Doug McMillon — CEO of Walmart (#345)

“One of the things that can keep you from going away is an openness to change.” — Doug McMillon

Doug McMillon (IG: @dougmcmillon) is president and chief executive officer of Walmart, a company that, if it were a country, would be the 25th largest economy in the world. Walmart serves 265 million customers weekly in 27 countries across more than 11,000 stores and online, and the company employs roughly 2.2 million associates worldwide, which would equate to the second largest army in the world (behind China) if it were tasked with defending that 25th largest economy.

75 percent of Walmart’s store management team began as hourly associates, and Doug is no exception. He started out in 1984 as a summer associate in the Walmart distribution center, and in 1990 while pursuing his MBA, he rejoined the company as an assistant manager in Tulsa before moving to merchandising as a buyer trainee. He worked his way up, and from 2005 to 2009 he served as president and CEO of Sam’s Club (owned and operated by Walmart) with sales of more than $46 billion annually during his tenure.

From February of 2009 to 2014, Doug served as president and CEO of Walmart International, a fast-growing segment of Walmart’s overall operations. He has served on the board of directors for Walmart since 2013 and is currently the chair of the executive and global compensation committees. In addition, he serves on the board of directors of the Consumer Goods Forum, the US-China Business Council and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. He also serves on the executive committee of the Business Roundtable and the advisory board of the Tsinghua University School of Economics and Management in Beijing, China.

This episode was recorded live at the Heartland Summit in Bentonville, AR, surrounded by the jaw-droppingly mind-blowing Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Please enjoy!

You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#345: Doug McMillon — CEO of Walmart

Want to hear another episode with a fascinating leader? — Listen to my conversation with former Home Depot CEO and current Crazy Good Turns producer Frank Blake. (Stream below or right-click here to download):

#303: How to Do Crazy Good Turns — Frank Blake

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with Doug McMillon:

Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn


  • Doug shares his Baitmate story. [08:26]
  • Doug trained as a buyer in an era when his word and a handshake was as good as a contract. [11:36]
  • Influential books Doug recommends. [13:22]
  • As a voracious reader, how does Doug discover and decide what books are added to his knee-high “to read” stack? [16:08]
  • How is virtual reality employed in the training of associates? [18:31]
  • Does Doug have any quotes or reminders built into his daily life that help keep him on track? [20:57]
  • Why does Doug keep a list of the top 10 retailers of the last five decades on his phone? [23:27]
  • Knowing that openness to change is a prerequisite to initiating change doesn’t always make the decision to lean into such a change easy. What have been some of Doug’s most difficult decisions? [26:33]
  • What helps Doug find the clarity to make such difficult decisions when anxiety might otherwise bring them to an impasse? [29:17]
  • While the acquisition of Flipkart may seem like a decision that doesn’t make much short-term sense, why does Doug believe in it for the long haul? [30:16]
  • What are “treasure hunt items” at Sam’s Club? [33:13]
  • Where did Doug’s competetive streak originate, and is his reputation for being “poised and calm” from nature or nurture? [36:05]
  • Just how competetive is Doug? [37:40]
  • Doug’s morning routines and rituals — with a Tim Ferriss Show exclusive: breakfast! [38:40]
  • What does the structure of Doug’s typical week look like? Does he have typical weeks? Years? [40:04]
  • With such a busy schedule, how does Doug take care of himself and manage his time in a way that keeps him from burning out? [43:15]
  • What usually takes the place of a scheduled day when Doug has to call a fire break? [44:22]
  • What does it look like for Doug to sit down and think during one of these fire breaks? And does he take these breaks alone or with others? [45:33]
  • What new belief or habit has most improved Doug’s life? [47:45]
  • What led to this capacity for change? [49:19]
  • Aside from fire breaks, is there anything else that helps Doug cope with the feeling of being overwhelmed? [51:02]
  • 100 million favorite failures and one pep talk. [52:57]
  • What would Doug’s billboard say? [56:46]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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33 Replies to “Doug McMillon — CEO of Walmart (#345)”

  1. There is nothing Doug can say that is worth hearing. You really think that a ceo of a company that force a large percentage of it’s employees to live on public assistance has anything of worth to pass on. A trained monkey could manage that way. This guy refuses to give employees full time hours or provide stability to his workers and apparently you are okay with that. I just changed my opinion of you, at this point it is clear that you have no idea what you are talking about if you do not have the discernment to see what Doug and Wally world are all about. Dougie is a babysitter for the share holders, he doesn’t manage anything. I can not put into words how disappointed I am in you at this point.

    1. Hear, hear, Jacob. Walmart may be the savviest business in the world (I don’t know or care if they are), but they should never, ever be featured as a model of aspiration. If we continue down this path of putting dollars before moral sense, then humankind will take an early bow and the drama will be ended far shorter than our potential. I am disappointed to see Walmart featured here. I thought Tim was grounded in better Stoic values than this.

