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Eduardo Castro-Wright: putting a global spin on Wal-Mart.

Commerce runs through the veins of Eduardo Castro-Wright. The newly promoted Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Wal-Mart Stores Division in the United States comes from a long line of chain managers. His grandfather, in fact, began the first line of grocery stores in Ecuador more than fifty years ago. "To this day, that chain continues to be the principal supermarket chain in the country," Castro-Wright proudly says. Now, Castro has taken similar steps into bringing a new energy to the popular American giant.


Castro-Wright, 49, formerly the President and Chief Excutive Officer of Wal-Mart Mexico, headed Wal-Mart's majority-owned Mexican subsidiary since 2001. Prior to his Wal-Mart career, he served as president of Honeywell Transportation and Power Systems Worldwide. He had also been President of Nabisco Asia-Pacific, and President of Nabisco in both Mexico and Venezuela. "My grandfather was an important factor in the development of who I am today," Castro-Wright admits. He has fond memories of working next to his grandfather as a child. Back then, the grocery empire was simply a one-store market. "All of the family collaborated in the business since the beginning," he says. His childhood experience of working for the family business benefited Castro-Wright in two very important ways. Firstly, he says it made him appreciate the value of family. "Our family is very united. We are a family with very Latin characteristics where family is the center of our society."

Next, it taught the young Castro-Wright how to be a businessman. "Since I was young I learned the value of a dollar. I learned that with hard work and dedication, and certainly, luck and education, one could get very far." When asked why he did not continue in the family business, he responds: "I come from a large family and the business was run by my uncles. I wanted to be an engineer. I always loved cars, so I chose to study mechanical engineering."

Castro-Wright next made a decision that would change his life: he chose to leave the comfort and security of Ecuador and study in a totally different culture: the United States. He obtained a Bachelor's of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Texas A&M University. Little did be know that his educational journey set a foundation for Castro-Wright's professional future. "Working as an executive for a multinational company, I've had the opportunity to live and work in many different countries with distinct cultures and with distinct languages. One case for example was Asia ... Singapore, Hong Kong. I've been responsible for the entire Asian market."

Although some may be overcome with culture shock, Castro-Wright says being placed in a foreign land actually made him both a better human being and savvier executive. "The necessity of having to learn about new ways of thinking and to see different cultures than those where I grew up in, obligated me to grow."

One of the challenges of doing business in an exotic land is to try and understand its culture and how to reach the population as consumers. He found out quickly that a sure-fire way to reach an audience was not a guaranteed formula for others. Interestingly enough, when ever he had to reach out to a new market, he would look inward. "I had to search for acceptable methods to succeed in places where I felt like a fish out of sea," he admits, adding, "I have a sincere appreciation for diversity."

The Traits of Success

While Castro-Wright had the privilege of learning about business at a young age, he claims virtue has gotten him much farther ahead in his career than his direct mentorship ever did. "I think when someone acts with integrity and speaks honestly, all types of opportunities will open," Castro-Wright says. "I don't think there is any other human characteristic that will allow you to integrate into such different situations or into such different societies. And that requires that we live the life we preach. Absolute integrity personally, absolute integrity professionally is the principal trait that has allowed me to win people over."

While vision and drive are a must for success, Castro-Wright is adamant that virtue is the most important attribute of all. Other personal traits that he admires in his colleagues are good communication skills. Castro-Wright says it is extremely important for those in power to be able to do and say what they really feel so that they are not merely second-guessed. "Leaders sometimes only listen to what they want to hear," Castro-Wright admits. "I think leaders need to really listen to what employees are saying or to what consumers are saying for that matter."

His Wal-Mart colleagues have always known that Castro-Wright stood out above the crowd. Michael T. Duke, president and CEO of the Wal-Mart Stores Division, stated in an official release: "We are fortunate to be able to draw on executive talent from within our global team. Eduardo is a proven leader who has helped Wal-Mart Mexico to achieve outstanding results. His experience, perspective and management skills will be a valuable addition to our division here in the United States."

Castro-Wright's reign brought with it a surge in Wal-Mart Mexico's business. According to the Mexican Agrifood News Report, during the first trimester of 2003 Wal-Mart Mexico's clients increased 10 percent, as compared to the first trimester of 2002. Castro-Wright says this increase is a result of their promotional campaign "Low Prices Everyday."

When asked what his first goal in his new post as executive vice president and chief operating officer will be, Castro-Wright replies: "I'm going to do what I've done here. Really, all the markets are similar in the fact that the Wal-Mart consumer is centrally involved in everything we do. So my first goal will be to better understand the American consumer. It is a market where I have not yet had a lot of experience. I've had the opportunity to work in numerous markets, but not yet the one in North America."

Castro-Wright may have his work cut out for him in understanding the marketing principles of a new market, but he admits that Wal-Mart core philosophy is not complex in nature. "Our consumer is in the center of everything we do," Castro-Wright says. "And we have a very clear vision of how, as a company, we have the responsibility of contributing to better the lives of our consumers in the many different lands where we operate. We give the consumer access to better prices and lower prices. We want consumers to be able to purchase more for their money."

