Link Copied

How Doug McMillon went from a high schooler working at Walmart for $6.50 an hour to a millionaire CEO running one of the world's most powerful companies

Born in Memphis, McMillon has two younger siblings. He spent his childhood in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but the family moved to Bentonville — the beating heart of Walmart's operations — when he was 16.

Born in Memphis, McMillon has two younger siblings. He spent his childhood in Jonesboro, Arkansas, but the family moved to Bentonville — the beating heart of Walmart's operations — when he was 16.

Source: Associated Press

Share Slide

Growing up, McMillon attended church and played varsity basketball. McMillon told Fortune that his parents were supportive and encouraged him to develop a competitive streak.

Growing up, McMillon attended church and played varsity basketball. McMillon told Fortune that his parents were supportive and encouraged him to develop a competitive streak.

Source: Fortune

Share Slide

McMillon took on his first gig at Walmart in 1984, in order to earn money for college. The high school student was responsible for unloading trucks at one of Walmart's distribution centers.

McMillon took on his first gig at Walmart in 1984, in order to earn money for college. The high school student was responsible for unloading trucks at one of Walmart's distribution centers.

Source: Fortune, Associated Press

Share Slide

Fortune reported that the job paid $6.50 an hour. McMillon said he considered working for McDonald's, but the pay was better at Walmart.

Fortune reported that the job paid $6.50 an hour. McMillon said he considered working for McDonald's, but the pay was better at Walmart.

Source: Fortune

Share Slide

After high school, McMillon attended the University of Arkansas, a school that boasts a particularly strong connection with Walmart.

After high school, McMillon attended the University of Arkansas, a school that boasts a particularly strong connection with Walmart.

Source: Fortune, Associated Press

Share Slide

They've even got a Sam M. Walton College of Business. But the school's name was changed to that years after McMillon graduated in 1989.

They've even got a Sam M. Walton College of Business. But the school's name was changed to that years after McMillon graduated in 1989.

Source: The University of Arkansas

Share Slide

McMillon's thoughts returned to his old employer as he worked to earn his MBA from the University of Tulsa. He told Fortune that he called up a Walmart executive during his second year.

McMillon's thoughts returned to his old employer as he worked to earn his MBA from the University of Tulsa. He told Fortune that he called up a Walmart executive during his second year.

Source: Fortune, Associated Press

Share Slide

That executive was Bill Fields, a high-ranking company leader who had once served as Sam Walton's assistant. Fields told McMillon to take on a role at a Tulsa Walmart.

That executive was Bill Fields, a high-ranking company leader who had once served as Sam Walton's assistant. Fields told McMillon to take on a role at a Tulsa Walmart.

Source: Ultimate Settlements, Fortune

Share Slide

Fortune reported that when the business student hesitated, Fields challenged him to handle the 52-hour work week.

Fortune reported that when the business student hesitated, Fields challenged him to handle the 52-hour work week.
Share Slide

McMillon took Fields up on the challenge and made it work.

McMillon took Fields up on the challenge and made it work.

Source: Fortune

Share Slide

McMillon quickly began to rise within the retailer's ranks. As a buyer, he moved between categories like fishing gear, womenswear, diapers, crafts, and fabrics.

McMillon quickly began to rise within the retailer's ranks. As a buyer, he moved between categories like fishing gear, womenswear, diapers, crafts, and fabrics.

Source: Fortune

Share Slide

He even got to interact with Walton early on, when he gave a presentation on fishing gear at his first Saturday morning meeting in January 1991.

He even got to interact with Walton early on, when he gave a presentation on fishing gear at his first Saturday morning meeting in January 1991.

Source: Associated Press

Share Slide

"Sam was running the meeting," he told the Associated Press. "So I got to stand next to him and show an item from our fishing department and talk about it."

"Sam was running the meeting," he told the Associated Press. "So I got to stand next to him and show an item from our fishing department and talk about it."

Source: Associated Press

Share Slide

The company founder and the future CEO overlapped at the company's Bentonville headquarters for about a year, according to the Associated Press. Walton died on April 5, 1992.

The company founder and the future CEO overlapped at the company's Bentonville headquarters for about a year, according to the Associated Press. Walton died on April 5, 1992.

Source: Associated Press

Share Slide

McMillon didn't stop at the executive level. In 2005, after working as chief merchandiser for Sam's Club, he became CEO of the members-only warehouse club.

McMillon didn't stop at the executive level. In 2005, after working as chief merchandiser for Sam's Club, he became CEO of the members-only warehouse club.

Source: Fortune

Share Slide

Five years later, McMillon got another opportunity to climb within the company. He took over Mike Duke's role running Walmart International after Duke became CEO of Walmart Inc.

Five years later, McMillon got another opportunity to climb within the company. He took over Mike Duke's role running Walmart International after Duke became CEO of Walmart Inc.

Source: Walmart

Share Slide

That move signaled that McMillon was a likely heir apparent. So, when 2013 rolled around and it was announced that McMillon would be replacing Duke on February 1, 2014, it didn't come as much of a surprise to observers.

That move signaled that McMillon was a likely heir apparent. So, when 2013 rolled around and it was announced that McMillon would be replacing Duke on February 1, 2014, it didn't come as much of a surprise to observers.

Source: Fortune

Share Slide

As CEO of Walmart Inc., McMillon has focused on boosting the retailer's digital capabilities and omnichannel approach. Under McMillon, Walmart associates also saw the company's minimum wage rise to $11 an hour in January 2018.

As CEO of Walmart Inc., McMillon has focused on boosting the retailer's digital capabilities and omnichannel approach. Under McMillon, Walmart associates also saw the company's minimum wage rise to $11 an hour in January 2018.

Source: Reuters

Share Slide

He's also become more of a figure in the political arena, as of late.

He's also become more of a figure in the political arena, as of late.

Source: Business Insider, The New York Times, Center for Responsive Politics

Share Slide

McMillon donated $6,350 to Republican and conservative causes and figures between 1990 and 2016.

McMillon donated $6,350 to Republican and conservative causes and figures between 1990 and 2016.

Source: Business Insider, The New York Times, Center for Responsive Politics

Share Slide

He served on US President Donald Trump's now-defunct strategic and policy forum, but has criticized the president on the issue of tariffs and his reaction to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

He served on US President Donald Trump's now-defunct strategic and policy forum, but has criticized the president on the issue of tariffs and his reaction to the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Source: Business Insider, The New York Times, Center for Responsive Politics

Share Slide

McMillon and his wife, Shelley, have two sons. He earned over $22 million in 2018, according to Bloomberg.

McMillon and his wife, Shelley, have two sons. He earned over $22 million in 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Source: Fortune, Bloomberg

Share Slide

"Having been here a long time, I think I had the feeling that I knew what responsibility felt like," McMillon told Fortune on his first day as CEO in 2015. "And then you move into the role and you find out there's a whole 'nother level of it."

"Having been here a long time, I think I had the feeling that I knew what responsibility felt like," McMillon told Fortune on his first day as CEO in 2015. "And then you move into the role and you find out there's a whole 'nother level of it."

Source: Fortune

Max Nisen contributed reporting to a previous version of this story.

Share Slide
More from our Partners