Walmart president and chief executive officer Mike Duke spoke on the subject of “Walmart’s Enduring Values” at the company’s recent annual meeting. Here are his prepared remarks:


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Duke reiterates Walmart’s commitment to enduring values

June 18th, 2012

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Walmart president and chief executive officer Mike Duke spoke on the subject of “Walmart’s Enduring Values” at the company’s recent annual meeting. Here are his prepared remarks:

Valeda, thank you for that introduction. And thank you for over 50 years of service to Walmart. Our company simply wouldn’t exist without associates like you. Valeda, I’d like to ask everyone in the audience to stand and appreciate you and every associate who has made Walmart so special over the years.

This has been a fantastic meeting this morning. I’d like to say thank you to our outstanding board of directors for their service. And I’d like to take a moment to appreciate Rob, Alice and Jim and all the members of the Walton family. We’re so fortunate to have you as an enduring part of our company and carrying forward the legacy of Sam ­Walton.

We should take the opportunity at this historic moment to think deeply about Walmart — not just what we do day in and day out, but how we do it, why we do it, and what it all adds up to in our world.

Sam Walton thought about these things when he started Walmart 50 years ago. He cared about giving his best, motivating people, valuing every dollar and swimming upstream. And when you listen to how he talked about Walmart toward the end of his life, he knew we were on a path to helping people around the world. Sam knew that he had built the strongest of foundations — one made of enduring values joined together by the common humanity we all share.

Even before I joined our company I knew Walmart’s values were special. Twenty years ago, when I was working for another retailer, I heard Walmart CEO David Glass give a speech at a retail logistics conference. I’ll never forget it. Everything David talked about was focused on people and doing business the right way. There wasn’t ego or arrogance. He talked about a focus on associates, not being afraid to fail and learning from mistakes.

As I travel around the world today, I see enduring values thriving at Walmart.

We treat each other with respect. We genuinely care about each other and our customers. And we know what matters most in our company is what happens in the stores. I tell people in the home office, if they want to be inspired, go to the stores, talk to our store associates and customers. Store associates, you are why I have a job, and I personally want to appreciate all of you again.

We serve millions of people around the world aspiring to the middle class. These customers are caring for their families and building a better life. There’s so much pride in this, and our customers appreciate the role that Walmart plays. We help our customers feel cared for and cared about.

Walmart goes above and beyond during times of crisis. I still hear about how we responded to a devastating tornado in Marion, Ill., in 1982. In recent years, we think of Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami in Japan, the earthquakes in China and Chile, the tornado in Joplin [Mo.]. At moments like these, we come together as a family. We extend our family into the community. And we do the good that needs to be done.

If we look back on our success over the past 50 years and ask the simple question: "Why Walmart and not another retailer?" I believe there’s a simple answer. It’s the culture, it’s the beliefs, and it’s the enduring values that live within us and are expressed through our actions every day. No matter who we are or where we come from, our values pull us together and keep us together. They constantly push us forward to become a better and stronger company. This is my message to you today: The values that built Walmart, defined Walmart and sustained Walmart for the past 50 years will drive our success and make us proud for the next 50 years.

As Charles showed, Walmart delivered a good performance last year. We also had a great first quarter. In fact, all segments of our company had a great first quarter. Walmart U.S. stores delivered the best sales comps in three years. International achieved outstanding profit growth. And Sam’s Club continues to build sales momentum. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Walmart is the best-positioned global retailer in the world today.

We’re also looking out at the world five, 10 and 20 years from now. That’s why you’ve heard me talk so much about building the Next Generation Walmart. And it’s why I’m so pleased with the progress we’ve made over the past two years. We’re thinking like a global company that understands local customers. We’re churning the productivity loop, leveraging expenses and investing in price leadership. I agree with what Rob said: Walmart has the best talent in global retail. We’re strengthening Global eCommerce by investing in talent and technology, and our online business is growing around the world. We continue to lead in sustainability, setting ambitious new goals on major issues like hunger, the environment and women’s economic empowerment.

But we cannot slow down. We have to accelerate — pushing, leading, experimenting, innovating. It’s not enough just to keep up. We have to stay out in front. And as we do that, we must continue to hold tight to the values that have always made us special. I believe what we believe will only become more important in the complex and rapidly changing world ahead.

We all know our three basic beliefs: respect for the individual, service to our customers, striving for excellence. These are the pillars of our culture. But there’s a foundation on which they stand. It’s made up of enduring values that we all share, that truly make us special, that connect us all at a human level. I’d like to touch on a few of the enduring values that I personally believe are ­important.

First, integrity is the bedrock. I believe this is one of the reasons that Sam Walton was so beloved. People trusted him to do the right thing. And he did. And if you worked for his company, he expected the same of you.

We’ve all heard about the recent allegations about the company. Let me be clear: Walmart is committed to compliance and integrity everywhere we operate. And we’re working to continually strengthen our compliance efforts around the world. I want to personally assure you we’re doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this matter. We will take appropriate action when the investigation is complete.

And let me speak directly to our leaders and associates. If you work for Walmart, there is no gray area between right and wrong. It’s either the right thing to do, or it shouldn’t be done at all. This is my standard. It was Sam Walton’s standard. And it’s the standard we’ll all live up to at Walmart in everything we do. We will not accept anything less than integrity.

Second, we believe in opportunity. If you work hard, develop your skills, and do a good job, you can advance at Walmart. This is true whether you’re a graduate of our training centers in Brazil, an hourly cashier who has just moved to the city, or a single mom looking to supplement her income. Another great example is U.S. stores, where nearly 75% of the store management team started as hourly associates. Nothing makes me prouder than to see associates climb the ladder and build a better life for themselves and their families.

Third, we believe in family and community. When I tour a store, I love hearing an associate call a customer by name. And I really light up when that associate asks about the customer’s kids by name. The fact is we aren’t just associates and customers in our stores. We’re people who grew up together, worship together and live on the same streets. We’re friends and neighbors. At Walmart, we are family and ­community.

Fourth, we believe in work with a purpose. Our purpose is helping our customers save money so they can live better. Whether I’m in China, New Mexico or South Africa, nothing makes it more real than when I visit customers in their homes. I get to know them and see what Walmart really means in their lives. At Walmart, you better believe our work adds up to better lives and a better world.

Fifth, we believe in responsibility. As Lee Scott used to tell us: “Where else can you go to work every day and know that you can change the world for the better?” What a difference this understanding of our mission has made for our company. We’ve been so fortunate with our success over the past 50 years. And when you’re given so much, you have a responsibility to give back and do good. Walmart is making food healthier, our planet greener, and the communities we work in and live in stronger. We’re making a difference — a big, big ­difference.

It’s amazing to think that the first-ever Walmart store had just 25 associates and was only 35,000 square feet. 50 years later we’re on five continents, in 27 countries, with over 10,000 stores, 2 million associates, 200 million weekly customer visits and a billion square feet of retail space. You can’t build a company of our size, over that time period, during so much change in the world, on a weak foundation. It requires bedrock that runs deep, building blocks that stay strong and mortar that binds it all together.

So I believe Sam Walton’s greatest legacy was the foundation he built — the culture, the beliefs and the enduring values I’ve talked about today: integrity, opportunity, family and community, purpose, responsibility.

We can’t possibly envision what the world, what retailing, what Walmart will look like in another 50 years. But if we stay true to the foundation that Sam Walton built, we’ll continue to be a better company, a stronger company and a prouder company. And over the next 50 years there will be no limit to the good we can do around the world. We’ll help millions more customers do what they aspire to do for themselves and their families — to save money and live better.

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