Did You Get the Memo?

Recently, I posted on LinkedIn a picture of me with Maersk McKinney Moller.  I was very fortunate to have met him and spent some time with him.

It has me reflecting on the fact that I have been very fortunate to have been around some incredible people in my life and my career.  People who are literal legends in industry.  People who took the time to teach me lessons and help me develop as a human.

The Memo

Recently one of those people, Bill Fields, the former President of Walmart Stores USA, passed away.  I remember him fondly. My first boss at Walmart, JR Campbell, reported to Bill, and I was lucky enough to travel with Bill in China and Hong Kong.  Here’s just one story about Bill.

first walmart supercenter in China orion global
First Walmart Supercenter in China.

I started with Walmart in May 1994. I was responsible for all ocean transportation. In 1995, I negotiated the contracts in a year that rates were going up. We mitigated as much as possible, but we still took some increases.

One morning I walked past JR’s office and Bill Fields was sitting in there with his back to me. Without turning around, he asked me how much money I cost the company. I told him and he said to put it in a memo to him. I did.

One day the CEO of a service provider was in town, and he wanted to see Bill because they had known each other for a long time. When we went in to Bill’s office, he pulled the memo off the bulletin board and showed it to this CEO and said, “You see how much this kid cost me?”  Then he stuck it back on the board. You can see by the holes in the paper that it wasn’t the only time he did that.

The next year the rates dropped, and we saved even more than we lost in 1995. One day the memo came back to me with a note written on it from Bill that said “Paid in Full”.

memo bill fields orion global

Learning from a Leader

Bill trusted me, a 28 year-old newbie, to do great things. He had confidence in me. I was honored to travel with him to Asia a few times, and I learned a great deal from him. I’ve tried to use the type of the leadership style I learned from him as I’ve grown and been able to lead my own teams.

I’m sad to know he is no longer with us. I’m honored to have known him and been trusted by him.


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