One day in the early 1960s, 44-year old Sam Walton founded his first department store in Bentonville, Arkansas a few years after being forced to let go of his first successful store for contract problems. Since this day, July 2nd, 1962, Walmart has grown to be the most successful retailer in the world (now is second to Amazon) with over ten thousand stores and more than $200 billion in market value. All that because of one dedicated and hard-working man who lived by his principles and gave many ambitious people, including me, the inspiration to do and grow more.
I have read Walton`s autobiography, ‘Sam Walton: Made In America’ and these are my top four lessons for you:
1. Understand the value of the dollar
Walton never believed in a having a flashy lifestyle and was capable of balancing the love of life with keeping expenses at bay. He had seen people selling their companies for little to enjoy the rich experience, then suffer later when it all goes down the drain. He also believed that to provide value to his customers he had to cut his expenses and be wise with spending money.
So he built a philosophy that every penny he saves, is a penny saved for his customers and created the famous Walmart motto: Save money. Live better. Walton dined at family restaurants, slept two to a room when traveling with his executives and among all of the eighteen airplanes he bought in his lifetime, none of them were brand new.
”Every time Wal-Mart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right out of our customers’ pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition” – Sam Walton
2. Protect your success and learn from every mistake
After five years of hard work in Arkansas, Walton eventually managed to outperform his competitors and build the largest and most profitable variety store in the whole region. Unfortunately, he lost everything over a contract mistake. His landlord got greedy and wanted to give Walton’s store to his son, so he refused to renew his lease at any price.
To be honest, the man did offer Walton a fair price in exchange of his franchise name and inventory but this wasn’t what Walton wanted, and he had to leave behind all the success he’d just built and go.
But because of his positive mindset, Walton blamed nobody but himself for that mistake and vowed to learn from that mistake and spend double the time reading any future lease. He also realized his family needed someone with law experience who can also hold their best interest so, he encouraged his oldest son, Rob, to become a lawyer.
3. Learn everything you can about your business
Be desperate to learn everything about business and hang around those who know better than you. Wal-Mart stores have dominated the retail industry for years but did you know who made Walton interested in such business? His barber. The first rules Walton ever learned about retail work came from his barber and his brothers who had later grown their variety store into a sixty-store chain.
Walton also spent most of his Sundays at his manager`s house learning the business and talking about retailing. Even when he later left JCPenney and moved to Arkansas, he had to find someone experienced to learn from so he spent his lunch breaks at his competitor`s store and copied his best practices.
“Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else.” – Sam Walton
4. Be competitive
The best word to describe Walton is competitive. He got that from his mother who taught him to take life seriously and try to be the best at everything he did. He worked as a lifeguard, waited tables in exchange for meals and stopped getting allowance as soon as high school began. He also made a considerable sum of money during college despite living through the most prolonged, and most prevalent depression of the 20th century.
Walton was so competitive that he played baseball, football, and basketball all at the same time and won the state championship in two different sports. Not mentioning climbing up the Boy Scout ranks at a very young age and being elected president of the town’s Bible Class.
This intense experience helped Walton set his mindset towards success and understand the importance of teamwork. He realized that publicly exercising his ego wasn’t the right way to build a strong business, so he invested much in attracting the best, most talented, and most loyal people to his team.