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Career Management: Wal-Mart Overview
Wal-Mart falls into the realm of mega retailers. There is no product or service that Wal-Mart has not considered at one point or another. Besides selling traditional retail products including house-wear, groceries, clothing and furniture, the retailer has branched out and now provides eye-wear, photographic services and pharmacy services. In addition the company is currently expanding into the financial services industry. Wal-Mart is in fact the world's largest company, exceeding companies like General Motors and Exxon Mobile in size and scope.
Wal-Mart is known in the retail world for selling products at a fraction of the costs of other retailers. At Wal-Mart prices are cheap but the product quality is high. The company in fact prides itself on its reputation for selling the best quality products at the lowest product. A consumer can buy the nation's number one brand products for a fraction of the cost of traditional retailers.
Wal-Mart provides a service to its customers, some believe "at the expense of business and corporate manufacturers" (Fishman, 2003). This is due in part to the price slashing that occurs at Wal-Mart. Many customers however argue that the cost of doing business with Wal-Mart is worth it. Wal-Mart commits itself to its customers not necessarily its suppliers. Their goal is to provide customers as much as possible for as little as possible.
The company sold more than $244.5 billion in merchandise in 2002 alone (Fishman, 2003). Wal-Mart establishes a policy for a supplier that requires that prices drop every year. There are more than 21,000 suppliers and vendors that work with Wal-Mart.
General consensus in the world of business is that Wal-Mart forces companies to work efficiently and in a focused manner. Leaner, faster better is a motto that might be associated with the Wal-Mart process. Other common terms associated with Wal-Mart include continuous improvement and movement of merchandise. Wal-Mart expects that customers have the ability to work at peak efficiency at all times.
Generally suppliers wanting to work with Wal-Mart have to acquiesce to specific changing of their merchandise, from "packaging to computer systems" (Fishman, 2003). Though some complain of the pressure and stringent requirements Wal-Mart applies, most retailers working with the mogul aggress that they get a large percentage of their business from the company.
Wal-Mart Strengths and Weaknesses/Working for Wal-Mart
Ballard and Langrehr (1993) suggest that Wal-Mart's success can only be described as universal because it is so far reaching. This overall business success is based on several critical success factors. Wal-Mart sets an example by establishing a competitive environment and market that focuses on close contact with both customers and employees, works to define its mission and utilizes technology in its favor to explore new opportunities and avenues for growth.
The six success strategies Wal-Mart has developed according to Langrehr and Ballard include: (1) a well defined mission statement, (2) clearly defined customer and close contact with customers (3) niche marketing techniques, (4) employee motivation, (5) the use of technology to facilitate opportunity and (6) an "opportunity oriented" management team (Langrehr & Ballard, 1993:101).
One strength that Wal-Mart prides itself on is its ability to provide customers with the best quality at the lowest price. Wal-Mart insists on doing everything and anything possible for customers.
According to Mark B., HR representative currently working for Wal-Mart, the company succeeds because it works hard to define their customer and then focuses consistently on providing value to this targeted customer. Its success isn't based on a price oriented philosophy as many would assume, but rather from the belief that value retailing and quality product offerings are key components of quality customer service.
Another key aspect of Wal-Mart's success is the management style which focuses on innovation and opportunities for improving personal and organizational potential. The company is constantly changing, never static. To this extent the firm works diligently to train employees and standardize practices and provide a clear and consistent vision and message to employees and customers alike.
Not all of the enterprises that Wal-Mart has pursued have been received with open arms. Some enterprises in fact have been received with mixed opinions. Historically Wal-Mart has been interested in the field of financial services, but Wal-Mart is actually sometimes given the label "merchant of death" because it of the manner in which it has impacted Main Street businesses (Cocheo, 2003). Despite this Wal-Mart has continued to pursue financial services.
Generally speaking Wal Mart tends to view itself as a mega-distributor of goods, thus sees no reason why it can't invest in any market imaginable (Cocheo, 2003). Some see Wal-Mart's expansion "into the financial services industry as the equivalent of the 19th century manifest destiny doctrine" however, but Wal-Mart doesn't seem shaken by this label (Cocheo, 2003:101).
Reports suggest however that for Wal-Mart to do what it has to do; U.S. companies are often forced to create more overseas outsourcing positions so they don't kill all of their profits doing business with Wal-Mart (Fishman, 2003). Many consider this a weakness inherent in Wal-Mart. Others consider the low wages offered to average workers to be a weakness.
This sentiment however is not universal, and most management personnel working in Wal-Mart seem to be satisfied. One weakness of Wal-Mart however is the loss of the personal touch that is often associated smaller retailers or mom and pop shops. Wal-Mart truly is a mega-chain, and one shopping in a Wal-Mart generally gets that feeling the moment they walk into a Wal-Mart store.
The company is on the other hand credited with the low rate of U.S. inflation; in fact a McKinsey & Co. study showed that "12% of the economy's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s could be traced to Wal-Mart alone" (Fishman, 2003). This of course suggests another Wal-Mart strength rather than weakness.
If I were to pursue a position at Wal-Mart I would pursue the position of HR Manager or Director. In this capacity I could contribute the most to Wal-Mart as an employee. I could help the company grow by working to develop corporate strategies and policies that continually aspire to motivate and empower employees to achieve their best within the organization. For someone with drive and ability there are many opportunities to grow with Wal-Mart.
There is some controversy that exists regarding the wages paid to average retail employees working at Wal-Mart. As an HR Director I would have the ability to oversee many aspects of compensation and employee well being. If compensation couldn't be increased to the satisfaction of all employees, I could work toward developing other strategies for motivating and encouraging employees.
The general consensus among management is that most employees working with Wal-Mart are satisfied with their experienced and do their best to put forth a team effort. It might be the case that the opinions of outsiders looking in are far more critical than the opinion of actual employees.
Regardless of the situation, as HR Manger or director I would make it my personal mission to assure that the needs of all employees were addressed and that the organizations mission, goals and values reflected organizational and individual perspectives.
Management positions at Wal-Mart vary from state to state but generally an assistant manager can expect to start at $35,000 a year and make $75,000 or more as a co-store manager.
As the HR MGR or Director I would expect to start out at a wage between $60-70 per year. In a position such as this I would expect to get full benefits, though these benefits are not offered all employees in lower positions. Fringe benefits may include a couple of week's vacation per year, store discounts and similar benefits.
Would you pursue Wal-Mart as a potential employer? Why or Why not?
There are many reasons for someone to pursue Wal-Mart as a potential employer. From a career development perspective, working with Wal-Mart could be beneficial. Because Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, it demands companies and suppliers working with it to achieve excellence. It requires that suppliers work efficiently, leanly and in a manner that promotes productivity and profits. One working in a management capacity could learn a lot from the executive management team that is the driving force behind Wal-Mart. By and large most would agree that from a business standpoint, Wal-Mart is a tremendous success. Having experience working with Wal-Mart in a management capacity could open the door for many opportunities down the road. Another benefit is the strong emphasis on quality product delivery and optimal customer service, attributes that any individual would look for when seeking out potential employers.
There seem to be however some drawbacks to working with a company like Wal-Mart. One of these is the perception among the population at large that Wal-Mart may treat customers well, but may not provide enough for families. Others see Wal-Mart's competitive nature and relationships with suppliers as harmful to everyone but Wal-Mart itself.
The personnel manager at Wal-Mart interviewed revealed that the average starting…[continue]
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