Sam Walton

By: Mick Yates

The founder of Wal-Mart and giant of discount retailing grew up in Oklahoma during the depression.  He was described as an industrious, ambitious boy who collected accomplishments as other boys collected toy cars.  He was the youngest boy in the State’s history to become an ‘Eagle Scout’ and was voted the ‘Most Versatile Boy’ in his class.

With some financial assistance from his father-in-law, Sam brought his first store in Arkansas in 1962.  It was here he pioneered concepts that would prove crucial to his success.  By making sure his shelves were stocked with a wide variety of goods and opening longer hours than most other stores, he gave his customers a flexibility that they had never before enjoyed.  By buying goods wholesale he was also able to offer his customer products at cheaper prices than many of his competitors.

Sam’s leadership style was popular amongst his employees and he founded some of the basic concepts that are still in use today.  Believing that ‘individuals don’t win, teams do’ Sam fostered commitment in his employees by introducing stock options and store discounts.  He also believed in community spirit and felt that each store should reflect his customer’s values and support the vision they held for their community.

Sam followed what he called his ‘Ten Commandments of Business’; commit to your goals; share your rewards; energize your colleagues; communicate all you know; value your associates; celebrate your success; listen to everyone; deliver more than you promise; work smarter than others; and blaze your own path.  With these ideas forming the basis of today’s leadership theories, an average of 60 million customers shopping at his stores every week and sales of over $104 billion, there will be few that can argue with Sam’s logic.

By Melanie Smith