What Were the Personal Core Values Sam Walton Used To Grow His Business into the giant it is today?

What were the personal core values Sam Walton used to build the world's largest retailer? And, shouldn't other CEOs and Presidents use these same values when running their businesses?

Anything a person wants to acquire is considered a value of theirs. Also, if the person already possesses something, and they work to keep it, that is a value as well. To acquire or to keep...those are a person's values.

It is important to note we are not talking about only material values. In this article, we will be talking just as much about values of character. And particularly Sam Walton’s character in regards to his business and business in general.

It was what Sam valued that determined his actions. And it was his actions that determined so much of what eventually became WalMart. That’s what values do. They cause behavior through emotions. And actions produce results.

For every business person, their values go a long way in determining their success. That includes Sam Walton. If anyone has ever had a growth mindset, Sam Walton’s mindset would be among those at the very top as most growth minded. Life leaves clues. That is a major clue. Having a growth mindset matters.

Now, let’s delve into Sam Walton’s personal core values in regards to business in general and retail in particular.

Here Are The Personal Core Values Sam Walton Had In Regards To Business And Retailing

Sam Walton Valued:

Retail - he loved retail from very early in adulthood:

  • Merchandising - He loved this function of retailing the most.  He especially loved to find a product he could promote in a big way, saving the customer a lot of money and blowing the product out the door.
  • Selling - He had even sold as a child. When it came to selling newspapers, he was the best salesman in his territory. He ended up hiring others to help deliver the papers. This is how he made $4,000 - $5,000 a year while in college. An amazing sum all those years ago.
  • Customers - The customer is why you are in business. Sam always worked to provide more value to his customers than any of his competitors. And it showed in the volume of business WalMart did. He was customer centric.

Working with passion:

  •  Entrepreneurship - Sam loved it. He knew early on he would be working for himself as an entrepreneur.
  •  Hard work -  Nobody worked harder than Sam. He would be at work at 4:30 in the morning. Even when on vacation, he would go into retail stores and ask questions of people to see how that store was doing their merchandising and how it was working out for them.
  •  Bias to action - Results can only come from the action that were taken to produce them. Sam's impetus was to take some actions and see what happens. In his autobiography, he said, “We just got after it and stayed after it.”
  •  Working long hours - As stated before, he started the day early. He was there by 4:30 am
  •  Never being satisfied - With himself or the company
  •  He had to be the best - He got this value from his mother who told him that whatever he tried, he should always do his best. Even early on, Sam took this advice to heart. He became the youngest Eagle Scout in Missouri history at that time.

The Personal Core Values Sam Walton Believed In When It Came To Leadership:

