Bob and I spent most of last week in beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas. With a population of a little over 36,000 people, the tenth largest city in the state is best known as the home of Walmart. Our mission for this trip: to welcome aboard and train a new team member, meet with customers and partners, and for me to personally learn how this town fits into the inner-workings of the world’s largest retailer. I was mystified: how could this massive global entity run its operations from this place, which takes at least one if not two connections to get to by plane? I wanted to see first hand what it was like to do business in this environment, with its international powerhouse embedded in small town America.
Smallville meets Walmartlandia
Bentonville, Rogers, and Fayetteville form a triumvirate of modest cities, each with its own idyllic streets, green landscaping and friendly landmarks. Sam Walton’s original Five and Dime sits in the center of Bentonville town square. Who could have predicted that tidy little store with its bright red awnings would be the beginnings of a burgeoning multinational corporation that now has 2.2 million employees, nearly 11,000 retail locations worldwide and a $256 Bn+ market cap.
While touring around Bentonville, Walmart’s presence is palpable. Their home office may look like a standard store location (or a high school), but don’t let its no nonsense appearance fool you. It’s clear Walmart is the focus of the local economy, and that its simple set up and surroundings help deliver on its “every day low prices”.
Walmart Home Office kind of looks like my suburban high school
Buy local, sell global
Sometimes referred to as “Vendorville”, Bentonville features tastefully outfitted strip malls and short stack office parks full of F100 companies — brands you wouldn’t normally find on plaza marquee signage more suitable for your drycleaner, karate dojo, and favorite greasy spoon. Though not required to establish a local office, many top brands do. They recognize the convenience of doing business by strolling over to headquarters, and the value of not just meeting face to face but of building lasting relationships. Retail can be a family business, with multiple generations proudly participating. To be in with WMT and its ecosystem of suppliers, it truly helps to be local. Folks talk retail wherever you go, at Starbucks, on the golf course, and during their kids’ gymnastics practice and soccer games.
There’s no place like Art-kansas
Walmart also prevails upon the cultural scene. Designed by Moshe Safdie, Alice Walton’s $450M state-of-the-art Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art houses signature works of Americana, from Georgia O’Keefe to Norman Rockwell. Admission is free and sponsored by none other than Walmart. Institutions like Crystal Bridges have earned Bentonville the lofty status as one of Travel & Leisure’s Hottest Travel Destinations.
Bentonville’s first family also established the Walton Arts Center which happened to be featuring the The Price is Right Live! This touring production was quite the spectacle, especially when Bob was called on stage to name the price of a guitar.
Bob, our fearless CEO, live on The Price is Right!
Other notable institutions include the chic art gallery concept hotel 21c Bentonville, one of three national locations, and the incredible Donald W Reynolds Razorback Stadium, where the Razorbacks play. A structural monument in its own right, Reynolds Stadium sits amidst tidy treelined streets who bear witness to tens of thousands of enthusiastic fans screaming, “Go Hogs!”
Outside 21c. This made me really want to play basketball.
Introducing Gigwalk’s newest team member: Luke
Back to business. The best part of our trip? Hands down, meeting with customers and spending quality time with our two dedicated team members who live there. Joe Tomandao took us to all these neat places, showing us the best of Northwest Arkansan hospitality while Luke Macken, our latest rockstar addition to Gigwalk Sales, got up to speed on how we apply Gigwalk to address our customer needs. Born and bred in Arkansas, Luke brings over twelve years of experience working with Walmart across categories. His shopper marketing, in-store events, and account management background means he can effectively walk and talk the Gigwalk with the brands and thoughtleaders we meet. It seems like everyone in “The Natural State” knows Luke, which isn’t a surprise given his warm smile and good natured approach to doing business.
All in all, we had a wonderful week plotting, planning, and advancing Gigwalk’s future. I may not be in Arkansas anymore, but I’m glad we have a great team out there to further grow our business and I can’t wait to go back. Next time, I’d like to visit the lake, see if I can find more "Walmart art" and try the fried chicken.
Yours truly. Just couldn’t help myself at Kellogg’s local office.
p.s. by the way, if you’d like to join the team, Gigwalk is definitely hiring!
~Tanya Loh, Director of Customer and Business Development