Minding the Store

Life has been great to me, probably better than any man has the right to expect. At home, I’ve been blessed with a wife and family who’ve stuck to together and loved each other and indulged my lifelong obsession with minding the store. ” 

sam_walton_young

This Contributing Leader, the youngest Eagle Scout of his state, was the sole founder of the currently largest corporation in the world by revenue. An American public corporation that runs a chain of large, discount department stores, Wal-mart is the largest private employer in the U.S. and also the largest grocery retailer in the United States, with an estimated 20% market share of the retail grocery and consumables business. It also owns and operates the North American company, Sam’s Club. Walmart operates in the U.S. and in 15 international markets, including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Japan, Mexico, Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and the United Kingdom.

“Hi – I am Sam Walton from Arkansas” would be a standard greeting of this modest but inquiring man. Time and time again, people would quickly learned about Sam as he eagerly learned from them. Always on the prowl for new information and ideas about retailing, in the early days, nobody had heard of him and had no clue that he was growing his business steadily. He started his own retailing stores, Wal-mart, in the Arkansas in 1962, being a franchise owner of fifteen stores of Ben Franklin stores for about fifteen years. In middle of rural America, Sam Walton, honed his retailing skills in a down home way, never putting on airs. Never spending money foolishly, he went hunting in a beat up old pick up truck with his dogs. Naturally gregarious, “He shook hands with all one hundred and tried to remember their names” He is friendly, approachable, and he listens. One employee said once of Sam, “I cannot think of a single instance where Mr. Walton has ever demonstrated anything less than perfect ethics. Period.” Not once. Sam Walton was a man of his word.

Sam Walton, is the iconic Provider Guardian.  [He is one of the people who we highlight in our forthcoming book on Leadership.]

Providers take it upon themselves to insure the health and welfare of those in their care, but they are also the most sociable of all the Guardians, and thus are the great nurturers of social institutions such as schools, churches, social clubs, civic groups and businesses. [Please Understand Me II]

Growing up during the Great Depression, Walton, knew the value of a dollar, and had had numerous chores to help make financial ends meet for his family. He milked the family cow, bottled the surplus, and drove it to customers. Afterwards, he would deliver newspapers on a paper route. In addition, he also sold magazine subscriptions. Only when Forbes pronounced him as the richest man in America, did he become really famous. Until the eighties, Sam Walton was virtually unknown, but that didn’t slow Sam Walton down. He was on a mission: to build his retailing business. All those who met him personally realized that Sam Walton was rock solid honest, hard working, and ambitious. Sam explained about himself, “Now, I’m a friendly fellow by nature — I always speak to folks in the street and such

Providers are very likely more than ten percent of the population, and this is fortunate for the rest of us, because friendly social service is a key to their nature. Wherever they go, Providers happily give their time and energy to make sure that the needs of others are met, and that social functions are a success.

Highly cooperative themselves, Providers are skilled in maintaining teamwork among their helpers, and are also tireless in their attention to the details of furnishing goods and services. [Please Understand Me II]

In 1985 Forbes 500 named Sam Walton the richest man in America. Most people who knew him personally, would not have believed it, for Sam Walton knew the value of a dollar and never spent money on the trappings of the typical rich. He didn’t act rich. He forever looked the part of a mid-western, hometown boy. The Waltons were simple folks from the heart of the midwest, but Sam was no hick dummy; he was the tortoise who wins the race against the hare. When Walmart was expanding in the 70’s and 80’s in America’s heartland and worldwide in the 90’s and into the 21st century, most competitors couldn’t compete against the logistical juggernaut that Sam Walton built, shaped, and lead from Bentonville, Arkansas.

Guardians are likely to become increasingly efficient in safekeeping materiel. Their capabilities lie in seeing to it that the right materiel gets to the right persons at the right time and the right place. If materiel allocation somehow goes awry, say, to the wrong person, then that’s a very serious logistical error, something to avoid at all costs. The same goes for place and time. It takes a logistical brain to be right in person, place, and time.

The logistical brain grows in proportion as the methods of gathering, storing, accounting, and distributing are used. Guardians are inclined to use such methods more and earlier than other methods, and therefore end up more efficient in such activity than
in diplomatic and tactical activity, leaving strategic activity far behind owing to low interest and infrequent practice. Logistical methods are legally sanctioned and therefore of much more interest to Guardians than either tactical or strategic methods

Logistics requires careful attention to minute detail. Indeed, the details encountered in procurement, storage, allocation, and maintenance, the four aspects of logistics, seem endless, because the number of different kinds and degrees of materiel necessary for productive operations is unlimited. [Personology]

Sam Walton found he enjoyed retailing when he worked for JC Penny as a young man in the middle of the depression. After WWII, Sam bought his first store as a franchise with his war savings and a loan from his father-in-law. Sam Walton pioneered many retailing concepts that would prove to be crucial to his success. He was one of the pioneers the practice of discount merchandising by buying wholesale goods from the lowest priced supplier. This allowed him to pass on savings to his customers, which drove up his sales volume. Higher volumes allowed him to negotiate even lower purchase prices with the wholesaler on subsequent purchases. Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods at low prices. His store also stayed open later than most other stores, especially during the Christmas season. Sam Walton preached that the customer was first, long before it was recognized by the business schools.

openquoteThere is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.closedquote  — Sam Walton

Other Provider Guardians include: Joyce Brothers, Roger Ebert, Pat Summerall, Studs Terkel, Denis Mukwege, Andy Griffith, Dick Clark, Tim Tebow, and President William Howard Taft.

0 thoughts on “Minding the Store”

  1. Thank God for the Guardians. What would we do without them? My first boss in my school district was an ESFJ guardian and a great boss indeed. He was always available to offer advice and assistance and got our department on the right course after an Artisan had managed to alienate just about everybody. Although Walmart seems to have slipped recently and things are not as well organized as they were, I have always been struck by the friendliness of the stores and their willingness to employ people (the elderly, handicapped, etc.) that would have a tough time getting a job elsewhere.

  2. This idyllic, almost pastoral telling of Wal-Mart’s origins makes me wonder what happened to the franchise over the years. While I appreciate how this essay shed light on Sam Walton’s good Guardian qualities, I believe much has been sugar-coated here. It takes a shrewd, competitive business sense to get ahead of the pack in the retail world; that means a keeping a cool head and making choices with profits in mind…that doesn’t usually align with protecting your employees and customers. And certainly there are many who disagree with Walton ethics. I wonder how a more objective look at Sam Walton would differ from this account.

    1. Of course Sam Walton was a real human being: with weaknesses and strengths. The great thing about Temperament is to celebrate people’s strengths. I am glad Sam Walton “minded the store” every time I shop at Walmart. Of course there is the double edge of Temperament My short blog could not cover much, and those interested in much more depth — I would recommend Sam Walton: Made In America. He had many critics, union organizers are the first in line: although I doubt the vast majority of those critics ever personally knew the man. But nobody can fault him (except his family) for working harder than everybody else in the company. I leave the judging of ethics to the unethical: lawyers, judges, politicians, and the religious.

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