Sam Walton was an American entrepreneur who founded the world's largest retail chain, Walmart, in 1962. Walton's humble beginnings and the constant pursuit of perfection established the groundwork for his extraordinary achievement. He showed an entrepreneurial drive from an early age, establishing several businesses and valuing the value of hard work. Walton's unique idea changed the retail environment by establishing the concept of bargain retailing. His dedication to offering low pricing and excellent customer service enabled Walmart to become the world's largest retailer, forever changing the way people buy. Walton's lasting legacy extends beyond his financial accomplishments, as he left behind a philosophy centered on employee empowerment and community service.
Sam Walton grew up with a strong work ethic and a strong business drive. On March 29, 1918, he was born into a humble family in Kingfisher, Oklahoma, and grew up during the Great Depression, observing his parents' and the community's sufferings.
From an early age, Walton displayed a keen interest in business, taking on various odd jobs to contribute to his family's income. He sold milk from the family's cow, delivered newspapers, and even peddled magazine subscriptions. These experiences taught him the value of hard work, resourcefulness, and the importance of building relationships with customers. The challenges he faced during his childhood instilled in him a hunger for success and a determination to overcome obstacles. Little did he know that these early experiences would shape his entrepreneurial journey and lay the groundwork for the retail empire he would later build.
As his family traveled frequently during the Great Depression, Sam Walton received his education at a variety of institutions in Oklahoma and Missouri. In 1936, he graduated from Hickman High School in Columbia, Missouri, where he was named "Most Versatile Boy." He then attended the University of Missouri, where he studied in economics and was involved in the ROTC program as well as other student clubs. In 1940, he received his Bachelor of Science degree and began working as a management trainee for the J.C. Penney Company.
Sam Walton's career began in 1940, when he began working as a management trainee for the J.C. Penney Company in Des Moines, Iowa. L.S. Robson, his mentor, taught him the fundamentals of retailing for $75 per month. He liked his job and was good at sales and customer service.
However, he resigned from his position in 1942 to participate in World War II as an officer in the United States Army Intelligence Corps. He was stationed at numerous locations in the United States and abroad and rose to the rank of captain. In 1943, he married Helen Robson and they had four children: Robson, John, Jim, and Alice.
Walton chose to follow his goal of establishing his own store when the war ended in 1945. In Newport, Arkansas, he borrowed $20,000 from his father-in-law and purchased a Ben Franklin variety shop franchise. He used his knowledge and talents to run the store efficiently and profitably. He provided reasonable prices, polite service, and extended hours. He also tried out innovative merchandising methods including self-service displays and advertising events.
Walmart and beyond:
Walton's store was profitable, but he faced competition from larger stores that opened nearby. He also had a disagreement with his landlord on the lease renewal. In 1950, he decided to sell his store and relocate to Bentonville, Arkansas, where he opened Walton's Five and Dime, another Ben Franklin store.
Walton quickly extended his company by creating other Ben Franklin stores in Arkansas and nearby states. He joined forces with his brother, James (Bud) Walton, who had also served in the war and had shop expertise. Under the name Walton Brothers, they established a regional chain of Ben Franklin stores.
Walton, on the other hand, had a larger goal of building a new type of cheap store that would cater to the requirements of rural people. He wished to provide a diverse choice of things at reasonable costs in huge stores located in small towns. He hoped that by doing so, he may attract clients who would otherwise have to travel vast distances to purchase at metropolitan establishments.
He pitched his idea to Ben Franklin management, who dismissed it as too dangerous and unprofitable. Walton made the decision to carry out his strategy on his own. In Rogers, Arkansas, he opened the first Walmart shop (then known as Wal-Mart Discount City) in 1962.
Customers rushed to the Walmart shop because of the ease, variety, and value it provided. Walton developed inventive techniques to reduce expenses and pass the benefits on to customers. He also encouraged his staff (who he referred to as colleagues) to offer their thoughts and opinions on how to enhance the company. He gave them profit-sharing schemes and stock options as compensation.
Walton's plan worked, as Walmart expanded fast across the country. By 1970, there were 38 Walmart stores with $44 million in revenue. By 1980, there were 276 Walmart stores with $1.2 billion in sales.
Walton also expanded his business by introducing new forms and ventures. In 1983, he launched Sam's Club, a warehouse club franchise that provided members with bulk products at wholesale costs. In 1988, he created Walmart Supercenters, which added extensive grocery departments to the usual product offerings and grew to become one of Walmart's most profitable areas.
By 1990, Walmart had surpassed Sears and Kmart to become the largest retailer in the United States. It has almost 1,700 outlets and $26 billion in revenues. It also went global, launching its first outlets in Mexico and Canada. Walton was regarded as one of history's most influential and successful businesspeople. From 1985 to 1988, Forbes magazine declared him the richest person in America, and he won the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
“High expectations are the key to everything”.~ Sam Walton
“I could not believe this was happening to me. It really was like a nightmare.” ~ Sam Walton
“To succeed in this world you have to change all the time.” ~ Sam Walton
“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 you will catch the passion from you like fever.” ~ Sam Walton
“If everybody is doing one way, there a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in opposite direction.” ~ Sam Walton
Sam Walton was a visionary leader who, through his inventive and customer-focused approach, revolutionized the retail business. He built a global empire that has continued to develop and thrive even after he died. He also left an indelible mark on the communities and causes he championed, including education, health care, and environmental conservation. He is widely regarded and admired as a role model for entrepreneurs, executives, and consumers alike.
“You can’t just keep doing what works one time, everything around you is changing. To succeed, stay out in front of change”. ~ Sam Walton
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