  • Vision - His vision was to be the best at whatever he attempted. So with retail, he had to have the best store that did the most business.
  • Taking risks - He was not shy about taking risks. In fact, he experimented a lot. He said how that experimenting made all the difference in the world because he would come up with ideas other had not tried. He was willing to test idea after idea after idea. (Where do you stand when it comes to taking risks?)
  • “Sticking to your guns.” - He was willing to listen to others and try their ideas if he thought they were good. If others thought his idea was not the way to go, he might hold off for awhile, but if he thought he was right, he stuck to his guns.
  • Honesty - Knowing that honesty is what leads customers and suppliers to trust his business, Sam never had a question as to which path to take...it was always the path of honesty.
  • Focus - His visions were so compelling to him, that he was always highly focused on what needed to be done.
  • “A passion to compete.” - He was obsessed with this. He had to be the best. He got that from his Mother. She told him that if he tried anything, he should do the best he could. And Sam had a lot of confidence in himself which meant that doing his best meant being #1.
  •  Never being satisfied - He was always thinking about making something better. That is why he experimented a lot. He was always looking for ways to improve. If he saw something was working for another company, he would implement it in his early Variety Stores and later in WalMart.
  •  Goal setting - He always set goals for himself. Not just long range goals, but daily goals as well.
  •  High standards - This goes with wanting to be the best as well as never being satisfied.
  •  High expectations - He didn't just set high standards; he expected to reach them.
  •  Doing your best - He expected this in others as well as himself.
  •  Taking responsibility - He believed in 100% accepting responsibility in what was done. He also felt a person had to accept criticism. That included himself. He would criticize others in a nice way, but the person had to know if something was not done right. That is how they would grow, become better.
  •  Controlling expense - Sam grew up during the Great Depression and learned the value of the dollar. He carried that through to his stores. He felt one reason he succeeded laid in being cheap everywhere he could. If someone in the company spent a dollar, that was a dollar that the customer would not save.
  •  Value of a dollar - Learned from The Great Depression.
  •  Keeping score - Competition between stores - Sam made sure that each store knew where they stood relative to other stores. He knew that competition made you better.
  •  Innovation - Sam experimented all the time. Not every experiment succeeded, but enough did that his store grew faster than the competition because innovation made a difference. And many of his competitors were not innovating.
  •  "Fiddling and messing with the status quo" - His way of saying he believed in experimenting.
  •  Obstacles - He considered obstacles as nothing more than something to overcome. He also believed that obstacles can be turned into opportunities.
  •  Do not manage from a distance - Hands-on management. Go to the stores. He seldom stayed in his office.
  •  Piloting his own planes. He felt this gave him a competitive advantage. He would fly low and learn a lot about patterns developing in an area.
  • Competition - Sam was extremely competitive. It drove him. As he said, he had “a passion to compete."
        ⁃    He was constantly going into the stores of his competitors. To learn.
        ⁃    The good ideas they had, he borrowed them. (Even Sam Walton used Modeling to get to the top faster.)

The Personal Core Values Sam Walton Used In Regards To The People Who Worked For WalMart:

  •   Teamwork - One of Sam’s top values.
  •   Store Managers - Partners (Legally. They owned stock in the company). He felt he had a knack of picking the right people.
  •   Praising managers and associates. Also financially - through Profit Sharing
  •   Respect your managers - Correct them in a positive way.
  •   Associates - Motivate them. Praise them. That includes financially (Profit Sharing). Respect your associate. Correct them in a positive way.

Not Valued By Sam Walton:

  • He said in his Autobiography, “Never been much of a reflective person.” Instead of reflection, Sam had a bias for action, for getting things done. That is a major clue for all of us.
  • He also said, “Never been one to dwell on the past.”
  • Luxuries - Except on certain rare occasions.
  • Glory and fame - Did not motivate him at all. He was a private person.
  • Dwelling on reversals - He moved on past them. He did not dwell on them.

A Final Note On How The Personal Core Values Of Sam Walton Made WalMart What It Is Today

It's easy to see why Sam Walton built WalMart into such an amazing company. It's cause and effect. Sam was the primary cause. Of course he needed a lot of people to help create the company, but make no mistake, in the beginning, he had to do just about everything. And, he set an example for others to follow.

Of course there were mistakes along the way. Sam acknowledged those mistakes in his Autobiography. But none of the mistakes were big enough to break the company. And, here's a key: He learned from those mistakes.

The ten values that I will point out that made such a big difference for Sam are:

  • His love of merchandising. Finding products that he would blow out with low, low prices.
  • The way he loved to compete. It drove him.
  • Because he was driven he worked so hard, so many hours. As he put it, "We got after it, and stayed after it."
  • Always keeping in mind the value of a dollar. He controlled expenses relentlessly.
  • The way he experimented. He was willing to take risks to get somewhere special.
  • The way he always wanted to leave something better than he found it. He applied this to all levels of the business.
  • Having a competitive edge by owning his own planes early on and flying them himself. He could see patterns other retailers missed.
  • The fact he was such a hands on manager. From the beginning, Sam went from store to store to store. He stayed out in the field as much as possible. That way he saw first hand how things were going and it gave him a chance to mingle with the workers and customers.
  • The way he treated his managers and associates. Many of whom became rich because of profit sharing.
  • Teamwork. Sam was a great leader and motivator.

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