Moving On, Moving North

As Castro-Wright makes the transition to his new position and new homeland, he takes with him years of experience, but his most treasured skill is that of zeroing in on talented people who can actively manage the company while also expanding the company to a new level of success. "The principle and most limiting factor for growth is finding talented and sufficient people to oversee the growth." He strongly believes that individuals are the ones who either propel a company forward or keep it in a state of mediocrity.

As a Latino executive, Castro-Wright is proud of Wal-Mart's hiring record. "The number of associates of Latino origin undoubtedly reflects the reality of the demographics of the United States." According to the online corporate news magazine Shack News, Castro-Wright's appointment to the top operations job marks the first time Wal-Mart has tapped its global repository of executives to fill a high-level domestic position. The news journal recently reported that "Historically, Wal-Mart's U.S. executives were the ones called upon to lend their expertise to international operations. That is true to a much lesser extent today as the flow of executives is no longer one-way and has actually begun to reverse, as the promotion of Castro-Wright illustrates."

When asked about his future at Wal-Mart and, in general, as a global executive, he replies that he sees himself returning to his origin and contributing to make the world a better place. "When we get to a certain age, we like to look hack and think that we have embarked in making a difference and have made a mark [on the world]. That mark reflects in people who are more satisfied and complete and who have access to a better life. As leaders, it is our responsibility to aid in some way to make other people's dream a reality."

The Wal-Mart Timeline


* 1962: Company founded with opening of first Wal-Mart in Rogers, Ark.

* 1967: Wal-Mart's 24 stores total $12.6 million in sales.

* 1968: Wal-Mart moves outside Arkansas with stores in Sikeston, Mo., and Claremore, Okla.

* 1969: Company incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. on Oct. 31.

* 1969: Wal-Mart Aviation hires its first full-time pilot, giving co-founders Sam and Bud Walton some help.


* 1970: Wal-Mart opens first distribution center and home office in Bantonville, Ark.

* 1970: Wal-Mart stock first traded over the counter as publicly-held company.

* 1970: 38 stores now in operation with sales at $44.2 million. Total number of associates is 1,500.

* 1971: First 100 percent stock-split in May. Market price: $47.

* 1971: Wal-Mart is now in five states: Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri and Oklahoma.

* 1972: Wal-Mart approved and listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

* 1972: Second 100 percent stock split in March. Market price: $47.50.

* 1973: Wal-Mart enters Tennessee.

* 1974: Wal-Mart stores now in Kentucky end Mississippi.

* 1975: 125 stores in operation with sales of $340.3 million and 7,500 associates. Wal-Mart enters ninth state: Texas.

* 1975: Third 100 percent stock split in August. Market price: $23.

* 1975: Inspired by workers he saw on a visit to Korea, Sam Walton introduces the famous "Wal-Mart Cheer" to associates.

* 1977: Wal-Mart makes first acquisition, 16 Mohr-Value steres in Michigan and Illinois.

* 1977: Wal-Mart enters its 10th state: Illinois.

* 1978: Hutcheson Shoe Company acquired; Wal-Mart pharmacy, auto service center and jewelry divisions introduced.

* 1979: Wal-Mart is the first company to reach $1 billion in sales in such a short period of time: $1.248 billion. Wal-Mart now has 276 stores, 21,000 associates and is in its 11th state: Alabama.


* 1980: Fourth 100 percent stock split in November Market pace: $50.

* 1980: Largest distribution center to date opens in Palestine, Texas.

* 1981: Wal-Mart enters Georgia and South Carolina.

* 1981: Wal-Mart makes its second acquisition with 92 Kuhn's Big K stores.

* 1982: Fifth 100 percent stock split in June. Market price: $49.875.

* 1982: Wal-Mart enters Florida and Nebraska.

* 1983: First SAM'S CLUB opened in April in Midwest City, Okla.

* 1983: People Greeter implemented at all stores.

* 1983: Sixth 100 percent stock split in June. Market price: $81.625.

* 1983: Wal-Mart enters Indiana, Iowa, New Mexico and North Carolina.

* 1983: For eighth year straight Forbes Magazine ranks Wal-Mart No. 1 among general retailers.

* 1984: Sam Walton does the hula at high noon on Wall Street, making good on promise to associates after company achieves pre-tax prom of 8 percent in 1983.

* 1984: David Glass named company president.

* 1984: Wal-Mart enters Virginia.

* 1985: Seventh 100 percent stock split in September. Market price: $49.75.

* 1985: Wal-Mart has 882 stores with sales of $8.4 billion and 104,000 associates. Company adds stores in Wisconsin and Colorado.

* 1986: Wal-Mart enters Minnesota.

* 1987: Eighth 100 percent stock split in June. Market price: $66.625.

* 1987: Wal-Mart's 25th anniversary: 1,198 stores with sales of $15.9 billion and 200,000 associates.

