Every June, thousands of associates from Walmart locations all over the world are invited to Arkansas for our annual Shareholders meeting. And all of them have a story. Read on for personal perspectives from a few of this year’s attendees in this second edition of Walmart on the Street.
When forecasting warned that record rainfall could be coming to Louisiana, a team at Walmart’s home office did what they always do when severe weather is imminent: Pull together the right people to prepare for help.
Because there are about 30 Walmart stores and Sam’s Club locations in the Baton Rouge area where the flooding eventually hit, the company’s Emergency Operations Center had a responsibility to local associates and communities. Logistics, operations, and merchandising teams assembled quickly, first mapping alternate routes for trucks delivering to stores in and around Louisiana and ramping up shipments of diapers, bottled water and other essentials.
While some stores and clubs closest to Baton Rouge did have to close their doors because of flood damage, most have reopened now. Ensuring that corporate functions and teams on the ground can work together to make that happen is at the heart of the EOC’s role.
Formed in the early 2000s following 9/11, Walmart’s EOC was established to support associates and local communities in times of need. Whether it’s securing generators to restore power to facilities or acting as a call center so that associates and community members can locate and assist one another, the EOC is the hub that helps Walmart locations provide a sense of normalcy when disaster strikes.
With the recent Louisiana flooding displacing thousands of people from their homes, Walmart and the Walmart Foundation have committed $1.5 million to organizations making a difference on the ground. Learn more about those efforts here.
Since 1997, Luke McCollum has lived somewhat of a double life, holding careers at both Walmart and the Navy Reserve.
While a retail role and a government job may seem like an unlikely pairing, he says the blending of both worlds is what has prepared him well for an exciting next step: Navy Vice Admiral, where he’ll serve as the Commander of America’s Navy Reserve Force. This is no small promotion – President Barack Obama had to appoint him to the role.
While this means Luke will be leaving Walmart’s home office in Bentonville, Arkansas, to work solely at the Pentagon, he says Walmart is a big reason why he’s able to take this new step. Why?
As vice president of Walmart’s logistics services, one of Luke’s duties is to oversee new distribution centers coming to life across the U.S. – from picking the location, to seeing it all in action with excited associates. He most recently experienced this with a new fulfillment center in Chino, California, and a new distribution center in Mankato, Minnesota. To Luke, it was exhilarating to see everything unfold, knowing that this would help serve customers better and provide new opportunities for our associates.
While his work and processes at Walmart are different than those at the Navy, he’s found common ground at both organizations in dealing with the large, complex and unpredictable. “In the Navy, we can never get comfortable because it’s always changing,” he said. “It forces us to think differently and strategically. We have to do a lot of that at Walmart, too.”
What Luke enjoys about both of his teams is their desire to learn new things. “I would be sitting in senior meetings in the Navy, and they would ask me how Walmart would solve a problem. The same happened in my Walmart meetings,” he said. “They have the appetite to change and grow. Both have had to evolve over the years. At Walmart, we try to understand how our customers have changed and how we can operate better to serve them. The Navy is no different. They serve a customer, too – the American people and the men and women on active duty.”
Having a really strong support system at home and at work is what has helped Luke hold down two careers. He gives a lot of credit to his family. When most people are heading home for the weekend, Luke has to get on a plane to the Middle East or the Pacific for another full work week. With a 24-hour flight back home and jumping right back into Monday, he doesn’t have much downtime. “You have to know what’s important because you can’t do everything,” he said.
Why do two jobs? For Luke, it’s all about the people. He thrives on seeing people do things they didn’t know they could do. “One of the definitions of leadership is to define reality, provide encouragement on the way and say thank you in between,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do that in both organizations.”
Luke is honored, humbled yet excited to take on this new job.
“I’ll miss my Walmart team, but my experiences here have prepared me well to take this next step,” he said.
When I arrived in Pass Christian, Mississippi, in 2009, I knew putting down roots would come with its share of challenges. A native of Peru, I didn't speak much English and couldn't even help my 9-year-old daughter with her homework. But I was willing to do whatever it took as long as there was an opportunity.
Walmart store #5079 extended me that opportunity as a part-time associate in the deli. Being able to make a living in my new country not only motivated me to learn English, but also pursue my GED certificate so I could better provide for and assist my daughter. Looking back, doors have continued to open for me from the very first day I was hired. I’ve made lifelong friends, earned U.S. citizenship, been promoted to full-time training coordinator, and built a life I'd always envisioned – which includes long walks with my family along the Gulf Coast.
Today, my English – and confidence – have grown so much that I’m pursuing my new dream of becoming a human resources manager with Walmart. Taking inspiration from my store manager, Lynn Day, I’ve started working toward my associate degree through Walmart’s partnership with American Public University.
Encouragement and support from people like Lynn helps me continue to realize my goals. She’s such a great mentor to me – and that’s what I want to become for the people around me.
I believe that knowledge is power. And I believe if I have the knowledge, I have the power to help people.
For Juan Carlos Urquia, there was always an excitement associated with finishing his homework. It meant he could join his father on their small, 3-acre farm in the tiny rural community of Ocotal, almost three hours away from Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras.
As young as 5, he enjoyed helping his father raise and harvest corn, beans and cucumbers more than anything. He immediately sensed the responsibility of producing food people needed to survive. More than three decades later, Juan Carlos still finds joy in the field. Only, these days, his passion has evolved into an opportunity for his extended family and a growing number of others in the community to make a living.
Juan Carlos’ care and attention to detail sparked an opportunity to begin filling orders of several hundred cucumbers per week for Walmart in 2006. That opportunity has since grown to more than 25,000 cucumbers per week, and the family farm has spread to nearly 100 acres.
With access to stores across Honduras, Juan Carlos has created full-time jobs for 20 people, many of them siblings and cousins. And that has created work for nearly 100 others in the community who work to clean, process and transport the cucumbers, tomatoes and onions he grows, as well as those who supply fertilizer and other materials to sustain the operations.
The care was always there, even in the days when Juan Carlos was learning from his father. But, through support from Walmart and other organizations committed to delivering training and best practices to farmers in the areas of sustainable agriculture, efficiency and optimization, they’ve seized an opportunity. In fact, Honduran farmers sold more than $148 million in fruit, vegetables, grains, meats and other perishables to Walmart in 2015. This is equivalent to approximately 6.5% of the national agricultural gross domestic product and helped boost the country’s agricultural exports.
When Juan Carlos was a boy, he and his extended family all lived under his father’s roof. Through their commitment to the farm, he, his siblings and cousins all have their own homes today – and that’s something they’re extremely proud of. They're not just producing food. They're creating opportunity and raising the quality of life for those around them.
Small and medium-sized farmers around the world will be counted on to meet half the increased global demand for food and clothing through the year 2050, and Walmart has committed to specific goals to improve their livelihoods. You can read more about this work in our Global Responsibility Report.