Sam Walton: Made in America

Posted by Callum Vallance-Poole, on April 6, 2020.

What a story! I never read fiction books, but at times this autobiography of Sam Walton – the founder of Wal-Mart – felt more fiction than fact. That’s simply because what Sam Walton achieved was quite unbelievable. 

This table will give you an idea of why his achievements could be described as unbelievable. 

Year:

Year:1960197019801990
SALES:$1.4million$31 million$1.2billion$26billion
PROFITS:$112,000$1.2million$41 million$1billion
STORES:9322761528

Over a 30 year period, Sam Walton’s business went from 9 stores to 1528. From turning over $1.4million to $26billion a year. And making $1billion in annual profits. 

It’s impossible in a short write-up about this book, to get across the magnitude of what Sam Walton achieved. You just have to read the book! It’s one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time, possibly the best ever, and definitely the best autobiography I’ve read. I’ve read about some incredibly impressive people. I’ve read Arnold Schwarzenegger’s book, Barack Obama’s book, Richard Branson’s book, Viktor Frankl’s book, just a few who have very inspirational stories to tell about their significant achievements. I guess that perhaps what makes Sam Walton’s book stand out to me, is that I can relate to what he’s talking about. I know how it feels to start a business and run a company. I know the ups and downs and day-to-day challenges of growing a company. I know how challenging it is to grow a business from £1million sales to over £10million in annual sales. So with this experience, I can fully appreciate the enormity of his achievements – and they still feel quite unbelievable! But it goes even further than that. I can imagine what it’s like to grow a company from 9 stores to over 1500 today, with today’s technology and today’s resources. But Sam Walton started in 1945! Opening his first store with $20,000 he had borrowed from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 he had saved of his own money. In 1945!

This is one of the things that makes his story so interesting. So much changed over the time he built Wal-Mart. Travel, technology, computers, automation, all changed dramatically over that time. But Sam Walton loved change. It’s one of the overriding messages I got from him in the book. Keep making changes, even though change most likely makes your team uncomfortable. Change is necessary. Change is important. 

In March of 1992, just weeks before he lost his battle to cancer at age 74, Sam Walton was awarded the ‘Presidential Medal of Freedom’, America’s highest civilian award. As the presidential citation read; “An American original, Sam Walton embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and epitomizes the American dream.” I should say. Having read his story, it not only serves as an entertaining tale of what he and his team achieved over the years, but it also reminds us what is possible. When you commit to something and have such a desire to achieve something, we’re really only limited by our own beliefs. Before reading this story of what Sam Walton achieved with Wal-Mart, I would have thought it impossible. It’s just so extreme I would not have believed it. But this is my limiting-belief kicking in. This is my story of what’s possible and what’s not possible. This is why it’s such an important book to read! It’s why this book has served me so well. It’s reminded me that we really can achieve anything. It’s all possible. It’s all achievable. 

In Chapter 17 towards the end of the book, for anyone who runs a Company you’re going to want to read Sam Walton’s ‘Ten Rules that worked for him’. I’m sticking these 10 rules on my wall! They’re a useful summary of what he deemed important for him to achieve all that he did. Once you’ve read the book, they’ll all make sense and you’ll be well placed to let them help you too. 

If you want to help yourself realise what you’re capable of, please make sure you read this book. I knew nothing of the Wal-Mart story and knew even less about Sam Walton himself. This book should be a must-read for everyone who wants to run a Company. There are so many valuable lessons within it, I for one am adding it to my yearly book list. To sum it up in a few words, here’s how Sam Walton himself described the book;

“It’s a story about entrepreneurship, and risk, and hard work, and knowing where you want to go and being willing to do what it takes to get there. And it’s a story about believing in your idea even when maybe some other folks don’t, and about sticking to your guns.”      

Callum Vallance-Poole

Marketing Coordinator - Based at our UK HQ in Banbury, Oxfordshire, Callum is responsible for promoting Water Management Systems, Attenuation Tanks, Treatment Plants, Rainwater Harvesting Systems and more!