In August of 2018, I began a new journey into the social media world as the Social Media Champion for Walmart Store #18 in Newport, Arkansas. Boy was I not expecting the changes that would come. I’ve been able to make contacts I had never thought possible, have a voiceover featured on Walmart Radio, have a call with Greg Foran our President of Walmart US, have photos I’ve taken featured in Walmart World Magazine, and so many other great experiences. It has truly been an incredible eight months of being an Assistant Store Manager. God has blessed me more than I could imagine.
Now leading up to this moment has not been an easy road, because with every success there must be hard work and hard times. You see, it’s been an interesting journey in this career of mine. I started out with Walmart as a Receiving Associate in April 2012 at Store #128 in Jonesboro, AR. I was in that position for around 30 days and promoted to Asset Protection Associate in May 2012 in the same store. I was riding on cloud nine! God had truly set me up for success and was working in my life. I couldn’t be happier. I helped save that store tens of thousands of dollars in potential theft. I developed a great working relationship with my supervisor, who is still a close friend to this day.
On June 26, 2013 I received a call from my Market Asset Protection Manager (MAPM) extending a job offer of the Asset Protection Manager position at Store #91 in Forrest City, AR. After two previous interviews, one of which I completely bombed, I thought this day wouldn’t come. However, after much prayer and struggling to put it into God’s hands, I finally did give it to Him. After that moment, I felt that peace and understood that this day would come. This job was an amazing birthday gift. That next month I began training with my former supervisor and would transition fully into my new store in September. I pushed hard to make my new store a turn around store and reduce shrink.
My love for Walmart continued and showed in my work, so much so that at the end of 2013 I received an email from an editor of Walmart World Magazine wanting to share my story. Unfortunately I could never get my MAPM to sign off on permission to do so, nothing I currently hold against him. When our inventory came and went, our shrink numbers went down and again I was soaring on cloud nine. Our associates had done something a few of them didn’t believe we could do. I was so proud of them. Looking back I know I made some mistakes in communication, follow up, and execution, but with some patience, they taught me so much I can look back on and appreciate.
After some trials that put me questioning God’s plan and why I was facing the demons I was, I transferred to Store #62 in Blytheville, AR. This was not something that I had planned for my career. The experience that lead to my departure from Store #91, was not enjoyable. I was angry, sad, depressed, and unsure of what was next for me. Was Walmart going to be my career? I moved back in with my mom in Walnut Ridge, AR, I was not in good mind. I was struggling daily because of the things that happened to me; trying to understand why. I knew that this new store would provide a new foundation to build on and leave the negative experiences in the past. I know now that God knew what He was doing.
When I arrived at Store #62, I found a friend who was a God fearing man and people person. Store Manager Greg Ricker was just the person I needed to help keep my faith in what I felt was a daily struggle to keep my job. I knew that God brought me here for a reason. Greg made me feel at home. He helped to boost my confidence back up. Enough so I began to form great friendships with store associates, some of which still exist today. My first Regional AP Director visit in this store was something I had prepared for, since I arrived. My first visit was a good one. Our RAPD gave me some great advice and saw the great progress I was helping to make in the store. I felt vindicated.
Our store associates deserved all the credit, because all I did was help teach and train, they executed the process. I had great AP Associates, Department Managers, Assistant Managers who all worked to make our shrink go down. Yet things changed again. It seemed the demons I had turned over to God had arrived again. Store Manager Greg would depart and it felt like it all went downhill from there. So much of the pain I thought was gone came rushing back. The negative experiences were too much for me to handle. In April 2016 I met with my MAPM and told him I was done, I wanted to step down. After a few weeks of searching, I stepped down to an Overnight Support Manager at Store #57 in Walnut Ridge, AR. It was not something I had planned for me, considering at one point I was applying to be a MAPM.
Now the low point in this story is not to cast Walmart in a bad light, but to show that bad things can happen to good people. Or was it bad? You see in January of 2016, while I was still at Store #62, I began talking to my future wife. We were high school sweethearts. It was like we had picked up where we had left off. I began to understand as time went by that the experiences I had were to get me where God wanted me to be. I had forgotten that I submitted my life to Him in 2001 and rededicated in 2012. If I had stayed in that role at Store #91, I would have never got back together with my now wife. Those experiences led me back to Christ, and in turn led me to her.
