my job

“A lot of people get into retail because they love the merchandising,” Ron Lopez said. “For me, it’s more the people part — helping the associates grow and taking care of the customer.”

In April, Lopez helped associates and longtime customers of the St. Anthony Walmart grow into a new, full-service location in Roseville. Lopez loved the former location in St. Anthony that brought him to the Twin Cities 18 months ago. He and his team earned the Small Format Store of the Year award in his first year. Still, he will be happy not to be fielding questions like, “Where’s the produce?” and “Where’s the bakery?”

Having owned several businesses in Florida, Lopez had already “retired” before joining Walmart 12 years ago. He began as an assistant manager and after his first year was recognized as a project manager. “I would go to an area that needed help to roll out a new program, like inventory improvement or a front-end change at the cash registers.”

He continued to work at his home store in the Quad Cities between projects, being promoted to shift manager. He first came to the Twin Cities to manage a project at the St. Anthony store. Less than a month after the project concluded, he was back as store manager.

Rising through the ranks is not unusual, Lopez said. Walmart has a 70 percent internal promotion rate. “The first store manager I worked for started as a cart pusher. He’s now a regional vice-president. He knew everything about the operation. For me, working under him was a great opportunity.”

A typical career path might lead from front-line hourly associate to first- and second-level department supervisor or team lead. The next step, to assistant manager, might involve a department like “fresh areas” or “home lines,” or it might be managing an area of responsibility like the front-end cashiers or the backroom inventory.

Lopez said the organization helps people decide what direction they want to take — on to shift or store manager, for example, or toward accounting or human resources. “”The opportunities are endless,” he said.

What is the scope of your management duties?

We have 300 full-time and part-time associates now. We might top out at around 350. There could be 10,000 people through on a Saturday afternoon.

What do you look for when you’re hiring?

I look for people skills. I might ask, “How would you handle a refund?” I look for how they think it through and whether they can resolve it to a positive conclusion where everyone wins. I look for willingness to learn the culture and the process. Everything else is available through training and learning.

What are some challenges?

In moving from a rural area to a more metropolitan area, there were differences. In the metro, people shop later on weekdays. Friday, Saturday and Sunday are really busy. In the rural area, the shopping is more spread out.

What’s the best part of the job?

Every time I think I know everything, I learn something new. I learn from customers and associates, and I learn from company leaders who have the global vision, not just my piece of the pie.

What’s the next step on your career ladder?

This is what I want to do right now. There’s a lot of opportunity, a lot of movement. I embrace that. □