ROFDA Member: Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co.
Editor’s note: The following is a portion of 2018’s ROFDA Report honoring ROFDA vets. The full report is available in the December 2018 editions of The Shelby Report.
David Bullard, president and CEO of Piggly Wiggly Alabama Distributing Co. (PWADC), took a break from college to serve in the U.S. Army. He had three years of college under his belt when he signed up in 1986.
Bullard, who served for four years (until 1990), was a sergeant when he got out.
During the time he served, he was stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina. He was a combat infantry squad leader, responsible for the nine soldiers in his squad, as well as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne division. He made 48 jumps during his time at Fort Bragg.
Serving in the Army “really benefited me in a number of ways,” Bullard said. “It helped my maturity and improved my self-discipline. I was around some tremendously talented people in the Army; it’s an unbelievably good organization. I learned a lot from a lot of outstanding leaders.”
He also had to relate to and work with people at all levels, and he learned the value of teamwork.
“You have to rely on the guy next to you in the Army, so it really develops an understanding of teamwork,” Bullard says.
“In addition to that, I got a whole bunch of GI Bill education money that later paid and helped pay for a master’s degree (an MBA) and a law degree.”
Although he got his law degree, he didn’t actually plan to practice law. Instead, he used that education in the corporate world, working at Michelin Tire Co.
“Law school is an extremely valuable thing to help you in a corporate career,” he said. “It teaches you a different way of thinking and analyzing problems and makes you very comfortable with legal situations. I say it’s one of the best degrees you can get to accompany a corporate career.”
Unlike many of his peer CEOs in the grocery industry, Bullard did not have a prior history in the business; he hadn’t been a bagger or stock clerk before a headhunter called him about a job at Piggly Wiggly Alabama in 1996. He was serving as PWADC’s director of human resources when he was chosen in June 2012 to succeed former Dennis Stewart.
“I entered the grocery business knowing nothing about it; a lot of people would say I still don’t know anything about it,” he joked.
Bullard was unable to provide a photo of himself in uniform; when The Shelby Report reached him at his office in Bessemer, he was about to board a plan for a retailer trip to South Africa, taking about 150 people.