After two years of working to come back to days, amongst the living as I liked to joke, I transferred to Day Support Manager. I had received an exceeds on my evaluation and kept pushing forward. Now enters Bryan Venson. Bryan promoted from Store #71 in Pocahontas, AR to be a new Assistant Manager at Store #57. Bryan eventually found out about my previous experience and began dropping hints that I should apply for the Assistant Manager program. I flat out refused several times. I explained the story of my journey, and he understood. Looking back I think God was speaking through him.
At first I had a bad taste in my mouth about being a salaried manager again. I didn’t want to go through those experiences again. After much consideration and talking with my now fiancee, I applied. I went home and prayed one time. I prayed that if it was God’s will, that He open that door, then I let it go. My store manager, Kari Shanks, who had been supportive of my volunteer efforts in the community and drive to make the store better, was puzzled why I didn’t let her know I was interested. I put it pretty bluntly to her, sorry Kari, that I had not intention of getting promoted, but if it was God’s will then so be it. She told me that she had to evaluate my work and submit it to the Market team for review. After their review and a screening interview, to see if an associates ready for the selection event, they sent me through. I couldn’t believe I was making the step forward. I for sure thought this day wouldn’t ever come back around.
I went to the Regional Selection Event and sat through several round tables and a final panel interview with a Market Manager, Market HR Manager, and Store Manager from the Little Rock market. I got some amazing feedback from them and knew that God had some amazing things still in store for me. After coming back from the event, I had time to reflect and start to piece things together that I have mentioned in this story. I knew I would get it, I just prayed it was a store that was close to home. That Wednesday I got a call from our Market HR Manager informing me I had been selected. After six weeks of training at the Walmart Academies in Poplar Bluff, MO and Searcy, AR I finally arrived at Store #18 in Newport, AR as an Assistant Store Manager.
At this point of the story you’ve probably asked yourself, why did I continue and not look for other employment? Well the answer to that question is, I did. Several times. However, God closed those doors because He had me right where I was needed. I learned through my experiences that it wasn’t Walmart that caused the experiences I had endured, but people. The company gave me several opportunities that many employers wouldn’t and couldn’t give. Walmart entrusted me with the financial responsibility of now four stores. Walmart offered training at their expense to help make me a better servant leader. Walmart helped to support many non-profits I work with, Wings of Honor Museum, Beatles at the Ridge Music Festival (Downtown Walnut Ridge Inc.), and now Hoxie The First Stand (Civil Rights Museum non-profit), and so many more!
Walmart did not shut me out when I raised concerns, they allowed me to use the open door policy without fear of retaliation. They offered transparency, consistent communication, and the resources I needed. They helped to build back my self confidence, work towards my goals, do what was important to me, and explore new avenues. No other employer that I have worked for has allowed such freedom. No other company have I worked for, has the people of our stores and communities felt like a family. This freedom allowed me to be open and honest with our associates and help them through their personal and work related struggles.
Walmart has helped me to see how many great people make up our company. I could not imagine where I would be had I not experienced the things I had over the last few years. I know I would not be the leader I am today, nor the person. I look forward everyday to seeing the smiles of our customers and associates. God knew what He was doing when He allowed these experiences to happen to me. Do I hold grudges against those do tried to do me wrong? No. In the long run, they helped to make me stronger, build a relationship, and discover myself again. If I had the chance to go back and change things, I wouldn’t. Through the last twelve months I have fell in love with Walmart all over again.
I have a great support group at Store #18 with my fellow associates and managers, the Home Office, and beyond. Zachary Lones, our Director of Local Social and Walmart World, has been a huge supporter and guide in this new world of digital marketing. He has helped shape me by his daily insight into leadership, marketing strategy, and social media presence. Walmart made the right decision bringing him into the fold as the head of our social media programs. My hope for the next year or two is to continue this growth and maybe end up at the Home Office. I know with God’s guidance and people like Misty, Greg, Bryan, and Zachary, I will continue to succeed and grow. Showing the world that #IHeartWalmart.
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