Walmart, a small business? Many people consider Walmart the exact opposite of a small business, but it was one man’s entrepreneurial dream just a few decades ago. This line of stores has grown from a handful of five-and-dime shops to a virtual empire that spans the globe, making profits in areas as diverse as small town Arkansas and communist China. Love’em or hate’em, there is a lot to be learned from this all American success story.Born to a poor farming family, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart Inc., grew up dreaming not of fabulous wealth, but of a simple middle class life with just a modest amount of security and comfort. He attended college and fought in World War II, working several retail jobs between other obligations. However, none of Walton’s pursuits could give him the security and income that he needed to fulfill his dream. He finally applied his knowledge of the retail business and solid work ethic to a small business of his own. Walton bought a five-and-dime store, and soon owned several. While his stores were afloat, they still did not give him the success he desired.
Walton noticed that larger towns and cities seemed inundated with shopping choices while people who lived in small towns and rural areas often had to drive to cities to buy simple everyday necessities. Rather than stick to the status quo, he decided to completely change the focus and scenario planning of his businesses. He decided to focus on the underdeveloped rural areas, building larger stores with a variety of goods to completely serve these small areas, and keeping costs as low as possible. Analysts advised Walton against taking such a dramatic and unprecedented startup strategy, but he was certain that his new way of doing business would be the key to success for his company. Sam Walton was right. Known at the time for buying only American-made goods, Walton’s stores soon became popular throughout the Midwest, then spreading to both coasts.
Walmart has since become a classic American success story as well as a symbol of capitalism at its most extreme. The original owner, Sam Walton, died in 1992 and left his family the comfort he had dreamed of as a small, hungry child: a business worth billions. With 4,150 stores, Walmart is the largest and most successful retailer on the globe. The company owns a variety of stores, from Super Walmart to the members-only Sam’s Club. While many people disagree with the management and distribution methods that have been developed since Walton’s death, no one can argue that this store hasn’t overcome its humble beginnings with unprecedented success.
Can your small business become the next all-American success story? It all depends on you! The key to achieving success Walton-style is to find your niche and plunge ahead without fear. Like Sam Walton, you too can turn a few small stores into a retail empire. All it takes is a plan and the willingness to make it work.
- Madalsa Singh
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