      1. I agree 100%. We NEVER shop at Walmart. Awful shopping experience. I like Tim’s content. This is the only one that does not make any sense. He is a journalist and he has to interview all kinds.

    2. There is plenty to be learned from this interview as Tim is an amazing interviewer and expertly managed to get Doug to open up on topics he may not otherwise have. Your rhetoric against Walmart is a regurgitation of what mainstream news spews out about the company. You don’t seem to understand or value capitalism or being paid for the value you provide (listen to Jim Rohn if you don’t comprehend this). Over 70% of managers at Walmart started as hourly associates and worked their way up to well paying careers. Walmart started off as an extremely small company by Sam Walton and grew into the behemoth they are today over 50 years later. This is something many entrepreneurs strive towards these days and rarely achieve. They did so by being an advocate for the customer, following their basic beliefs and innovating constantly. I can say this as an insider for the past 15 years that left the company for other interests. I had plenty of exposure to the inside working in Supply Chain and partnering with the retail side, HR, etc. Thanks for the great interview Tim and keep up the great work! PL

    3. Nothing the head of a $275 BILLLION dollar company can say that is worth hearing??? You are the epitome of small minded thinking. Guessing you think Silicone Valley is the center of the universe as you sit behind a computer all day, at best, with a mid tier position with a tech company (“that’s changing the world”).

  2. Dear Tim,

    Just wanted to say, “Thanks” for giving me access to such a diverse group of people. I have laughed, cried, been shocked, surprised, etc by the stories your guests have daringly shared. I look forward to enjoying more of the same and again, thanks so much for making these podcasts available. I have learned so much.

    All the best,


  3. They always talk about the millions they make in profit and the huge bonus they make. But then they screw people out of hard earned PTO.

    I know because it happened to me.

    Horrible policies.

  4. Tim, I have listen to many of your shows in the past. This interview with Doug McMillon was by far my favorite.

    Thanks for making it happen!

  5. Thanks Tim! Just wondering, could you look into how a type A person (presumably the type of person who would be part of your “1000 true fans”) can more effectively slow down and, for lack of a better word, enjoy life rather than feeling a constant need to be reading, thinking, doing, learning, etc? I think it would be really helpful for a lot of us listeners.

  6. The timeliness of this interview is amazing to me as I start my new career tomorrow as a truck driver for Wal-Mart. This is a coveted position in my profession and I intend to retire from this job. Wal-Mart operates one of the largest private fleets in the country and treats their drivers well. Thanks Tim!

    1. hmm….I don’t imagine the dozens of truck drivers they eliminated a year or so ago with 15-20 years of experience would agree with you…you need to do a little home work Ray…you are in for an eye opening experience…

      1. @musicalelf were you actually eliminated or did you quit because the revised schedules and pay did not fit within your needs? The company initially took an aggressive stance but made some concessions after listening to driver’s concerns. Costs always need to be analyzed and and brought in line with the market. The Walmart Private Fleet is awesome but if the cost starts to outweigh the benefits, things have to change. I worked on the Distribution side for 15 years and had some inside perspective on what happened so my advice to Ray is Walmart is great and takes care of their drivers but business is business.

      2. I was not eliminated or quit…lol….again…the Reddit thread will tell you how the company “values” it’s employees…the company purged it self of drivers that were making to much money from sticking around to long…it happen’s on a regular basis all over the company. They preach about employee value and family more than any other company I have ever been around, complete with their monthly propaganda magazine, and treat their employee’s as bad as any company I have ever worked for. The current lie is they are not hiring holiday help to give employee’s more hours…lol…not happening this year or the two previous years…It’s out right lying and they do it on a regular and ongoing basis.,..

    2. Drive safe, Ray. But I wouldn’t be surprised if you are confused about Walmart’s policies toward their drivers and other employees.

  7. I think it’s ridiculous that someone who tries to hard to help others (you) feels the need to find wisdom in an interview with a person who runs a company that is unequivocally ruining the world. That’s not to say he doesn’t have wisdom, but creating sympathy for the devil is a dark, dark act. From slave labor, to driving small companies out of business, to not treating their employees fairly unless pressured, to using the most heinous producers of the most cheap and vile products that aren’t good for the earth or the people… I’m just amazed to see you with wal mart and dave asprey with nike…It’s such a shame.

    1. I too was surprised to see a Walmart podcast pop up in my email. I really struggle to understand the compartmentalization of a lot of these peak performance gurus. Peak personal performance, in business or whatever, is worthless if we cut the Earth out from under our feet.

  8. How does staff engagement factor into customer satisfaction? Is it something that Walmart measures or is concerns about!?

      1. They are concerned about associate engagement and measure it. However, a large percentage of the workforce are not giving their full selves and want more than they provide. This is not uncommon across the retail industry and contributes to the perceived undervaluation of labor. If you want to get ahead, you have to provide more value than you are compensated for. Don’t agree? Check out all the Jim Rohn lessons such as this [Moderator: YouTube link removed.].

