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McMillon aims for a higher peak

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Complacency is the enemy of excellence.

Doug McMillon delivered that message to a gathering of some 14,000 colleagues that marked the culmination of Walmart’s annual Associates Week. Recalling his 40-year career with the retailer, McMillon, who has served as president and chief executive officer for the past decade, said, “I have seen a lot of change in this company. And along the way, I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot of talented and great people, and I’ve watched us learn, change and grow — and in some ways grow up, becoming a more mature and thoughtful company. At times, we had tremendous momentum and our path seemed really clear. At other times, we had things to figure out and change. Through it all, I think we accomplished a lot, but we’ve never achieved full potential.”

He challenged associates representing the 19 countries in which Walmart operates not to be overly satisfied with what the company has accomplished, but instead strive to attain peak performance — both as individuals and as an organization. Financial results for the first quarter of fiscal 2025 might tempt some to settle for the status quo — total revenue grew 6% to $161.5 billion, including a 21% increase in global e-commerce business, while adjusted operating income jumped 13.7%.

McMillon reminded the audience that although Walmart’s core values — respect, integrity, service and excellence — are a constant, change is inherent in the industry, with companies that fail to evolve going by the wayside. “Could that happen to us? Certainly,” he said. “But we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to keep striving for excellence. After all, customer expectations only know one direction, and that’s up. They want better prices, better items and better experience.”

An avid basketball fan, McMillon noted that last fall James Cash, a former member of Walmart’s board of directors, invited him to attend a Boston Celtics practice. Banners marking the team’s 17 NBA titles were on display, but the one that caught McMillon’s eye was an 18th banner that was blank.

“That’s because they’re about the next one,” he explained. “They’re about striving for excellence. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. Each team has to earn their own championship banner.

“That’s us. Yesterday doesn’t matter. It’s over. What will we do next? Will we do what it takes to achieve our full potential? Will we set high expectations? Will we pay attention to detail? And will we constantly improve? I think the answer is yes, and that’s because of you.”

The associate celebration where McMillon spoke was also the setting for remarks by the leaders of the company’s major business units — John Furner of Walmart U.S., Kath McClay of Walmart International and Chris Nicolas of Sam’s Club — as well as some notable entertainment. Hosted by former NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning, the event included performances by Imagine Dragons, Kacey Musgraves and Usher, as well as appearances by Paris Hilton and Robert Downey Jr. Time was also taken to recognize Rob Walton, who just stepped down from the Walmart board. The son of company founder Sam Walton, he served as chairman from 1992 to 2015.

Several noteworthy initiatives were unveiled during the course of the week. After raising the pay of hourly workers by about 30% over the past five years, Walmart has established a program that could bring them as much as $1,000 a year in bonuses. In addition, the Me@Walmart app has been enhanced with a total pay and benefit feature, and education and training programs for employees have been expanded.

For consumers, Walmart has extended its InHome delivery service to more than 50 markets, including Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia. 

For its part, Sam’s Club has enlarged the size of the community that influences the evolution of the Members Mark private brand to 50,000 people. Their input helps guide the retailer as it develops and tests additions to the line, which accounts for 30% of sales.

The programs embody the process of continuous progress that McMillon called for: “High expectations, attention to detail and constant improvement. Just imagine the difference we can make in the world if we perform at full potential. Sam taught us the secret is all working together. And as we keep that growing, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone.”


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