Contrary to popular belief, Sam Walton (the founder of Wal-Mart) was not from Arkansas. He was actually born in Kingfisher, Oklahoma on March 29, 1918. He was raised in Missouri where he worked in his father’s store while attending school. This was his first retailing experience and he really enjoyed it. After graduating from the University of Missouri in 1940, he began his own career as a retail merchant when he opened the first of several franchises of the Ben Franklin five-and-dime franchises in Arkansas.
This would lead to bigger and better things and he soon opened his first Wal-Mart store in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas.
Wal-Mart specialized in name-brands at low prices and Sam Walton was surprised at the success. Soon a chain of Wal-Mart stores sprang up across rural America.
Walton’s management style was popular with employees and he founded some of the basic concepts of management that are still in use today. After taking the company public in 1970, Walton introduced his “profit sharing plan”.
The profit sharing plan was a plan for Wal-Mart employees to improve their income dependent on the profitability of the store. Sam Walton believed that “individuals don’t win, teams do”. Employees at Wal-Mart stores were offered stock options and store discounts. These benefits are commonplace today, but Walton was among the first to implement them. Walton believed that a happy employee meant happy customers and more sales. Walton believed that by giving employees a part of the company and making their success dependent on the company’s success, they would care about the company.
By the 1980s, Wal-Mart had sales of over one billion dollars and over three hundred stores across North America. Wal-Mart’s unique decentralized distribution system, also Walton’s idea, created the edge needed to further spur growth in the 1980s amidst growing complaints that the “superstore” was squelching smaller, traditional Mom and Pop stores.
By 1991, Wal-Mart was the largest U.S. retailer with 1,700 stores. Walton remained active in managing the company, as president and CEO until 1988 and chairman until his death. He was awarded the Medal of Freedom shortly before his death.
Walton died in 1992, being the world’s second richest man, behind Bill Gates.
In Walton’s biography, Made in America: My Story he outlines what he feels are the ten commandments of business:
1.Commit to your goals
2. Share your rewards
3. Energize your colleagues
4. Communicate all you know
5. Value your associates
6. Celebrate your success
7. Listen to everyone
8. Deliver more than you promise
9. Work smarter than others
10. Blaze your own path
By following his advice, maybe you too can become a retail giant.