Sam Walton grew up during hard times, the Great Depression. He credits his attitude towards money to this era. His father loved to trade, and would exchange things like a watch for a hog to have food for his family. Sam learned the importance of honesty, integrity, and the value of a dollar. Growing up during the depression, he was a hard worker. Even after his success and becoming a millionaire, Sam would drive around in an old pick-up truck and seldom had cash on hand. According to Walton (1992), “ A lot of what goes on these days with high-flying companies and these overpaid CEO’s who’re really just looting from the top and aren’t watching out for anybody but themselves really upsets me. It’s one of the main things wrong with American business today” (p. 9). I wish more companies read his book and followed his character!
Walton was always ambitious, driven, and he understood working hard and honestly. He had great ethics, humility, and many qualities that are found in great leaders. As a young man attending the Wharton School of Finance, he worked selling newspapers, as a lifeguard, and even waited tables in exchange for meals. After college he worked for J.C. Penny; he was a good salesman and always valued the customers. When World War II started he joined the Army. Walton knew he wanted to eventually start his own retailing company. In 1945 when the war was over, he left the Army. Sam borrowed money and bought a variety store in a small town called Newport in Arkansas. The previously unsuccessful store, with Sam as the owner now, would turn into a profitable business.
Sam was clever in doing unconventional things to attract business to his store and away from the competition. He would put pop-corn machines and ice cream machines in front of the store which was a big success. He heard about a store in another town that was going out of business and bought it so the competing variety store would not get bigger than his store. Also, he would have a second store to sell merchandise in if it didn’t all sell at his first store. This allowed him to buy more merchandise cheaper as well as having more room for storage.
Walton was extremely involved with his wife, four kids, church, and town community. He had excelled and been a successful entrepreneur except for one error…he only had a five year lease on the store. With nowhere else to open a new store, he had to sell it to the landlord who would not renew his lease since it had become so successful and he wanted to own it. The other store Sam had was sold to his competitor whom had become good friends. Sam would need to move and start over, but his skill as an entrepreneur would take him much further than Newport!
Walton, S., (1992). Sam Walton: Made in America, my story. New York, New York, Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.