26 | CITISCAPES | JUNE 2019 PROFILE In that first Walmart, he worked alongside another assistant manager named Sue. He gained more than just a colleague with Sue. “You weren’t really supposed to date if you worked in the same store, but we did and ended up getting married in 1982,” he laughs. Early in their marriage, Russ and Sue moved around quite a bit with Walmart – and made it to Northwest Arkansas 29 years ago. They had two children, Tyler and Brittney, and thought life was going according to plan. But when Tyler was 3 years old, their world changed. “Our son, Tyler, was diagnosed with leukemia,” he says. “My whole life was put into focus and that became my whole world.” After chemo and a bone marrow transplant (from Russ’ sister), Tyler made it through the fight. But the family was forever changed. When Brittney was 13, she was also diagnosed with the same form of leukemia that Tyler had. Going through this type of disease with both children can only be described as traumatic. “There were only about eight years of their childhood where both were cancer free. After six years of chemo and bone marrow transplants, we knew, undoubtedly, what really mattered,” Russ says. “I wonder sometimes what my life might have been like if it had not been for those situations. But both kids are well now, are grown and have families of their own,” he continues. “It’s hard to talk about now. I know that our minds repress some of the worst things when we are going through trauma, but when I begin to talk about it all these years later, it’s like it floods back and I begin to relive how hard that was.” Tyler and his wife were unable to have their own children, due to the chemo treatments he had as a child, but they have adopted three children. “By the grace of God, Brittney was able to have children and she has three boys, as well,” he adds. Russ and Susan delight in each of their six grandchildren. After 29 years with Walmart, Russ made the decision to retire. However, inspired by the people who were most important in his life and feeling as though he had some good knowledge and experience he could share, he began to think of his next steps. “I wanted my kids and my grandkids to know what I learned in all that time of working. I wanted them to know that it was all about people,” he says. “I wanted to share this with the people in my life initially, and then I started thinking that maybe there was a broader application than just my immediate family. That maybe supervisors, managers and small business owners out there might benefit from the things I learned while working for Walmart all those years. I wanted to share these things in a believable and straightforward way to people of all levels.” And that is how the idea of writing a book was born. For more than six months, tediously and sincerely, Russ worked to pen just the right information and create a book that was truly useful to others. One of the most important things Russ wished to share was that “people are the single greatest asset” in any organization. “I didn’t have CEO’s in mind when I wrote the book,” he explains. “I had people in mind who don’t have access to leadership development. I believe leadership is often overthought. Yes, it begins and ends with the leader, but it’s not all about the leader. Above all else, leaders must treat people respectfully.” Another important part of leadership, Russ says, is “conveying to those around you that they are a meaningful part of something that is worthwhile. We want to be led by people who can inspire us. We want to be inspired to give our best. Sam Walton was amazing at creating an atmosphere where you felt like everything you did was meaningful.” Russ says honesty equals power in business. “The power of honesty — the ability to share the truth in a tactful manner — is amazing. I am always confident going into a conversation where I am going to share what I believe to be the truth, and feel that I will come out of it with a positive outcome. There is no comeback for the truth. You can’t be wrong if it is your truth.” Russ and Sue Robertson and family As a self-employed consultant, Russ works with companies, churches and nonprofits to help develop leaders at the ground level.