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?
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.
CAM: It sounds like this is a company effort, as well. How do you see everyone come together to help?
MH: There are really a lot of associates who get involved very early on in the process to bring this thing to life. The process is really everything from travel arrangements to get associates here to local transportation, food and beverage, the entertainment, business meeting content, and putting together the Friday and Saturday meetings. The team does a fantastic job, but we have a lot of help. It truly is an across-the-company effort to make this a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
CAM: How do you select the theme each year for the meeting?
MH: We really try to have the theme reflect what our corporate goals are for the year. This year, with Doug McMillon as our new CEO, there’s been a renewed focus on the customer. We’ve always had the customer at the center of everything we do, but I think we’re making a bigger emphasis of it this year. We are trying to do that in many ways through innovation. We don’t have a theme that shows up on the screen somewhere at the Shareholders Meeting; it’s more of an overarching messaging.
CAM: What is something that happens before the doors open up for that Friday Shareholders meeting that most people might not know about?
MH: I think one of the keys to the success of this team is the ability to recover. There are always things that are weird that you never plan for. It’s just one of the curses of live events. You can try to anticipate everything, but there is always something that comes up that you just have to be ready for. The team does a great job of preparing ahead of time. But you get in the moment and you just have to make the right decisions to keep moving. The team is really good at making that happen.
CAM: Tell me about the June Saturday Morning Meeting at the AMP.MH:
This will be a great opportunity to get everyone together in one venue for our Saturday morning meeting on June 7. After all the fun throughout the week, we get to get up at 7:30 in the morning and do it again on Saturday.