Annie Kronlokken finds affinity with Walmart’s belief in service, adaptability
By Justin Walker
The customer has always been the center for Walmart Inc. and its subsidiary companies as the company aims to help everyone save money and live better. Especially in times of uncertainty, a customer-focused mindset is key for Walmart’s operations. They have to continually unlearn and relearn to ensure its strategy is relevant.
Annie Kronlokken understands the need for a changed perspective. Like her friends, Kronlokken really applied herself in high school, setting her eyes on an Ivy League education. But a family friend kept raving about this school down in Waco.
“Every time they would see me, they were like ‘Sic ’em Bears!’ and ‘Baylor is the best!'” she said. “I could tell the alumni network was always talking about how great of a university it is.”
After submitting an application and visiting campus, Kronlokken felt an overwhelming peace about her decision. She had to go to Baylor. As her friends headed east for the Harvards and Yales, Kronlokken left her home in Minneapolis and established herself in Central Texas.
Senior Manager of Sam’s Club Merchandise Finance, Walmart Inc.
Opportunities continued to open up for Kronlokken as she joined the Baylor Angel Network—an investor network that provides students with hands-on experience as analysts—and then had a summer research trip to Haiti in 2017. Through both ventures, she developed a passion for the consumer space and knew she wanted to work in this area after college. At the start of her senior year, Kronlokken met and developed a mentorship with then Baylor Board of Regents member Bill Simon, the former president and chief executive officer at Walmart.
“Pretty soon after we started meeting, he suggested I go work for Walmart,'” she said. “I was like, ‘Really? Move to Arkansas?'”
Being from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kronlokken wasn’t sure about moving to yet another state where she knew absolutely no one. But Simon believed she would be a great fit and sent her resume to Brett Briggs, Walmart’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.
She joined Walmart after she graduated in 2018, starting off as an analyst in the Accounting and Finance Development Program. Through the two-year program, Kronlokken rotated around Accounting and Finance at Walmart, getting a taste for the different roles within the company, including merchandise finance, internal audit, and mergers and acquisitions.
In May 2020, she moved over to Sam’s Club, a subsidiary of Walmart, as the senior manager of merchandise finance. In this position, she supports the apparel and jewelry business at Sam’s Club. The role is enjoyable because of the open-endedness of it, she said. Her responsibilities vary from strategy—the day-to-day finance work—to decision support modeling.
“One thing I’m working on right now is understanding where the customer is going”, she said. “With the COVID environment, we are gaining new shoppers. We have to figure out where to grow—such as channel and brands—and what it will take to grow in a smart way.”
COVID-19 has been a game-changer for many retail stores and Walmart is no exception, but Kronlokken sees room for innovation to ensure that customers continue to have a great shopping experience.
There is a great mix of opportunity where Walmart and Sam’s Club must continue to deliver on the fundamentals but do it through a big wave of change. Kronlokken believes that Walmart as a whole has responded in an innovative way to keep customers happy and safe during uncertain times.
“I am so proud to work at Walmart,” she said. “I think there is a high urgency to be agile and change the way we work and the way we think about the business. It is so energizing to me.”
Kronlokken is thankful to be at Walmart and Sam’s Club, where she believes they truly build up their employees. It is a similar environment to Baylor, she said, where the principle of serving others is key. She plans to continue pouring her energy into making the customers’ lives easier for the foreseeable future.
“I have this theme: Invest where your feet are,” she said. “What is next for me is what is in front of me.”