Thursday, January 27, 2011

Arkansas Business Hall of Fame Inductee: Donald G. Soderquist

On February 11, 2011, the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame will induct four new members. Each of the new inductees has impacted the state not only through his success in commerce, but also by his compassion for the community.

Here is a brief look at Don Soderquist, Former Senior Vice Chairman, Walmart, and Founding Executive, Soderquist Center for Leadership and Ethics:
Don Soderquist
Don Soderquist graduated from Wheaton College in Illinois in 1955, and in 1963, he went to work for Ben Franklin in Chicago as vice president of data processing. It was here at the headquarters that he first met Sam Walton, who owned a chain of 15 Ben Franklin stores. Soderquist said, “I was running the computer operation at that time for Ben Franklin so he came downstairs, and we spent the afternoon together. We just kind of clicked. He asked very penetrating questions about computers and what the possibilities might be . . . So we had just a delightful time together. In the process of that, in a half a day, we really became friends.”

Don Soderquist joined Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president.
Walton eventually convinced Soderquist to join Walmart in 1980 as executive vice president. Soderquist served in several executive positions before his appointment in early 1988 to vice chairman and chief operating officer. He oversaw many of Walmart’s key support divisions. In January 1999, he was promoted to senior vice chairman. During a 20-year career at Walmart, Soderquist’s value went beyond his knowledge of retailing and business; he was a people-oriented manager who was able to energize others. As the keeper of the culture that Walton established, Soderquist usually led the legendary Walmart “Saturday morning meeting,” and he continues to be a frequent speaker at Walmart management meetings worldwide. He said, “It’s a matter of putting other people first. It’s a matter of working together. There are some that are hands and some that are arms and some that are legs. To make the body function, all of those pieces have to be present.” He retired in 2000 and continued to serve on the board for two more years.
After Sam Walton passed away, Don Soderquist became the "keeper" of Walmart's unique culture.
In 1998, John Brown University created the Soderquist Center for Business Leadership and Ethics in his honor. Soderquist wrote two books, “The Wal-Mart Way,” to share the principles he felt led to the growth of Walmart, and “Live, Learn, Lead—To Make a Difference,” which shares more of his philosophy. Soderquist has received three honorary degrees and numerous industry awards.

Don and JoAnn Soderquist have been active in numerous not-for-profit organizations in Northwest Arkansas by participating on boards and in numerous philanthropic efforts.

For more information on the Arkansas Business Hall of Fame and the other three inductees, Dickson Flake, Wallace Fowler and Leland Tollett, go to: and

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