14 January 2018

SABBATH - Belief in God, Faith in Associates, A Passion for Retail, Samuel Moore Walton

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His Passion for Serving Customers, His Faith in God and His Desire to Share Success with Associates Drove Sam Walton to Become the Most Successful Retailer of His Generation.

Sam Walton was born March 29, 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. By the time he died April 5, 1992 Walton was worth more than US$25B and Walmart operated 1,735 Wal-Mart stores in 40 states. By 2010 Walmart had become the largest company in the world and even had its own fleet of ships, trucks and logistic containers bringing merchandise to the customers they served. 

Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in 1962, after several years in the retail management business. The discount chain expanded internationally over the next 30 years, growing into the world's largest company by 2010. 

From his days as president of the Burall Bible Class at the University of Missouri and Stephens College Walton developed values and a system of beliefs that would influence the rest of his life. One writer characterized Sam Walton as part P. T. Barnum and part Billy Graham as applied showman and his beliefs to building the giant discount retailer.

Walton was voted "Most Versatile Boy" as he graduated from David H. Hickman High School, Columbia, Missouri. Even this early acknowledgement of his abilities belied how he always seemed to rise to the top. He served in the US Army Intelligence Corps from 1942 to 1945 and reached the rank of Captain supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps from Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, Utah.  

Sam Walton built the Wal-Mart empire into the number one retailer on a simple, but groundbreaking plan, cut all excess costs and sell low. Walton reduced his wisdom to words whenever something struck him as important.   
"There is only one boss-the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." -Sam Walton
He developed his own 10 commandments for Walmart:

  1. Commit to your business.
  2. Share your profits with your associates and treat them like your partners.
  3. Energize your colleagues.
  4. Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners.
  5. Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.
  6. Celebrate your success.
  7. Listen to everyone in your company.
  8. Exceed your customers' expectations.
  9. Control your expenses better than your competition.
  10. Blaze your own path.

Walton's first Five and Dime store is now the
 Wal-Mart Visitors Center in Bentonville, Ark
John Huey wrote an article for Time Magazine in 1998 that grasped what Walton had really accomplished. Here are some excerpts: 
"Though it's hard to believe today, discount retailing was a controversial concept when it began.. Traditional retailers hated it, and so did manufacturers; it threatened their control of the marketplace. Most states had restrictions on the practice. 
Walton was an active student of retailing--all family vacations included store visits--so Walton saw what was coming. On July 2, 1962, at the age of 44, he opened his first Wal-Mart store, in Rogers, Ark. That same year, S.S. Kresge launched KMart, F.W. Woolworth started Woolco and Dayton Hudson began its Target chain. Discounting had hit America in a big way. At that time, Walton was too far off the beaten path to attract the attention of competitors or suppliers, much less Wall Street.
Once committed to discounting, Walton began a crusade that lasted the rest of his life: to drive costs out of the merchandising system wherever they lay--in the stores, in the manufacturers' profit margins and with the middleman--all in the service of driving prices down, down, down.
Using that formula, which cut his margins to the bone, it was imperative that Wal-Mart grow sales at a relentless pace. It did, of course, and Walton hit the road to open stores wherever he saw opportunity. He would buzz towns in his low-flying airplane studying the lay of the land. When he had triangulated the proper intersection between a few small towns, he would touch down, buy a piece of farmland at that intersection and order up another Wal-Mart store, which his troops could roll out like a rug.

As the chain began to take off, Walton made major adjustments to manage the growth--again always seeming to see ahead. As early as 1966, when he had 20 stores, he attended an IBM school in upstate New York. His goal: to hire the smartest guy in the class to come down to Bentonville, Ark., and computerize his operations. He realized that he could not grow at the pace he desired without computerizing merchandise controls. 
He was right, of course, and Wal-Mart went on to become the icon of just-in-time inventory control and sophisticated logistics--the ultimate user of information as a competitive advantage. Though he is rarely remembered that way, Walton may have been the first true information-age CEO."
On March 17, 1992, President George Bush presented Walton with the Medal of Freedom for his entrepreneurial spirit and his support of employees and the communities of Walmart. It would be his last achievement. Walton checked into the University of Arkansas Hospital and passed away six days after his 74th birthday.

Sam Walton didn't invent retailing or even discounting. However just as Henry Ford's assembly line revolutionized the automobile industry, Walton's dogged pursuit of low cost retailing revolutionized the customer service economy. Walton more than any other shifted the power down the value chain to the consumer. As one writer has said, this new model paved the way for a new breed of "category killer" retail like Home Depot, Barnes & Noble, Bass Pro and Blockbuster. The truth that the consumer rules has forever changed the face of retailing as Amazon is now proving with another disruption.

Reflections - The Walton Brothers Talk About The Early Days:

Walton was an avid hunter and outdoorsman who maintained his humble image right up until his death. His vehicle of choice was a red 1985 Ford pickup. From 1959 on, he lived in the same house with his wife Helen in Bentonville, Arkansas. In 1985 when Forbes magazine named him the wealthiest man in the United States, it irritated Walton who said “All that hullabaloo about somebody’s net worth is just stupid, and it’s made my life a lot more complex and difficult.”

One wonders what Sam would think today as Jeff Bezos takes the Walton model to another level and leaves bricks and mortar retailers in the dust.

More links:

Walmart History

entrepreneur.com calls Sam Walton, the Bargain Basement Billionaire



On this Sabbath day, InfoStream hopes the Samuel M. Walton story of faith, retail and passion will encourage you to live a life of service filled with Abundant Joy.

God bless!

About Executive Producer, Larry R. Evans:
Larry Evans is an experienced innovator and strategist. He is Principal of The Paradigm Corporation, which is headquartered at Thunder Ridge just outside Crossfield, Alberta, Canada. He is known for bringing a unique and predictive lens to paradigm shifts during a career that spans 45 years. Now often from his wheelchair, he brings a grounded, tenacious view of brand, ecosystems and trusted relationships for the digital age. His perspective and values influence his life, business and ministry.


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