Mike Duke, Wal-Mart Corp.

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Shortly after Mike Duke became president and CEO in 2009 of Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart, the world's biggest company with 8,500-plus stores and 2.1 million employees, customers were buying fewer products, partly because the stores were carrying fewer products in general, fewer name brands, and more private label. By March 2010, Duke began adding back products that had been dropped to reinvigorate business, reports CNN Money.

His strategy worked. A Georgia Tech-educated engineer and 15-year Wal-Mart veteran, he must have been pleased to see that mega-retailer Wal-Mart topped Fortune's Global 500 list in 2010 with sales of $408 billion.

Duke, who started out in logistics, was put in charge of U.S. stores in 2003, and two years later was made vice chairman and installed as the head of Wal-Mart's international unit. During his three-year tenure, sales grew from under $60 billion to nearly $100 billion.

In June 2010, Duke laid out four strategies for building the Next Generation Wal-Mart at the company's annual shareholders meeting. They include: Become a truly global company; Understand the business challenges that retailers will face and solve them; Play an even bigger leadership role on social issues that matter to our customers; and Keep our culture strong everywhere.

In order to be a more global company, Duke discussed the need to serve customers as a local store, share best practices and leverage Wal-Mart's global supply chain. He also stressed the importance of talent. "Just over the next five years, we'll create 500,000 jobs around the world," he said. "We need to recruit the best talent and identify the best talent in our ranks. Then we need to develop leaders and help them become global citizens."

Duke highlighted the global challenges that retail will face over the next 20 years, including the impact of technology on shopping habits and, in particular, on pricing. "Retail will soon enter an era of price transparency. And what kind of retailer wins in a time of price transparency? You got it, the price leader," Duke said. "We need to really churn the productivity loop and deliver on our Every Day Low Price business model everywhere. Wal-Mart must widen the gap here. We will win on price leadership, and we will win big."

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