Tell Me About Sam Walton

Here it is again, another New Year. For that, we need new learning skills and a larger appetite for learning. All of us know something about the great, business person, Sam Walton. Here are some facts that I know about Sam Walton.

Sam was very inquisitive and eager to learn. In fact, there was nothing he enjoyed more than going into a competitor’s store trying to learn something from his visit. Sam wanted to be the best, and he knew that without continuous upgrades in his merchandising, systems, and products that his competition would pass him by. Frankly, Sam wasn’t about to be left behind. To make that happen, Sam had to adopt some strong measures.

Today, the Chairman of Walmart is a man named Don Soderquist. Don met Sam in 1964 when Don was working for Ben Franklin. On a trip to Chicago to meet with them, Sam pitched Ben Franklin, trying to convince them to franchise his discount stores in small towns. Since they thought he was crazy, they gave him a flat, “NO”. They didn’t expect to see him ever again.

The next Saturday, Don was shopping at Kmart and happened to see Sam grilling the clerk with questions. “How frequently do you order?” “Uh, Uh”, he said between questions. He persisted, “How much do you order….and when does it come in?” With a yellow pad in hand, Sam was writing down her answers like a court clerk. Later, much to his surprise, Soderquist recognized Sam who was down on his hands and knees measuring the aisles and crawling under one of the stock tables. “What in the world is he doing that for?” thought Soderquist. Finally, Soderquist had to ask. “Sam is that you?” And, Sam looked up from the floor and said, “Oh! Don, what are you doing here?” Don said, “I’m shopping. What are you doing?” “Oh”, Sam said, “just part of the education process!”

To those of you who read my column each month, go look at a competitor’s place of business. Visit other yards and see what they are doing to bring in the new technology, new methods or new ways of doing business in this very competitive environment.

If it was good enough for Sam Walton, then why not you? Last year, I spoke about Shannon Nordstrom and Jim Butler. Those men visit other yards and bring those ideas back to their locations to improve their operations. Those business men at the top, stay at the top, because they’re willing to get to the bottom of what makes others successful. Sam Walton was an American original who founded what is today, the largest company in the world. There is no doubt that his competitive edge, spirit, and passion to learn was one of the keys to his huge successful career.

I thank you for reading this article but I wish to leave you with a quote from Don Soderquist:

“In order to lead effectively, a person must know how to live. To make a difference in their own life, they must learn how to make a difference in other people’s lives. And, most importantly, lead to make a difference through ethics and integrity.”

Now go make it your best year ever. See you next time.

Correspondence regarding this article should go to:

D.J. Says, 2820 Andover Way, Woodstock, GA 30189

D. J. Harrington is an author, journalist, seminar leader, international trainer, and marketing consultant. He works primarily with customer service personnel, and his clients include such world-class companies as General Motors, DuPont, Caterpillar, and Damon Corporation. He may be reached at 800-352-5252. E-mail: 52 weeks a year, we are as close as your telephone.