Doug McMillon, the C.E.O. of Walmart, started thirty years ago as a teen-ager, unloading trucksat a distribution center. Walgreens’s C.E.O., Greg Wasson, began as a pharmacy intern while still a college student. But the former Target C.E.O. Gregg Steinhafel beats both of them, having mopped floors as a child at the family furniture store in Milwaukee before arriving at Target, as a merchandise trainee, thirty-five years ago.
Even after he became the C.E.O., earning millions of dollars a year, Steinhafel tried to see his stores as Target’s customers might. “I come in and I want to see, How does the store feel?” he told Marketplace’s Kai Ryssdal, in 2009. “Is it clean? Are the brand standards right? I quickly look at the check lane—is there anybody waiting in line?… Am I excited to be here?” In February of this year, on a visit to a store, he pointed out that its entrance didn’t have enough shopping carts and that a mannequin’s arm was out of place, according to a Wall Street Journal profile.