      2. lol…I have managed for numerous retail chains and worked as a turn around specialist for a retail company in there stores that were under preforming…usual because of managers who gave the type of answer you just gave. You are wrong and I proved it repeatedly by making profitable stores out of under performing store run by people with your ideas about employee’s.

  9. This is too good!!! Having a CEO fully legacy of the company really help to have the highest level of engagement. Really good to know that a company like Wal-Mart is driving the best practices is retail and advance it, caring about people and using advanced technology.

    I was impressed about the shake hands contract around 20/30 years ago…👍🤝

    1. lol..maybe you should talk to some people that work or have worked for WM…best practices…lol…if you mean program after program that doesn’t work..leaving money on the table or as it’s called stepping over dollar bills to pick up penny’s…and caring about…check the WM reddit thread to see how the employees feel..

  10. Thanks Tim – biggest lesson (and I heard u say the same on recent podcast) was Doug talking about being both an extrovert and needing other people, but also being an introvert craving periods of solitude for reflection and understanding. Recognising that’s its ok to feel like this has been huge. Thanks!

  11. Thank you for your existence – I have gained much by listening to your podcast episodes and reading your books. You select a wide diversity of people to interview. I groaned when I saw you were interviewing the CEO of WalMart – as a supporter of labor unions, local businesses and generally good ethics all around, I do not patronize WalMart. I approached listening to this with an open mind – as open as I could be – but nothing this man uttered offered anything. It was all scripted, corporate-speak lingo and left me thinking that our future in the US and the world is a bit darker with this enormous company’s continuous quest to grow bigger and take over even more. You were pressured to keep the interview within a certain time frame but I ached to hear more probing questions from you. What about those employees – since when is it OK to hire a person, offer them the job then show them how to apply for food stamps? Our government subsidises Walmart’s wages! And management makes over 100K per year? Which level of management earns this much?

    I don’t know where you stand politically and am eternally grateful you avoid the subject in your podcasts, which must be increasingly difficult to do. However, after reading and listening to you, I am fairly certain you do not personally support the practices of this corporation. But, perhaps I’m misdirected – I’ll be the first to admit I can be wrong. I missed the real “Tim” questions on this one.

    1. Thank you Megan for raising important issues. I too would love to hear Tim respond to your questions. I do however disagree that one with the range of influence as Tim can be politically neutral. 1) He can’t, because even silence is a political act; 2) Podcasts like this demonstrate violent* political values; 3) Any moral philosopher worth a grain of salt would agree that if one has power, one should use it for good.

      *The exploitation of Walmart is a form of violence. Poverty is violence. Being rich while your own workers struggle to afford food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare is violence.

  12. Tim, I hope you read into the critical comments here regarding your choice to affiliate and support Walmart’s example. I am curious to hear your perspective about issues such as massive inequality, Walmart’s cruel exploitation of their workers, and mass consumerism that is leading us to ecocide. I would have thought your deep exploration into self, society, and the “good life” would have led you to at least distance yourself from Walmart and the like. Please do respond if you feel moved. Thank you.

    1. It’s sadly amusing to the see the offended SJW virtue-signalers spouting the party-line Marxist propaganda in these comments. Tim, apparently you can leave the Bay area behind, but you can never escape the Bay Area political fantasy world. Ignore the haters and keep up the good work, Tim.

  13. Great episode! Would it be possible to learn more about the techniques Doug uses to decompose a problem as mentioned on the show?

  14. This was one of the best interviews on your podcast, and I like many of them! Doug is charismatic and relatable and loved how he shared openness to change and embrace technology, the role faith plays in his life and his role and it was eye-opening to learn how he also sees opportunities even on the businesses that continue to lose money. Lastly, Tim, I lived in Austin for many years back in 1995-2005 (now living in Hong Kong) but I was stoked when you decided to call Austin home!

  15. pleased to see that all the US of North America listeners here are able to surprise us and write in with their informed comments, glad you folks are in fact switched on, as I too was offfended (but not surprised) to see Mr Ferriss join the gospel choir for this particular CEO. Also pleasantly surprised Mr Ferriss moderator didn’t block all these comments as, well, Mr Ferriss doesn’t sit contently with this kind of feedback ‘they’re obviously not my true fans, so I don’t need it’. He thinks ‘ creating controversy with an open mind’ is a way to justify anything. Please be aware that the ethos attached to celebrating this CEO permeates everything Mr Ferriss promotes. Jeff Bozos is basically the most destructive force on the planet; Uber lets not even go there; and vainglorious ‘support a stock even as there is blood in the streets’ being an approximation of the phrase he has used several times on this podcast. Meaning, when people are suffering and starving one still needs to extort a profit from a situation. Mr Ferriss literally grandstands people as heros that literally profited off the global financial crises and the crashing economies of entire countries. This particular CEO is just the most recent in a long line of hero worship. That is all.

  16. You all need to stock your stores and I mean stock them not just put a few things out I am sorry do it right