Swimming Upstream

After reading Sam Walton's book "Made in America," I am inspired by Wal-Mart's amazing example of what can be accomplished in this great country of ours.  Here are a few takeaways that contributed to their success and are uniquely Wal-Mart:

1) Sam was very intentional about thinking small in order to get big.  What this means is that they became a huge corporation by not acting like one.  They never puffed their chest out about how big they were, they remembered that all those sales happened at an individual store, mostly by hard work, good attitudes and team work.  Sam said, "if we ever forget the importance of looking a customer in the eye, greeting him or her and asking politely if we can be of help, then we just ought to go into a different business because we'll never survive in this one."

2) Wal-Mart stayed lean and fought bureaucracy.  When they were at five stores, they tried to operate on a 2% general office expense structure.  They maintained this mentality all the way to several thousand stores.  Sam said this about their one-story corporate office warehouse building: "We sure as heck won't win over any interior decorating awards, but they're all we need, and they must be working fine.  Just ask our shareholders."

3) The customer is always the focus, in everything they do.  They firmly believed in taking care of their people, because they were the ones that would ultimately take care of the customer.  They fought every day to find better and more cost effective ways to deliver product to the customer.  Sam said, "Exceed your customers expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over.  Give them what they want, and a little more."

4) Sam was unbelievably competitive and was a life-long learner. His desire to stay ahead is what created an unwavering passion and continually pushed Wal-Mart to new heights.  He said, "If you love your work, you'll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you, like a fever."

5) Wal-Mart faced their competition head on by swimming upstream.  By going the other way, by ignoring conventional wisdom.  Sam said, "if everybody is doing it one way, there's a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction."

Wal-Mart is a great example of the American Dream.  It's a great example of what can happen when a team of people work together towards the attainment of a definite purpose.  In this free market of ours, there is no limit to what can be accomplished if you think small, stay lean, focus on the customer, work hard and swim upstream.  

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