How Walmart Became Walmart: Ordinary People Accomplishing Extraordinary Things

and last updated on October 21, 2013 05:46 PM

Walmart Shareholders Meeting 2013

Walmart Shareholders Meeting 2013

Remarks as Prepared for Rob Walton

Good morning, Walmart!

When last we got together like this, I recall that we celebrated our 50th anniversary.

Well today, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the first shareholders meeting of our next 50 years!

Dad would get such a kick out of this celebration.

Number 6 on Dad's list of 10 Rules for Building a Business was "Celebrate Your Successes."

What could be more worthy of celebration than our associates? 

And before I do anything else, I want to say… simply… thank you to every retired and current associate for building a Walmart that has not only lasted, but keeps getting better.

I took another look at Dad's rules for business recently, and do you know that half of the rules were about engaging and appreciating associates?

Dad was a great business man and an even greater merchant, but maybe his most important legacy is that he understood that building a business is above all about building up people.

What drove him right from the beginning was his desire to make life better for people, both for the customer and the associate.

There wasn't much opportunity in small towns across America when he was growing up during the hard times of the Great Depression.  People in these parts, like in many rural areas, simply didn't have a choice of merchandise or prices.  And there weren't a lot of jobs. 

Dad wanted to do something about that.

He understood that if we help people be the best they can be, then they will go on to make life better for their families, their customers, and their communities. 

That's why he was always on the lookout for talent and ideas everywhere.

And the truth is he'd often spend a lot more time with the store associates than he would with the store manager.

When he visited stores, one of the first things he'd often do is hit the break room with all the associates, and start asking them questions about what they thought their customers needed and what they needed from the business.

He listened. ....really listened. 

Dad had a real knack for seeing something special in people.

He didn't define "special" as fancy titles or degrees or years of experience, although he respected all of those things.

He'd look for certain qualities that went on to define our culture.

Do they walk the talk of our values?  Respect, excellence, service, and acting with integrity.

Do they have a drive to always improve and get better?

He would push them hard, give them the opportunity to grow, and become more than they ever thought they could become. 

As Dad put it: "That's how Walmart became Walmart - ordinary people joined together to accomplish extraordinary things."

Every step of the way, it's been our people… living our culture... who have taken Walmart to the next level again and again.

Today, we have managers running operations 10 times bigger than what we managed in the early days.

A single associate has more product data and technology at their fingertip than the entire company did in the 1970s.

Mobile and ecommerce are now a big part of how we serve the customer and growing every day. 

And we have leaders in Mike Duke and the entire leadership team that keep our culture strong and are moving it forward.

And the powerful thing about it is, you don't have to be Sam Walton.

It started with people here in the Ozarks, but as we've grown around the world we've seen that the values and culture are timeless and universal.

As long as there are people who are reaching for a better life… as long as there are associates who live the culture and values, the opportunities before us are endless. 

If dad were here today, he would just marvel at all you've accomplished.

But he wouldn't be surprised.

He believed in you. 

The Board and the entire management team believes in you. 

And I do, too.

Thank you.

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