Excellence

Sam Walton And Lessons On Humility

sam-waltonAlthough his fame, power, and net worth grew over the years, Sam Walton remained the same; a humble man focused on helping others. He lived a clean life… He was driven by his mission to provide a better shopping experience for everyday people living in small towns. He wanted to improve their standard of living by providing quality goods at low prices in a pleasant shopping environment. Near the end of his life he said, “I have concentrated all along on building the finest retailing company that we possibly could. Period. Creating a huge personal fortune was never a goal of mine.”

Even though he was a billionaire many times over, you wouldn’t know it if you met him on the street. He drove an old pick-up truck, and he lived in a humble house in Bentonville that almost anyone with a job could have afforded and he purchased many of his clothes from Wal-Mart. Bernard Marcus, chairman and co-founder of Home Depot, recalled going out to lunch with Walton after a meeting in Bentonville: “I hopped into Sam’s red pickup truck. No air-conditioning. Seats stained by coffee. And by the time I got to the restaurant, my shirt was soaked through and through. And that was Sam Walton; no airs, no pomposity.”

An executive who joined Wal-Mart from Frito-Lay shared this story: “After I had joined the company, I still remember seeing Sam walk into the Home Office bathroom the same bathroom used by everybody else . . . multi-billionaire Sam Walton didn’t have a private executive washroom. He used the same facilities that everybody else used.”

Don Soderquist, retired senior vice chairman of the board for Wal-Mart, shared the following experience that happened while working with Sam Walton at a store grand opening: “Like most of the grand openings, we expected a big crowd, but in this one our productivity couldn’t keep up with the traffic flow. Before long, Sam jumped in and began to bag merchandise. He handed out candy to the kids and did anything he could think of to help the customers feel more comfortable with the long lines . . . I confess, as a former company president of a national retail chain and now an executive vice president for Wal-Mart, I had never served customers on the front lines like I did that day. You don’t think I was going to stand around and watch my leader do you? Sam was a very humble man, and he taught me a valuable lesson that day. None of us are too good to do the little jobs. In fact, there are no little jobs. If the chairman of the board wasn’t too high and mighty to hand out lollipops and bag goods; neither was I . . . No matter how large we became, Sam always reminded us that we were no better than anyone else and should never become blinded by our own importance”

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Categories: Excellence

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