I was fortunate to live in Maui, Hawaii, where I learned to surf. It’s not an easy skill to learn but when you catch the perfect wave, it is exhilarating. One of the critical skills in surfing is “alignment”. This is Identifying the right wave, making sure you have the “right of way”, and a myriad of other skill sets. For the past 20 years, I have been part of supplier teams, where our success or failure has been based upon “alignment” with Walmart. Webster’s Dictionary defines alignment as, “the act of aligning or state of being aligned”. And like surfing, it’s not an easy objective to achieve. So how do you achieve alignment with Walmart?
Be the expert.
Hawaii is “ground zero” for expert surfers. Let’s be clear, the experts in the CPG industry live in Northwest Arkansas. So how do you be the expert? A few key points:
- Review Walmart’s quarterly report, 10-K, 8-K and related financial information. This information can provide substantive information and insights to current and upcoming strategies. This information is available at www.sec.gov/ or www.walmart.com
- The answers are in the questions. Business reviews have evolved where financial metrics are now only part of the process. Today more than ever, the probative questions from Walmart buyers provide the insights to tactical and strategic initiatives and opportunities for alignment.
- What is your brand growth at Walmart compared to rest of market?
- Are your products (IOPD) available in store, online, grocery pickup and delivery?
- On a granular basis, how will Walmart’s focus on private brands impact your business?
As Walmart’s priorities evolve, being the expert is critical to achieving alignment.
Catching The Right Wave:
When I was learning to surf, I wanted to catch every wave! What a disaster. I didn’t have the skill set or experience. I soon learned to be patient and “align” with waves that were smaller and broke slowly. As my skill set improved, I surfed faster, larger waves, and occasionally, rode the unbroken face of the wave.
How do you insure that your company’s skill set and experience align with the “right” opportunities at Walmart? This can be an uncomfortable dialogue as you focus on the realities of your company’s product development, manufacturing, replenishment, and logistic capabilities. If you’re not in alignment, you will need to provide the leadership of “loyal opposition” within your company. This can be the most difficult aspect of growing your business at Walmart, but remember, “hope” is not a strategy. The inability to execute flawlessly is an expensive proposition, not only financially, but for you and your company’s reputation.
When you do “align” with the right opportunity and successfully execute a product launch, new item authorization or other initiative, it is like surfing a perfect wave. Exhilarating! Success is also very empowering. This is an opportunity to share the key learnings, validate strategies, and build trust with your internal support team. This opportunity is invaluable.
At the end of the day, you’re the expert in creating shareholder value and ultimately responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen at Walmart. Simply put, the success or failure is on you!
*Director of Sales, Walmart – Carl Buddig & Company
*Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.