Jane Thompson has a pretty simple mantra: Focus on your strengths and leave your weaknesses at home.
"It's a philosophy that says, you don't ignore your weaknesses, but don't keep trying to fix the ones you really aren't good at," says Thompson, who requires employees in her unit to complete a survey to highlight their strengths.
For Thompson, the process of self-discovery began when she worked as a consultant with McKinsey & Co., where she found that strategizing for others was not where she excelled. So Thompson left McKinsey in the late 1980s for Sears, and after helping plan the retailer's turnaround was rewarded with the stewardship of its credit-card business, which grew to be a key money-maker.
"My No. 1 strength is I'm a maximizer," she says. "I can take a business or create a business, then take it to new heights. That's not what consultants do. Consultants are more strategic."
Thompson has certainly applied that forte at Wal-Mart. The retail giant is steadily expanding its share of the money-services business. It now operates a MoneyCenter inroughly 1,500 stores, offering customers a menu of low-cost services, from check- cashing to money transfers.
Wal-Mart is also becoming a leader in prepaid cards. Thompson calls the Wal-Mart MoneyCard, which the retailer offers through is partnership with Green Dot, "a transformative product."
And despite having suspended efforts for an industrial loan charter in the U.S., the company conducts traditional banking operations in Mexico, Canada and the U.K. In all, Wal-Mart handles roughly 250 million financial transactions a year.