Why Should I Read | Sam Walton: Made in America

Sam Walton didn’t set out to become the wealthiest man on planet earth. 

It just sort of happened along the way.

This week’s book, Sam Walton: Made in America is a prime example of a man who passionately pursued a desire to be the best at what he had chosen to do.

This post follows the points brought up in this video:

Here are the three things we are going to cover.

  1. Sam Walton’s personality
  2. Walmart’s culture
  3. A couple fun stories from the book.

With the possible exception of Henry Ford, Sam Walton is the entrepreneur of the century.

Tom Peters, Author, In Search of Excellence

Sam Walton, “thought of perhaps running for president one day,” when he was a young man. Many people have big dreams like this but Walton was willing to back up his ambitions with work. Transitioning out of political ambitions, athletic excellence into merchandising he found that he loved the process that went along with buying a product and selling it at a profit.

His mindset is summed up on pg. 39 by his successor and CEO of Walmart, also current owner of the Kansas City Royals, David Glass:

Two things about Sam Walton distinguish him from almost everyone else I know. First, he gets up every day bound and determined to improve something. Second, he is less afraid of being wrong than anyone I’ve eve known. And once he sees he’s wrong, he just shakes it off and heads in another direction.

That relentless drive to improve pushed Walton to continually benchmark the practices of his stores against others.

There’s not an individual in these whole United States who has been in more retail stores- all types of retail stores too, not just discount stores – than Sam Walton…. there may not be anything he enjoys more than going into a competitor’s store trying to learn something from it.

Bud Walton, Sam’s brother & co-founder pg. 190

Again, Sam Walton didn’t set out to become the wealthiest man in the world, but he did have a burning desire to win and be “on top of the heap.”

His natural abilities of motivation, coupled with a sickening amount of work, resulted in a multinational corporation that rocketed from profits of $112,000 in 1960 to over $1 Billion in the early 1990s when he passed away.

Walton would maintain throughout his life that the culture built the business. Yet he embodied the culture his organization carried out with precision.

The “Walmart Culture” as it came to be known, was a real partnership with the associates with the intent to make the customer number one. That was beautifully executed in an environment of high trust.

With practices like the weekly Saturday morning meeting, constant store visits, thinking small, passing profits and stock options to associates, and giving smart trust to people, Walton built a very specific culture into his organization that endured throughout his life. It can be summed up in this statement from pg. 137.

I learned this early on in the variety store business: you’ve to give folks responsibility, you’ve got to trust them, and then you’ve got to check on them.

Beyond those two ideas, this book is downright fun to read. The adventures that Sam Walton would experience in building Walmart make for a fun time.

In the early days it was not uncommon for Sam walton to pull up to his store front with the back seat of his car filled to the brim with ladies panties which he bought for a great price. Walking through his own front door with arms full, he would announce a sale.

That mindset of passing along savings to the customer reverberated through the entire organization for years. My personal favorite is the story of Phil Green in Hot Springs, Arkansas, who ordered enough Tide to build a 12 foot tall mountain of Tide that ran the entire length of his store, 7 cases wide. Even Walton thought he was crazy but people came just to see that much soap in one place. Green sold it all. Emboldened by this experience Green later bought 200 identical riding lawnmowers and filled his parking lot with them.

They all sold too.

You’ll have to read the book to find out why Sam Walton was crawling around on the floor of Kmart, flying his plane sideways over the Missouri countryside, hollering pig calls at shareholder meetings, or dancing the hula on Wall Street.

This man had a self termed “Bias towards action” and his was a full life. His autobiography is no different.

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