Cultivating a Mutually Beneficial Partnership:
How Our Relationship with One of the World’s Largest Retailers Has Evolved Over the Past Two Decades
Not long after Harrison French founded HFA in 1990, another company with headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, was searching for another architecture firm to partner with to support its growing remodel program. That company, now the world’s largest retailer, was Walmart. Since the beginning of our partnership in 1993, our scope of work with Walmart has evolved exponentially, as have the contacts we work with day in and day out, but what has not changed is our ability to work closely with the Walmart team as a trusted partner.
Back to the Beginning
From the very beginning of this 28-year partnership, the Walmart client team at HFA has adapted and shaped our working methods not only to meet but exceed the needs of Walmart, known for the speed and volume of their projects and programs.
One of the notable partnership responsibilities, above and beyond project execution that transformed how we work with Walmart and our fellow A+E firms, was being asked to oversee the peer review process on all new store projects in the early 2000s. This responsibility helped us gain considerable knowledge that would prove vital in years to come.
As our team continued to build its confidence and knowledge of Walmart with the peer review program, we were nominated to take over the peer review process for remodel stores, as well. As a result of this opportunity, we established better working relationships with our fellow A+E firms and gained valuable insights into Walmart’s processes.
"Being asked to review the work created by our peers was a huge honor, and we did not take it lightly. It placed us front and center, and we had to keep making the best plans possible. If you’re responsible for reviewing the work of others, you have to be one of the best,” said Bo Ebbrecht, AIA, NCARB, RIBA, Vice-President at HFA.
Over time we streamlined and innovated the peer review process, allowing us more visibility to the inner workings of the new store and remodel programs. This insight led to our team's ability to learn from real-time issues, adjust and look out for potential roadblocks before they happened, all while opening new avenues of work with Walmart in the future. These learnings went a long way in giving our team the confidence they needed to succeed in subsequent projects that came our way.
As Walmart began adjusting its internal structure, we realized that one more way we could set ourselves apart was by following suit and creating a new team model for the future.
Building a Multi-Disciplinary Team
It soon became apparent that to continue to serve Walmart at the highest capacity possible, our teams had to adopt the same agility and speed Walmart is known for. Our early working relationship has helped shape how we staff many of our teams today. We quickly realized how imperative it was to have a multi-disciplined team serving Walmart. This meant working to seamlessly integrate MEP professionals into our client team beginning in 2008. To date, we are still one of the few firms that have an integrated, in-house A+E team dedicated to Walmart. As we started realizing the value of this integration, we added fire protection, structural, civil engineering, and refrigeration to cater to Walmart's needs as their programs continued to grow and evolve.
Expanding our team to encompass these specialties brings more knowledge and diversity of work experience that lends well to our commitment to leading our clients with our collective guidance and expertise within each industry.
"Having all disciplines in-house allows us to work together as a team to develop project schedules, foster communication, and in some cases, share management responsibilities for the program to serve the client better. Every year it feels like we become more and more integrated as a team and continue to develop new ways of working," said Shane Hevelone, LEED AP BD+C, Director at HFA.
Continuing to cultivate our relationship with Walmart is even more critical as they grow and expand their programming in response to current market trends and future programming priorities. Thanks to our proximity to Walmart headquarters here in Northwest Arkansas, we have the unique advantage and honor of taking charge of some of the high-profile test stores as the architects of record in Arkansas. While this can seem daunting with so many eyes on us, we always strive to use this to our advantage by repeatedly putting ourselves on the front lines to take these innovative R&D programs from mere ideas to reality.
We look forward to collaborating with Walmart on future projects as they come down the pipeline, further solidifying our long-standing relationship as we go.
To learn more about our work with Walmart, contact Bo Ebbrecht, AIA, NCARB, RIBA. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.