At Walmart, we love stories. There is just something about them. We enjoy telling them. We remember hearing them. We repeat stories and pass them down. We also write them. Together, we're writing our company's story.
And as I've been visiting stores and clubs this year, I've been reminded that you're all writing your own personal stories. Each of you is building a life and a career for yourselves and for your families. Your life is a story.
All of us will have a day when we take off our badge for the last time. When that day comes, what will we want people to say about us? How do we want our story to read? How do you want your story to read?
Let's talk about what makes for a good story. They have a beginning, middle and an end. They have heroes. And they have villains. A fun story has surprising turning points. My favorites are filled with uncertainty but, in the end, the hero saves the day. The good guys and girls win.
Our company's story is a great one. Sam Walton started Walmart with a purpose and personal values. He offered something new and meaningful for customers, and he made us partners. We are associates, not employees. He believed in humility and continuous improvement. His formula worked and the company grew.
I'm amazed by how many things Sam got right and how his principles have stood the test of time. The foundation that he, Rob, and those who came before us built stands strong. And to the alum that are with us, we say thank you.
Today, we help hundreds of millions of customers save money and live better every week - on 5 continents and now 28 countries.
As we do that, we, as associates, get to have good jobs and build careers. With hard work and determination, you can exceed your highest expectations here. I'm so proud of the work we've done this year to demonstrate how we've always felt about our own associates, our team.
As associates, not only do we personally benefit, but we know we're making a difference in our communities and around the globe. A decade ago, we started a new chapter in our company's story when we decided to engage more deeply on sustainability. We realized that we could think more holistically and make choices that would make a real difference for people and the planet.
We now get 26% of our electricity from renewable sources like solar and wind. We're helping to make products, and the packaging they’re sold in, more sustainable by working closely with our suppliers. And we now keep about 75% of our waste materials out of landfills. We want to show that a business can grow in size and reduce its environmental impact at the same time.
All of this work is good for our business. We know that as we serve our customers well and act responsibly, we will also reward Shareholders. All the pieces come together. We added more than $9 billion in sales last year to reach $482 billion, with $27 billion dollars in profit. That allowed us to add more than 500 new stores and clubs and to return more than $7 billion to shareholders. And we've continued to make significant investments in two areas that will drive our future - our people and our technology.
We're benefitting as associates, rewarding our shareholders, and strengthening our company.
Chapters to Come
That's the story we've written so far. And it is nowhere near the end. In fact, if we do the right things, we're still in the early chapters.
So let's look ahead. In our story, the hero is you - our associates. We aren't more powerful than a locomotive or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. (If any of you are, please find me after the meeting.) We do have superpowers, though, and they are real. They're our passion, our commitment to our customers, our caring for one another. Really, our superpowers are those that help us make someone's day better, their life better.
Our story has a love interest - we love our customers. We want to win their hearts and minds. I'll bet that's how many of you earned the opportunity to be here this week.
Let me tell you about two of our heroes I've met this year. Maria Theresa Porras is an associate with Sam's Club in Mexico. I met her in April where she was on the sales floor making these fresh, hot, sweet donuts. They were so good. She runs a great bakery. During the year she's been the club's bakery leader, sales have grown 20%!
Just a couple of weeks ago, I met Ann Dong in our Neighborhood Market in Bellevue, Washington. Her passion for customers was obvious. She's got a very positive spirit about her and lights up everyone she comes into contact with. She hands out stickers to kids in her self-checkout lanes - and she is even known to sing to our customers.
Now, this story of ours also has a plot twist. Our customers are changing how they shop, and technology is opening up exciting new ways to serve them. Everywhere we operate, we're seeing an increasing demand for convenience. Customers want to save both money and time.
That's true of millennials in particular. 85% of US millennials use a smartphone. The vast majority of them sleep with it within reach. One recent study says that eight in 10 are using their phone while shopping in store. We're seeing it in our stores. To win with them, we want to blend seamlessly into their lives - to help them get what they want and need and to enjoy doing so.
We've always said we run our business one store at a time. That's still true. But it's becoming more than that. It's now one customer at a time. One customer can shop with us in so many different ways - in stores, on their phones, at home, at a pickup point. But they just think they're shopping at Walmart, at Asda or at Sam's Club.
I want us to stop talking about digital and physical retail as if they're two separate things. The customer doesn't think of it that way, and we can't either. Customers just want us to solve their everyday problems with an easy, seamless shopping experience. We'll give them what they want - and things they haven't even dreamed of yet.
Of course, a good story needs a villain. Now, you might think I'm planning to paint some of our competitors as the villains. While that would be fun and it would get our competitive juices flowing, the truth is the real villains are lurking within the company.
We're threatened much more by the things we control than those outside our influence. Our real villains are things like bureaucracy, complacency, a lack of speed or a lack of passion.
