The Ladder of Opportunity at Walmart

June 05, 2015

Walmart U.S. President and CEO Greg Foran Speaks at the 2015 Walmart Shareholders Meeting

Good morning Walmart! It's wonderful to be here with you!

Thank you, Jean for that introduction. What an inspiring story! Like Jean and many of you, I started my retail career in an hourly role. I was just 15. Do you remember your first day on the job? I'll never forget mine. I was an overnight stocker. I was told to unload 72 boxes an hour in the laundry detergent aisle. 

To save time, instead of stacking the boxes into a pile, I figured I could throw them into a pile. So I threw the first one. It took a sharp left turn and headed towards an end cap of coke bottles. This was in the day before plastic bottles. You can imagine what happened. 

My manager was really angry! You would think I'd learned my lesson. But I was young and very confident in my throwing abilities. So I threw a second box. This time my manager was furious!

He said, Greg Foran, you'll get fired if you do that again.

Fortunately, I wasn't fired, even though I probably should have been, and I realized my behavior was stupid. So I started to take my job seriously. In fact, I grew to love it. I went on to enjoy a long career in retail in New Zealand, Australia and at Walmart in China.

I've been lucky to have some mentors along the way who have really helped me, including Jack Shewmaker and Roger Corbett, who is on our board of directors, and who is here with us this morning.

Our People Make the Difference

Today, I'm honored to be leading Walmart U.S.

I've visited over 150 stores in 10 months, talking with customers, stocking shelves, and thinking about how we can be better merchants. Every time I am with you, I am reminded why I love Walmart—we are a people business.

You, our people, make the difference and that is why we are investing $1 billion in you this year.

We're increasing wages, but that's only a start.

You'll also have more control over your schedules.

And, we're working on reforming our sick leave policy to work better for you.

We're offering better training-- so you will have a clear understanding of what is expected to get promoted.

We're also providing opportunity to those who have served this country. We're on track to hire 250,000 veterans by 2020! 

And, as a symbol of our commitment, we gave you new name badges on Wednesday. It says, "Our People Make the Difference"

Did you know that Sam Walton put that on our badges 30 years ago.He believed our people make the difference and I do too. Because you do.

The Ladder of Opportunity
When you work hard at Walmart, you can climb the ladder of opportunity and build a better life.

 Did you know that around 75 percent of our management teams in stores started as hourly associates?

The opportunity here is one of the things I love most about us.

Our goal is for every associate to be better off for having worked at Walmart. By investing in you, you will be better equipped to serve our customers.

They'll come back to save money and to build a better life, creating growth and opportunity for us all. 

Business Update and Strategy
Last year, here in the U.S. we served 140 million customers a week. We grew sales over 3% to $288 billion and we opened over 350 stores.

These are incredible numbers. But it's not just about big numbers, is it? It's about making a difference, one customer, one associate at a time.

We're looking for faster, more innovative ways to serve them. We're making sure each store we build is better than the last one.

We've spent a long time listening to you, and we will continue to listen. Last year we took a hard look at our business and knew we had to improve. Based on your input we came up with a strategy to win. 

We'll do that by having the right items and a great fresh food experience. By running better stores. By delivering everyday low prices. And we have a store within 10 miles of nearly 90% of Americans. We can do what no one else in the world can do.

Through Pick Up or grocery home shopping, we'll be able to serve customers, whenever however and with whatever they want.

You may have seen me in this associate vest before. I wear it a lot because I am inspired by your determination, hard work and creativity.  But most of all, I am inspired by your dedication and service to our customers.

It says here on my vest: "Proud Walmart associate." Every week I travel to new stores where I am always excited to meet our associates. Let me tell you about one associate who has inspired me.  

His name is Charles Hudson and he's from store 1510 in Florence, KY. He's also a U.S. Army veteran. He came back from serving his country and now he serves customers as a proud Walmart associate.

Charles always has a smile for his customers. And, they've noticed! They even posted on Facebook about it!

Brenda posted the first comment: She wrote: "I was at Walmart this morning and a really nice cashier motioned for me to come through his line." Brenda's comment went viral!  Theresa says: "Charles is his name!! My kids and I love him :)"

Imagine that these people took time out of their busy days to make sure we all knew that Charles had made their life a little brighter!

And, my favorite from Nicole: "He's awesome!"

He certainly is. And Charles is here with us today. Thank you, Charles!

Associates like Charles and all of you make me proud to wear this vest. I'm proud to be one of you. I'll always listen to you. And I believe that together we are going to do great things!

Thank you.