillon on stage. McMillon said Beard’s personal best run in the trials is a great example of reaching full potential.

He asked Manning, the host of the event, the secret to his success, setting goals and attaining championships and reaching his full potential.

“Well, Doug, for me it all goes back to preparation because that’s where I thought I could get an edge on the competition. … When I was in high school I was influenced by a quote my dad gave me from Pittsburg Steelers head coach Chuck Noll who said, ‘You only feel pressure when don’t know what you are doing.’ That drove me to always know what I was doing,” Manning answered.

McMillon said one of his greatest fears is that Walmart might become complacent because of the strong results in the past year. Because it has happened in Walmart’s past. McMillon said the executive team have confidence that Walmart has the ability to grow short-term, mid-term and long-term because of investments in the business.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon speaks to the media Friday (June 7) following the shareholders meeting in Fayetteville.

“We can’t get comfortable. … Over time we want to be here and there are many areas where we can improve to reach our full potential. It’s hammer down and pedal to the floor because customers are always rational and you only get what you earn,” McMillon told analysts in the question and answer session following the main event.

Chief Financial Officer John David Rainey said Walmart’s diversified income base continues to allow for investments needed in supply chain efficiency, new stores and remodels all while returning equity to shareholders. Since 2021 Walmart has spent $1 billion on career training for employees and raised pay 30% over the past five years.

“We don’t want to have to catch up in two or three years because we under-invested in infrastructure and people. We feel like because of the strength we have across the business we can make the needed investments as we go along,” Rainey said.

He spoke with the media at the conclusion of the day’s events and said this week is always emotional for him as 40 years ago this week when his first day on the job at Walmart was to set up the shareholder meeting in the Bentonville High School gym. He said he was in a cherry-picker lift hanging banners in the gym.

When asked how Walmart justified the money it takes to hold the week-long event for employees. McMillon said the week pays dividends because many employees build relationships and often see themselves advancing up the career ladder. He said during his career he has had many mentors inside and outside the company.

“When I was promoted to Sam’s Club CEO, I called Steve Reinemund of Pepsi and on our board, and A.G. Lafley, CEO of P&G, and said I needed help. They both came down and met with me,” McMillon told Talk Business & Politics.

He said inside the company there were many mentors but he mentioned Don Harris in merchandising, and more than anyone else, David Glass, who took over as CEO when Sam Walton died in 1992.

“David’s wisdom and kindness and his willingness to take risks were amazing. If you are ever curious about that go to a Fortune article from April 1996 that criticizes David heavily because he was taking the company from the discount store business into the grocery business, expanding Sam’s and going internationally at the same time. The article basically said he was making a big mistake and taking the company in the wrong direction. Those things I just mentioned paved the path to what Walmart is today,” McMillon said.

The Walton children, Rob, Alice and Jim each year select one employee who best exemplifies entrepreneurship within their role at Walmart. The annual Sam M. Walton Entrepreneur of the Year award went to Tony Gonino, market manager in Dearborn, Mich.