I can't stand those things. Let's fight those villains together! Our business is not very complicated. With the right attitude, teamwork, and common sense, we'll defeat the bad guys and win the customers' hearts. We've got to make this business simpler and faster.
We have strong competitors, but they don't have what we do. They don't have you: 2 million associates who want to make a difference. Think about the map of our locations. No one else has that incredible network around the world. Now think about our supply chain and experienced logistics team. I get excited about what our technology team is now capable of. As we add new capabilities and join these unique assets together effectively, we're going to have something special.
We're starting to see what it'll become. A few weeks ago, I was in one of our supermarkets, a Superama, near Mexico City. It was a great store with an awesome seafood counter and fresh area. In the back of the store, we had quite a few busy associates picking and delivering orders for home delivery. A week later, I was in Shanghai and had the chance to go out on customer deliveries to apartments in the city. Our customers love what we're doing there.
And, of course, you met Kortney earlier. We talked to a few of our Denver customers recently and asked them to create collages of their lives before and after they started using our pickup service. Here's what a mom named Leslie came up with. Here's the "before" picture. And here's the "after." She's now Wonder Woman. We helped Leslie become the hero in her own story!
So here's the plan: We'll save customers money on their everyday needs with an easy shopping experience powered by people and technology. We'll offer: Value - everyday low prices. Convenience - we'll be there when and where they want us. Merchandise: We'll have the items they want and continue to be great merchants. An easy experience - simple and fun. We'll win one customer at a time.
We're approaching this work with both urgency and determination. We're moving fast to exceed our customers' expectations, while making purposeful choices that will position us for the long haul. This is a turning point in our story, and the investments we're making today will set the stage for strong and sustainable growth.
So now let's talk more about you. Your story isn't finished. What do you want it to be? There's incredible opportunity here. I run into associates all the time who say something like, "I just wanted a summer job and didn't intend to be here long. But it's now been 15 years, and I've had so many opportunities." Walmart is a ladder of opportunity that anyone can climb.
I'm thinking of people like William Que, who showed us around some stores in Shanghai a few weeks ago. William has made a career with us through dedication and hard work. Today, he manages 86 stores and is known as a passionate leader and an item merchant. I met William the first time a little over a year ago, and what really blew me away on this recent visit was that he'd learned English since I'd seen him last!
Walmart should be a place where anyone can grow, advance, and write a better story than you might've imagined.
So how do you do that? I want to spend a minute being very clear about the things we're looking for, because the way you act and lead matters - this is how we defeat the villains.
First, I want you to be obsessed with serving customers. Ryan Pollock started with us as an overnight stocker. He then climbed the ladder: Department Manager, Assistant Manager, Shift Manager. Just three months ago, he became a store manager in Hillsboro, Texas.
When he arrived, his store's customer service numbers were the second lowest in the division. So he changed things up. He started a practice he'd learned at his previous store called "Code Sam." Every mid-afternoon, he calls a "Code Sam" to his team, and that's everyone's cue to approach customers and ask for feedback. They write down the feedback, talk about it as a team, and figure out how to solve customer problems. And it's working.
Folks, I'm calling a "Code Sam." We all need to find our own version of what Ryan's team is doing - our own ways of listening to customers and keeping them at the center of everything we do. Running better stores today and inventing the future both start by being customer-driven.
Second, our company needs to listen to those on the frontline. And if your job is face to face with customers every day, you need to speak up. We get our best ideas from each other. We always have. Everything we do should be for only one purpose: to help you serve customers. You are the heroes of this story; Home Office associates are just your backup, your support system. We are all to be servant leaders.
Third, we need to act in ways our kids will be proud of. This means we'll act with integrity in everything we do. It's pretty simple: If you can't look your child in the eye and be proud of what you're doing, then you shouldn't do it. There's no business result that's worth more than your personal integrity or our company's. We'd rather have a bad financial result than take a shortcut.
Another way to make our families proud is to lead on social and environmental issues. We want to influence the way business works, reshape the supply chains we work in, and do good in the world. Take food, for example. As the population grows to more than 9 billion people by 2050, the world will need to produce food in more sustainable ways. So we're working with farmers - small and large - to look at things like water and fertilizer use, greenhouse gas emissions, and waste. Together we'll reduce the true cost of food production for both people and the planet.
Finally, we need to dial up our personal expectations. Striving for excellence means we make things happen. It means we overcome bureaucracy and mediocrity. It means we hold ourselves and each other accountable for action and results. It means we move with speed as a team!
We can be like those scrappy rebels in Star Wars, fighting an insurgency against the galactic empire. I can hear the music in my head…
So now the stories come together - your story and your company's story. There's so much opportunity here. So much we can do for customers and for each other.
And it's up to us. We will write these next few chapters together. We can predetermine our legacy.
As long as we wear the badge, it comes with a responsibility to make this place better.
Let's be the heroes our customers need. And let's write a story our kids and grandkids will want to hear.