Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Made In America

"There is only one boss.  The customer.  He can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else."

Sam Walton (1918 - 1992)
From the book "Made In America"

More or less an autobiography, Sam Walton's book, Made In America, is also a treatise on his personal business philosophy.  That photo is from his high school yearbook.  His graduating class voted him "The Most Versatile Boy."

And he was!  In business he did it differently than the competition.

I can save you a lot of time.  One overriding thesis in the book is this - in every exchange in business, conversation, relationships, virtually every exchange, someone is selling and someone is buying.

That's it!  There, I saved you a lot of time!

I'd still recommend reading the book anyway!  But consider the thesis!

From the opening of his first small Walton's Five and Dime, he aimed to serve the customer with shelves always stocked with a variety of goods, and at the lowest prices possible.

He always wanted to buy directly from the manufacturer, feeling that it saved money.  It does.  He thought that when buying through a middleman, or from somewhere other than directly from the manufacturer, "you are buying inefficiency."

That probably explains why the WalMart system will buy goods from anywhere in the world today.  It's overall objective is to provide merchandise at great savings.  The customer is king.

Also from the beginning of his chain, he thought this, and this is where vision comes in:  post-war America was changing.  The car was coming into vogue for family use and travel, and highways were multiplying.  Traffic increased as people moved to the suburbs.  Often the small town was passed by in favor of the populated suburbs.  But, he knew, people would travel outside of suburbia for a bargain.

In defiance of the suburban mentality, and the retail thinking of the time, Sam Walton thought that selling a lot of things at a lower price to more people would be more profitable than selling expensive things to fewer people in the "big city."

His vision was, in a manner of speaking, THINKING SMALL!

Other theses you may get from the book:
  • Competition is a refining fire.  Welcome it, learn from it and compete with it!
  • Never pass up a market that looks too "small."
  • Growth depends on the creation of value where value did not previously exist.  Value increases by enriching others.
  • This is typically home spun, a wonderful Sam Walton trait -- speak to others before they speak to you.

WalMart is criticized by the less successful and less efficient for not "allowing" unions and not giving a lot to charities.

Walton himself, in his own defense, said that the aim of his business is to save customers money and raise the standard of living in the areas where his business is located.  Neither union pay demands or charitable donation does either of those things.

His "associates" can raise their own pay levels through their personal employment practices, getting promotions and pay increases by contributing more.  You earn more when you are more valuable to the company!


And in his company it works every time.  This might be different than some thinking in this era, but nonetheless, that is the company philosophy and they have a loyal, loyal, loyal group of employees and patrons.

This man, and his company, were truly Made In America.  Free enterprise and the employment of capital made both great.

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