I would rather study a CEO who’s principles are simple to emulate than those who built a software or a website that led to their wealth. Sam Walton is by far one of the most interesting entrepreneurs to study who built his empire on duplicatable principles. In the book “10 rules of Sam walton”, the author Michael Bergdahl does a great job explaining what philosophies drove Sam into building the empire that he ended up building. Today, 2,200,000 people work for Walmart worldwide.
Here is a summary of “The 10 rules of Sam Walton”:
Rule #1: Commit yourself to achieving success and always be passionate
Sam Walton knew what he had to do to outperform the competition because he knew his own business inside and out. That meant when he spoke or made suggestions, he had credibility. He was committed to moving his business a little further ahead each and every day and challenged everyone who worked alongside him to be the best.
Gradually, this positive attitude meant people start accomplishing more than they ever thought would have been possible at the outset. Nothing in the world can replace a positive attitude when it comes to growing and operating a great business.”
“It is not easy when you strive to be the best, but in the long run, it is worth it.” Sam Walton
- Have great goals, which truly motivate and inspire yourself, and then have a singularity of focus.
- Commit to doing whatever it takes to achieve your dreams.
- Do something every single day which moves you in the direction of your dreams.
- Stay the course – develop great ideas but then focus on bringing them to fruition.
- Have a strong work ethic. Lead by example.
- Look at every potential “problem” as an opportunity to move ahead in the right direction.
- Train your mind and your body to become a peak performer yourself. Lead from the front and “walk the talk”.
Rule #2: Share your success with those who have helped you.
Sam Walton always believed individuals don’t win, teams do.
Initially, Sam Walton thought he would provide profit sharing opportunities to his managers only. His wife Helen managed to convince him it would be better to offer profit sharing to all employees, even part time employees. She suggested this would encourage everyone to think and act like an integral part of the business rather than being mere employees.
“If you take care of your people, it is your people who will take care of your customers and the business will take care of itself.” Sam Walton
Rule #3: Motivate yourself and others to achieve your dreams
By believing in the abilities of people more than they believe in themselves, challenging them with big-time opportunities, and stepping back and giving them the final choice to succeed or fail, Sam Walton triggered a primal desire, which was already deeply embedded in the minds of his people to compete and thrive!
Sam Walton always had high expectations for any who worked for him, even if they came from an ordinary background.
Some of the simply techniques Sam Walton used to motivate his people were:
- He always treated employees well – the same way he’d like to be treated if the roles were reserved.
- He always led from the front. He had an infectious level of personal motivation derived from the fact he spent almost every walking hour thinking about how to make Wal-Mart better. He also had a tremendous worth ethic. When he told everyone to work hard, it was authentic.
- He listened completely to what others were saying rather than thinking about what he wanted to say next.
- He was great with remembering names.
- He had great people skills.
Rule #4: Communicate with people all the time and show them you care.
“You can’t merchandise the world by sitting at your desk. The folks on the front line – the ones who actually talk to customers – are the only ones who really know what’s going on. You’d better find out what they know.” Sam Walton
Rule #5: Appreciate and recognize people for both their effort and their results
Showcase the people in your organization who come up with great new ideas or who simply do the right things consistently.
“Treat people the way you would want to be treated. You should set high expectations in everything that you do. It’s your people who make the difference.” Sam Walton
- Catch your employees doing things right and recognize them publicly.
- Never leave anyone with any doubt you care about them as a person and recognize their efforts.
- Get our of your office frequently and manage by wandering around finding the good things which are happening.
Rule #6: Celebrate your own accomplishments and those of your team
Sam Walton was one part preacher like Billy Graham, and part ring maker like P.T. Bar, and one part comedian like Bob Hope. He was charismatic leader with a sense of humor who enjoyed preaching his philosophies to his disciples every chance he had. He also truly enjoyed being out in center stage like a ringmaster at a shareholders meeting or at a Saturday morning meeting, hawking his wares and giving his loyal followers direction. You never quite knew what Sam Walton would talk about, but you knew whatever he said he would be inspirational and that it would be peppered with humor most of which was directed at himself or at one of the members of his executive leadership team.
It wasn’t unusual for managers to get a cream pie in the face, to have to dress up like a clown and greet customers for a day or to shave their heads when a goal was achieved. Everyone entered into the spirit of these occasions with zest and enthusiasm, all of which contributed to the overall esprit de corps.
