Mark Henneberger, vice president Shows and Events at Walmart, shares what it takes to make Shareholders week a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for associates, as excerpted from the June 2014 edition of Celebrate Arkansas Magazine.
Celebrate Arkansas Magazine: Tell me a little about the preparation that goes into Shareholders week and the people who make it happen.
Mark Henneberger: We actually start preparing for Shareholders the week after the last meeting, so it’s about a yearlong preparation. We really get focused after the Year Beginning Meetings are done across the country, which is mid-March. Then we are 100% focused on Shareholders. There is a team of 27 associates in the Shows and Events group that lead the effort of Shareholders, but we have hundreds of Home Office associates who volunteer their time to make visiting associates’ stay really memorable. It’s definitely a team effort across the board, and there’s not a department or business unit in the company that doesn’t contribute to making this really successful.
CAM: What kind of experience do you hope the associates will have when they come?
MH: It’s a great opportunity to let our associates from around the world experience the Walmart culture and also the hospitality of northwest Arkansas. I think that this area goes out of its way to embrace the associates who travel. The hope is that they’ll take away a better understanding of what the company is all about and a greater appreciation for who Walmart is and what we try to do every day for customers, associates and communities around the world.
CAM: How many associates attend the meeting and from which countries?
MH: We have representatives from 27 countries who attend. There are approximately 5,000 associates who travel by bus or plane.
CAM: How are the associates who attend chosen?
MH: The countries, stores, clubs and distribution centers are able to select representatives based on customer service, involvement in the community, solid performance or tenure with the company. We also give them the latitude to select associates based on who they feel would best represent their store, club, distribution center or country. We think it’s quite an honor to be selected, and we hope the associates who come go back and become advocates and tell the Walmart story unfiltered.
CAM: What do you hope that associates take away from the meeting?
MH: I think one of the things we really hope associates take away is what this company stands for — that we are a purpose-driven company. Saving people money so they can live better really is more than just a slogan. It’s why we exist, and we try to give them examples of that whether through executive story telling or through other associates telling their stories.
CAM: Can you talk about the talent that it takes to pull off an event like this?
MH: One of the biggest things that makes our Shows and Events team so successful is our focus on the customer, and the customers in this case would be the visiting associates. The goal is to ensure that we do everything possible to see that they have a fantastic time while they’re here. The skill set would be customer service, project management, production expertise and the ability to manage large groups of people. We actually manage quite a few suppliers who come in and help with some of the technical aspects of the event. I just think it’s a really hardworking, creative group.