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Dave Olson, Published March 13 2014

What's on my desk?: Fargo Wal-Mart manager enjoys relating to customers, employees

FARGO – John Pies has an office at the Wal-Mart store located near Interstate 29 and 55th Avenue South in Fargo, but he doesn’t spend lots of time there.

He’s much happier being out among store customers and the more than 250 associates he manages.

“It’s a low-mileage office. That’s part of what Wal-Mart asks of us as servant leaders,” said Pies, who has been with Wal-Mart for more than a dozen years.

While his work desk is Spartan, the shelves above it contain items rich with personal and professional significance. They include the following:

1. Soda cans and bottles that have autographs and well wishes scrawled on them by former co-workers, many of whom moved on to other positions with the company.

“Whenever I come across characters in my life, I like to get mementos from them. I really enjoy retail for the variety of people you meet,” Pies said.

2. A coffee mug that was a gift from Roland Eck, a longtime manager of a competing retailer who went to work as a greeter at Wal-Mart after retiring from his management position.

“He (Eck) was my mentor in a lot of different scenarios,” Pies said. “We’d meet at 7 o’clock at the front door and we’d kind of solve all the world’s problems and then go on.”

3. A framed family photo, a souvenir of the time Pies’ wife, Amy, bought tickets to a game between the University of Minnesota and the University of Michigan as a birthday present for her husband and the couple’s son, Alex, who shares a birthday month with his father.

Pies and his son are both big fans of “Big Blue,” as Michigan is known.

4. Photos of Pies’ son, Alex, and daughter, Samantha.

5. A figurine of a pig with the words “I’m committed” printed on its side. Pies said the pig symbolizes a “barnyard breakfast,” a term from one of his management books that refers to the role bacon plays in a morning meal.

“As a pig, you are committed, because you are the breakfast,” Pies said, adding that when 255 associates depend on your leadership, “You gotta come in very focused each day.”

6. A plaque Pies received when he passed the 10-year mark with Wal-Mart.

All told, Pies has been with the company 13 years now. In in that time he moved around quite a bit, mostly in South Dakota, where he managed a number of stores in various cities before becoming manager of the 55th Avenue South store in Fargo when it opened in the fall of 2009.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555