Charles Redfield of Sam’s Club: The realities of global business

February 13, 2013

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Charles Redfield, the executive vice president of merchandising for Sam's Club, outlined the major lessons he’s learned in business at the February luncheon of the Economic Club of Phoenix.

Born and raised in Bentonville, Arkansas, where the Sam’s Club parent company, Wal-Mart is headquartered, Redfield started his career at a Sam’s Club while in college. Except for a stint with the Canadian retailer, Hudson Bay, Redfield has been with Sam’s ever since. The Economic Club of Phoenix, affiliated with ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business, provides a forum for the discussion of economic, business and policy issues.

Before becoming executive vice president in May2012, Redfield spent two years in the United Kingdom, where he was named chief merchandising officer for Asda, Walmart's U.K. subsidiary.

In his speech, Redfield identified five business lessons he has learned during his career, and two personal lessons. Listen to our podcast to hear Redfield expand on these lessons.

Career Lessons: The Business 

  • “Customers and colleagues are the same everywhere around the world.” Customers want to trust the organizations they do business with; colleagues want someone to listen, act and follow through.
  • “Transparency is the new norm.” In this new world the details of businesses are in public view. This relates to trust, Redfield said, especially around pricing. But beware, he said, because transparency can be good for companies but it can also be used as a weapon.
  • “Global opportunities are difficult to execute.” Sam’s Club can leverage scale, but that’s not as simple as it seems. Example: genetically modified foods, common in the U.S., are not welcome in the U.K.
  • “E-commerce crosses all boundaries.” It’s changing the way we do business, he said, and “guess what? The customers are moving faster than we are.”
  • “Talent is global.” The workers of the future need to think globally, but make the business locally relevant. We need to think globally to leverage scale and be open to new ways of thinking and working.

Career Lessons: The Person

  • “Listen and embrace change.” Listening is an underrated skill, he said. “Being truly open minded and listening allows you to create change in a way that you team and your organization will go on the journey with you.”
  • “People. People. People.” The key to everything is your people, he said. Be fair; be transparent; be consistent; be clear about direction.”

Next month's speaker is Douglas Davis of Intel Corporation, vice president and general manager of the Arizona fab/manufacturing site. March 19, 2013 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge. Register

Listen to the speech