Lessons Learned from Walmart’s Don Soderquist

by | Aug 2, 2016


On July 21st Northwest Arkansas and the world lost a great leader, Don Soderquist. Last week, over 1,000 friends, coworkers and family members crowded into Fellowship Bible Church in Rogers, Ark. and many Walmart associates viewed the service via simulcast to hear his four wonderful grown children share stories of his life and his legacy.

If you didn’t know him, a few things would have been evident from what they shared. Don Soderquist was REAL. He led from the heart. He loved his family deeply, while serving thousands of Walmart associates. He left a legacy that few will.

Mr. Soderquist worked at Walmart from 1988 to 1999 where he served as Vice Chairman and Chief Operating Officer. During his tenure, the company grew from $1 billion in revenue to over $200 billion. He was best known as Walmart’s “Keeper of the Culture” after Sam Walton passed away. After his retirement, he launched a second influential season of his life when he founded Soderquist Leadership, expressing his passion for integrity and servant leadership through teaching in Northwest Arkansas and around the world.

Believe it or not, I often take notes at funerals. I have found it is the time when we hear the best of the best of how to live a fulfilling life. In Mr. Soderquist’s case, this was golden.

These lessons are just a sample of many shared. I trust they will enrich your life at home and in your leadership at work in a purposeful way.

  • He made ordinary moments extraordinary.
  • More was caught than taught (observation vs. teaching).
  • He took time to talk to and be present with the people who crossed his path. Each person was important!
  • Fun was an important aspect of his life. Even in times others might judge it as being inappropriate, fun was always appropriate!
  • Don’s early career advice, which he carried with him his whole life: “Do the best I can each day, and try to make it fun.”
  • He was always smiling.
  • And, he made every single day count by making other people smile.
  • He wasn’t in such a rush that he missed opportunities to share God’s love with someone who was hurting.
  • He and his wife, Jo, were extremely generous.
  • He had another level of love reserved for his family.
  • He gave his children the freedom to be who they are.
  • His career coaching to his children – “I don’t care what you do for work, but whatever you do, do it the best you can!”
  • He was the biggest cheerleader in his children’s lives.
  • He read his bible, underlining key scriptures and writing notes about life application.
  • He wanted to please God with everything he did in life by including Him in everything he did.

In the moments before Don Soderquist passed away, surrounded by all of his family, they read Psalm 103 together. Then, one of the great family and a servant leader took his last breath. May his life inspire you and me to be all that God wants us to be.