Learn from 10 Sam’s Rules for Building a Giant Business. Approach a business with a set of rules, but make sure you also break some rules.
“I always prided myself on breaking the rules of others, and I always liked the mavericks who opposed my rules.” – Sam Walton.
In Sam Walton’s autobiography Made in America, he shares many business insights. To help others in the business – not only Walmart partners and Walmart leadership, but entrepreneurs, students and anyone in the business world, he outlined “Rules for Building Business.” That was an important part of Sam Walton Legacy’s exhibition at Sam’s High School of Business Walton at University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. But we thought Sam concluded well when he wrote:
“These rules are not intended as Ten Business Orders. Those are some rules that apply to me. But I always prided myself on breaking other people’s rules, and I always liked mavericks who opposed my rules. For what their value is, here it is. Sam’s Rules for Building a Business. “
Top 10 Sam’s Rules for Building a Successful Giant Business
1. Commit to your business. Believe in it more than anyone.
I think I overcame my personal shortcomings with the sheer desire I brought to my work. I don’t know whether you were born with passion like this, or whether you can learn it. But I know you need it. If you like your job, you will be out there every day trying to do the best you can, and soon everyone around will catch your passion – like a fever.
2. Share your benefits with all your colleagues, and treat them as partners.
In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all do beyond your wildest expectations. Stay a corporation and stay in control if you want to, but act as a leader who serves in a partnership. Encourage your colleagues to hold shares in the company. Offer discounted prices, and give them stock for their retirement. That’s the only best thing we’ve ever done.
3. Motivate your partner. Money and ownership alone are not enough.
Constantly, day after day, think of new and more interesting ways to motivate and challenge your partner. Set goals high, push competition, and then save the score. Make bets with outrageous prizes. If everything is stale, do cross pollination; have managers change jobs with each other to stay challenged. Make everyone guess what your next trick will be. Don’t be too predictable.
4. Communicate everything you can to your partners.
They will better understand your business, if they know a lot about it. And they will increasingly care, if more and more they understand. Once they care, nothing stops them. If you don’t trust your partner to find out what happened, they will know you don’t really think of them as partners. Information is power, and the benefits that you get from empowering your colleagues more than offset the risk of notifying your competition.
5. Appreciate everything your partner does for business.
Salaries and stock options will buy one type of loyalty. But we all like to be told how much someone appreciates what we do for them. We hear it often, and especially when we have done something we are very proud of. Nothing can replace praise words that are chosen correctly, on time, and sincerely. They are absolutely free – and very valuable.
6. Celebrate your success. Find humor in your failure.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Loosen up, and everyone around you will relax. Have fun. Show enthusiasm – always. When all else fails, wear costumes and sing silly songs. Then make other people sing with you. Don’t do hula on Wall Street. Already completed. Think about your own actions. All of this is more important and more fun than you think, and it really cheats competition. “Why should we take the corn ball at Wal-Mart seriously?”
7. Listen to everyone in your company.
And look for ways to make them talk. People at the front line – those who really talk to customers – are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there. You should find out what they know. This is really about total quality. To suppress responsibility in your organization, and to force good ideas to emerge in them, you must listen to what your colleagues are trying to say.
8. Exceeding your customers’ expectations.
If you do, they will come back repeatedly. What they want, give it – and a little more. Let them know that you respect them. Take advantage of all your mistakes, and don’t make excuses – apologize. Stand behind everything you do. The two most important words I have ever written are at the first Wal-Mart sign: “Satisfaction Guaranteed.” They are still there, and they have made a difference.
9. Control your expenses better than your competitors.
You can find competitive advantages here. Over the past 25 years – long before Wal-Mart was known as the largest retailer in the country – we ranked number one in our industry for the lowest expenditure ratio against sales. You can make many different mistakes and continue to recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if it’s too inefficient.
10. Swim upstream. In the other direction.
Ignore conventional wisdom. If everyone does it in one direction, there is a good chance you can find a niche by going in the opposite direction. But be prepared for many people who wave and tell you that you are going the wrong way. I think in all my years, what I have heard more often than anything is: a city with a population of less than 50,000 cannot support a discount store for a long time.