It is not every day that someone gets kudos for resuscitating a company reputation so I thought it is worth noting. The Economist praised CEO Lee Scott for “reviving” Wal-Mart’s reputation. Lee Scott just announced that he is retiring at the end of January 2009. And in these bleak times, not everyone can say that they are leaving on a “high.” According to the article, Wal-Mart’s sales are expected to increase by 8% in a year that no one will soon forget. Scott has had to deal with more publicly humiliating challenges than most CEOs – law suits by female employees, discrimination charges, low wages and treatment of employees, bad benefit packages, etc. Then lo and behold, Lee Scott took it all on, listened to his critics, changed direction and succeeded. I could not agree more with The Economist’spoint of view. And I have to say that I also feel somewhat vindicated because over the past 18 months I have told skeptical reporters that Scott was on the right trail and making the right moves. Everytime he stumbled, he picked himself up and kept his eye on the prize for Wal-Mart. One CEO once said that reputation recovery is the “strategy of small gestures” and this is the path taken by Scott for Wal-Mart. All his actions have added up incrementally to getting the giant retailer back onto the road of restoring the company’s reputation. His sustainability platform for the company have been commendable and if executed properly will make a tremedous difference to the environment. As the Economist said, “Wal-Mart’s performance and reputation have never been better, and there is little for him to gain by staying on. The culture is transformed; the strategy is in place; his reputation glows.”
The best part was the title for the article – From Bad to Great – a takeoff on Jim Collin’s Good to Great blockbuster book. Good for them and good for us in the reputation space to see that reputations can be regenerated.