“Here is an extraordinary success story about a man whose empire was built not with smoke and mirrors, but with good old-fashioned elbow grease.”
—Detroit Free Press
Made in America is an autobiographical account of his rise to the pinnacle of the American retail business, the personal reminiscences of the late billionaire retailer are combined with dozens of interviews with Sam Walton’s family and friends.
Sam Walton built Walmart from the ground up – starting from 1 variety store in the ’40s to thousands today. When he passed in 1992, he had a net worth of $8.6 billion.
At a young age, Sam Walton helped his mother in the milk business. He would milk the cow and then go out and sell the bottled milk. In 7th grade, he took his first official job delivering papers in the neighborhood. Walton attended college and never stopped working to finance his studies.
Indeed he even managed to expand. His papers delivery business became a small business where he hired new delivery men. Starting in the ’30s, he talks about growing up during the Great Depression, and the impact it had on his life. After discussing his childhood, he takes you on a 50-year retailing journey, from his days running his first store to owning a national brand and a company bringing in billions of dollars a year.
Walton’ First Shop
In 1945 Sam Walton opened his first discount shop. It was doing well, but he was always looking for ways to do better. And he took ideas from all over the places. Especially from his competitors.
Back then checkouts used to be scattered around the store. But when Sam saw a store who only placed two checkouts at the front, he loved the radical idea. He immediately did the same and saved money reducing the number of cashiers. And he made it more efficient.
“I always favored the mavericks who challenged my rules. I may have fought them all the way, but I respected them, and, in the end, I listened to them a lot more closely than I did the pack who always agreed with everything I said.”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
When visiting a supplier Walton noticed the staff huddling together and cheering at the beginning of a workday. He loved the idea and immediately did the same in his new flagship store. The “Walmart cheer” was born.
Work on your strengths and not weaknesses
Sam Walton had admitted that he was not a gifted student and had difficulty in organising like cash register transactions. Infact, his employer once told him that he was not even cut out for retail because he had difficulty organising things. But, Sam Walton had his strengths and he was a great leader and could motivate employees to go for big goals. He set himself goals and achieved them by his intense drive and passion.
“Great ideas come from everywhere if you just listen and look for them. You never know who’s going to have a great idea.”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
1962: The First Walmart
Walton was a very successful man in retail. But it was relatively late, in 1962 that he introduced Walmart. In one of his usual journeys observing competitors and other retailers, he became convinced that discount stores were the future.
In a way, Walmart was another experiment for Sam. Walmart indeed was ugly to start with, but the question for Walton was: would shoppers shop strictly because of the lower prices?
It turned out, they would.
Sam Walton had learnt people skills in college when he aspired to be a college president. He learnt to acknowledge people and speak to people coming down the sidewalk before they can speak to you. He would do that in college and speak to people even if he did not know their names. He went on to become popular in his college and regarded many people as his friends.
“What we guard against around here is people saying, ‘Let’s think about it.’ We make a decision. Then we act on it.”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
Become a learning machine
Sam Walton got his formal education by majoring in business at the University of Missouri. He would go on to take many other formal classes later on but he never stopped learning. Sam became a learning machine and learnt a lot of retailing and was always trying to improve how he can learn more.
“He proved that people can be motivated. The mountain is there, but somebody else has already climbed it.”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
Sam Walton would read every retail publication and would refer himself as an avid student of management theory. Sam would also find mentors in the jobs he worked before he had set up Wal-Mart stores and learnt a lot about retailing from them.
“Every time Wal-Mart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes right out of our customers’ pockets. Every time we save them a dollar, that puts us one more step ahead of the competition—which is where we always plan to be.”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
He would also learn a lot of competitors. While working on his first store, he realised that his competitor was doing twice the business in sales than his store. Walton would go to competitors store and look at how the competitor would run their stores and find out how are they so successful. He would be bold enough to visit the headquarters of other retailers and learn from them.
“Business is a competitive endeavor, and job security lasts only as long as the customer is satisfied. Nobody owes anybody else a living. To”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
Travel far to get ideas
Walton would travel far and beyond and learn from other retailers. When he learnt that a retailer had gone into self-service, he himself travelled by bus, found out what the stores are doing and changed his store to self-service.
“And like most other overnight successes, it was about twenty years in the making. Of”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read
Walton would travel across America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa and learn from other retailers and scribble the ideas on his notepad. He would really enjoy going to competitor’s stores and learn from them
Don’t worry about the credit
Walton often said that he has copied from other people and applied in his business. He had always been open to suggestions and that is one of the reasons he had been so successful.
“If I had to single out one element in my life that has made a difference for me, it would be a passion to compete.”-Made in America, Sam Walton (Story of Walmart)- Book Summary by Make Me Read