* 1987: Wal-Mart Satellite Network (largest private satellite communication system in the U.S.) completed, linking all operating units of company and General Office with 2-way voice, data and one-way video communication.

* 1988: David Glass named chief executive officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

* 1988: First Supercenter opened in Washington, Mo.

* 1988: Ninety percent of Wal-Mart stores have bar-code scanning capabilities.

* 1988: 16 Wal-Mart distribution centers in operation.

* 1989: Wal-Mart is now in 26 states with the addition of Michigan, West Virginia and Wyoming


* 1990: McLane Company of Temple, Texas acquired.

* 1990: Wal-Mart enters California, Nevada, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Utah.

* 1990: Wal-Mart Visitor's Center opens on site of Sam Walton's original Walton's 5-10 store.

* 1990: Ninth 100 percent stock split in June. Market price: $62.50.

* 1991: Western Merchandisers, Inc. of Amarillo, Texas, acquired.

* 1991: Wal-Mart enters Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusettes, New Hampshire, New Jersey and New York.

* 1991: "Sam's American Choice" brand products introduced.

* 1991: International market entered for first time with the opening of two units in Mexico City.

* 1992: President George Bush presents Sam Walton with the Medal of Freedom.

* 1992: Sam Walton passes away April 5.

* 1992: S. Robson Walton named chairman of the board April 7.

* 1992: Wal-Mart has entered 45 states with the addition of Idaho, Montana and Oregon.

* 1992: Wal-Mart enters Puerto Rico.

* 1993: Wal-Mart International division formed with Bobby Martin as president.

* 1993: Tenth 100 percent stock split in February. Market price: $63.625.

* 1993: Wal-Mart enters Alaska, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Washington.

* 1993: First billion-dollar sales week in December.

* 1993: 99 Pace Warehouse clubs acquired.

* 1994: 122 Woolco stores in Canada acquired.

* 1994: A prototype store designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible opens in Lawrence, Kansas.

* 1994: 3 value dubs open in Hong Kong. Canada has 123 stores end Mexico has 96.

* 1994: Code Adam program implemented, named after Adam Walsh, in all stores.

* 1995: James Lawrence "Bud" Walton, cofounder, passes away.

* 1995: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. has 1,995 Wal-Mart stores, 239 Supercenters, 433 SAM'S CLUBS and 276 International stores with sales at $93.6 billion end 675,000 associates.

* 1995: Wal-Mart enters its 50th state--Vermont--and builds three units in Argentina and five in Brazil.

* 1996: Wal-Mart enters China through a joint-venture agreement.

* 1996: Wal-Mart has first $100 billion sales year, with sales totaling $118.1 billion for 1997 per AR '98.

* 1997: Wal-Mart replaces Woolworth on the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

* 1997: Wal-Mart introduces OneSource nutrition centers.

* 1997: Wal-Mart acquires 21 Wertkauf units in Germany.

* 1998: Wal-Mart introduces Neighborhood Market concept with three stores in Arkansas.

* 1998: Wal-Mart exceeds $100 million in annual charitable contributions, with donations totaling $102 million.

* 1998: Wal-Mart enters Korea through a joint venture agreement.

* 1999: Wal-Mart has 1,140,000 associates, making the company the largest private employer in the world.

* 1999: Eleventh 100 percent stock split in March. Market price: $89.75.

* 1999: Wal-Mart acquires the ASDA Group plc. in the United Kingdom (229 stores).

* 199: Wal-Mart ranked #1 Corporate Citizen in America in the 1999 Cone/Roper Report, an annual national survey on philanthropy and corporate citizenship.


* 2000: Wal-Mart ranked 5th by FORTUNE magazine in its Global Most Admired All-Stars list.

* 2001: H. Lee Scott named president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

* 2000: Wal-Mart ranked #1 Corporate Citizen in America in the 2000 Cone/Report, an annual national survey on philanthropy and corporate citizenship.

* 2001: Wal-Mart named by FORTUNE Magazine as the 3rd most admired company in America.

* 2001: Wal-Mart ranked by Hispanic Business Magazine as one of the TOP 25 Diversity/Recruitment Programs in 2001 for its aggressive program to hire and promote Latinos.

* 2002: Wal-Mart received the 2002 Ron Brown Award, the highest Presidential Award recognizing outstanding achievement in employee relations and community initiatives.

* 2002: Wal-Mart ranked #1 on the FORTUNE 500 listing.

* 2002: Wal-Mart has the biggest single day sales in history: $1.43 billion on the day after Thanksgiving.

* 2003: Wal-Mart named by FORTUNE magazine as the most admired company in America.

* 2004: FORTUNE magazine placed Wal-Mart in the top spot on its "Most Admired Companies" list for the second year in a row.

* 2004: Wal-Mart was presented the "Corporate Patriotism Award" which is presented to a company that exhibits exceptional dedication to raising awareness and support of U.S. service members and their families.
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Title Annotation:The Savvy Leader
Author:Ferraez, Jorge
Publication:Latino Leaders
Article Type:Cover Story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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