by Meridith Levinson

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Leadership Profile: Kevin Turner of Sam’s Club

Oct 01, 20022 mins
IT Leadership

President and CEO

Sam’s Club

Getting Kevin Turner to discuss his personal accomplishments at Wal-Mart is as tricky as hooking a striper with a nymph lure.

Turner, a demon fisherman and the former CIO of the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-merchant was promoted to president and CEO of its Sam’s Club division last August. He insists that he wouldn’t be where he is today were it not for the myriad mentors who encouraged him to search for transformational ideas, stretch his limits and put the customer first. Not to mention the energy and talent of his IS staff, and the advice and support of Shelley, his wife of 13 years.

“It’s really all the people I work with who deserve the credit,” he insists. “They’re the ones that deal with our customers and deliver the programs, that answer the phone calls and work the trouble tickets. I just kind of front the deal.”

Which at the very least seriously understates the magnitude of the 37-year-old Turner’s contributions to the world’s largest retailer. He joined the company as a clerk in 1985, and was, at one time, the youngest Wal-Mart employee ever to be named a corporate officer (he was appointed vice president of application development at 29). His friends will point out that he introduced handheld computers to store associates way back in 1992, bringing back-office employees out on the floor to help customers. They’ll say that his understanding of retailing?and his ability to use IT to solve its problems?is what powered his rise in the organization.

And they’ll tell you that Turner is a master motivator. “Kevin does one of the most outstanding jobs of any executive in the entire company of making his people feel like a team,” says Thomas Coughlin, president and CEO of the Wal-Mart Stores Division.

“When you teach and explain and involve people in the business, and show them the value that they have and their ability to contribute, when you care about them and do it genuinely, they give you their heart,” says Turner. “When you adopt a philosophy that it’s the people that make the difference, your effectiveness as a leader goes up astronomically.”