Sam Walton himself had exceptional people skills. He would remember peoples’ names and make them feel important. He was polite in conversations, never failing to look people in the eye and say “please” and “thank you”. He would send out handwritten thank you notes to employees and customers. He personified the Wal-Mart ideals and was, in effect, a walking sermon for the company’s values.
“Everything else Wal-Mart doesis visible for competitors to observe and replicate, but they can’t duplicate our unique Wal-Mart culture.” Sam Walton
- Create some internal contests or competitions with rewards, which will get everyone happy and fizzing.
- Whenever your organization achieves a milestone, mark it with a well-run celebration.
- Do some fun stuff.
- Instead of lecturing people on how to do something new, create a fun activity which will make learning and doing that a fun experience for everyone.
Rule #7: Listen to other people and learn from their ideas
Sam Walton always listened very carefully to front-line employees who interact with customers. He felt the most important thing he did for Wal-Mart was his visits to his own stores. He would rather be out with the folks doing the real work of retail than sit around in meeting in the home office.
Sam Walton’s people skills were, however, genuine. He sincerely cared about the people who worked for Wal-Mart rather than trying to use this as a good management technique. He was down to earth and related to their personal needs. Sam Walton was friendly and very approachable. The company has always had an open door policy and anyone with a good idea would never hesitate to suggest it to Mr. Walton. He became highly adept at putting people to ease when they were around him and this also contributed to his success.
Sam Walton demonstrated that everyone should be a continual learner.
“It is amazing what a team of selfless people can accomplish if nobody is worried about who is going to get the credit in the end.” Sam Walton
- Conduct regular grass-roots opinion surveys to find out what employees really think.
- Make it easy for people to talk to you by being accessible.
- Practice active listening – focus on what’s being said and what’s behind the words.
- Empower front-line people to do whatever is required to create satisfied customers and back them up.
Rule #8: Find ways to exceed the expectations of your customers and others
Sam created a 10 foot rule – which requires each employee to promise whenever they come within 10 feet of a customer, they will “look ‘em in the eye , greet ‘em.
Wal-Mart stores pioneered a concept called “retailtainment” – to make shopping fun and more interesting.
“There is only one boss. The customer. And he or she can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his or her money somewhere else. Let’s be friendly to our customers by offering them a smile and a shopping cart when they enter our stores. Let’s give service above and beyond what our customers expect. Let’s exceed our customers’ expectations. If we do that, they’ll come back again and again.” Sam Walton
Rule #9: Control your expenses and save your way to prosperity
Sam Walton was the first to admit that he was cheap as the day is long. He was tightfisted when it came to spending money, and he was proud of it! He trained the rest of his team to think exactly the same way. He believed that one of the fast ways to drop big-time dollars to the bottom line was by either not spending money unnecessarily in the first place or by ferreting out cost savings in every conceivable area of his operation. It is a fact that Sam controlled his expenses better than any of his competitors, but the thing that is really extraordinary is how he got everyone else in his company to think and act like tightwads too!” Michael Bergdahl
“We’ve said it through the years – Do it, Try it, Fix it. Not a bad approach and it works. There are a lot of people out there who have great ideas, but nothing in the world is cheaper than a good idea without any action behind it. The problem is usually finding someone who is willing to implement it. We much continue to urge our associates to be implementers – action oriented doers.” Sam Walton
- Ask everyone who works alongside you for ideas on how your business can cut its costs.
Rule #10: Always swim upstream – be different and challenge the status quo
Sam Walton simplified everything and told his people to focus on customers one at a time.
He always had a firm open door policy, meaning he was always open to any new idea from anyone.
“I’d like to say that we’re a diverse collection of mostly average people – almost a melting pot, if you will, of former retailers, housewives, college trainees, and just people from all walks of life. But the factor that sets us apart from the beginning, are those qualities hidden inside our associates that seemed to confound the experts. One of those qualities I’m contending our people have is a strong will to win. Our people want to win so badly that they just go out there and do it. Even though everybody has told them they can’t succeed, they just go out there and succeed anyway. Our method of success, as I see it, is ACTION with a capital “A” and a lot of hard work mixed in.” Sam Walton