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Sam Walton

Sam Walton

 

 

If you walked into a Wal-Mart in 1975 and Sam Walton was there, you might see the employees starting their day. Sam always starts the day by leading a cheer.

Sam: Give me a W!

Employees: W!

Sam: Give me an A!

Employees: A!

This cheer continues until they get to the “squiggly” in between the “Wal” and the “Mart,” Sam would say “Now everyone give me a squiggly.”(Greenburg 1) At this command, everyone would shake their bodies in a squiggle, and the cheer would continue. Whenever Sam was visiting, this is how they started their day. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart in 1962, in Arkansas with the goal of providing low cost items to people who need them. He did this by making all of the stores self-serve and opening them in “underserved” areas. His company has grown so large that on average, it opens two new stores every day! Sam Walton died in 1992, but his company just keeps growing.

Sam Walton was born on March 29, 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. When his dad, Thomas, learned that his wife, Nancy was going into labor, he came in from his fields. Once he learned that the baby was healthy, he went right back to working in the fields. He was a hardworking farmer who always wanted the best for his family. Sam’s mother, Nancy was said to have a good business sense, which might explain why Sam went into retail.

Sam moved to Missouri when he was about 5 years old, and his whole life changed. The United States was in the midst of the Great Depression and Sam’s family had to work very hard for their money. Sam’s father became both a farmer and a businessman to help feed the family. He traded goods and sold insurance, but he still farmed a lot. By the time he died he owned 23 farms that stretched across 4 states! Once, in order to put food on the table, he swapped his watch for a pig! Sam’s mother also helped in the effort to make money. She started a home milk business. Sam was her main worker. In the morning, he would milk the cows, and while he was at school, his mom would put the milk into bottles. When Sam got home, his job would be to deliver all of the milk. Sam also did many jobs on his own. He delivered newspapers, sold pigeons and rabbits, cleaned porches, raked leaves, and sold magazines.

Throughout his childhood, Sam Walton accomplished many great things. One of these was to earn the Eagle Award in Boy Scouts at the age of 13. That is the highest rank of Boy Scouts. He was the youngest boy in Missouri to ever achieve that high of a ranking. Also, using his Boy Scout training, he saved a young boy from drowning in a river.

Sam Walton attended Hickman High School. He was the quarterback of the football team, captain of the basketball team, senior and student council president, part of the track team, and the star of the school play “Growing Pains.” After high school, Sam continued his education at the University of Missouri majoring in economics. He graduated with a degree in 1940.

Sam Walton had a lot of training for his career. When he graduated from college, he went into the JC Penney training program. That is where he learned a lot of what he knew about the business. After he was out of the program, Sam enlisted in the army. He decided that was definitely not for him. He was positive he wanted to go into retail. So, he opened a Ben Franklin “Five and Dime,” in Newport, Arkansas, in 1945. Soon he started to run the whole chain of Ben Franklin stores.

Sam married Helen Robson and they had 3 sons and 1 daughter. He was always seen driving around in a red dented Ford pickup truck. When asked why he chose to drive around in a car like that, he responded by saying, “What am I supposed to haul my dogs around in, a Rolls Royce?”(Greenburg 5) In his free time he liked to swim, hunt, and play tennis. His favorite hobby though, was flying airplanes. He also liked to do many things for others. He paid for tennis courts to be built at a local park, had a recreation hall built for seniors, and set up a health club for Wal-Mart employees.

Sam Walton accomplished a lot during his life. He was the CEO of Ben Franklin stores along with his little brother, Bud. He was voted “Richest Man in the World” by “Forbes” magazine for 5 years in a row. He was also voted CEO of the decade by “Financial World.” Probably the greatest accomplishment was winning the “Medal of Freedom” in 1992, only a month before he died. In the speech President Bush made he described Sam not only as a retail trailblazer, but as a good person. “A devoted family man, business leader, and statesman for democracy, Sam Walton demonstrates the virtues of faith, hope, and hard work.”(Greenburg 43)

Sam Walton had many influences in his life. One of them was Mr. James Cash Penney, owner of the chain of JC Penney stores. When Sam was in the JC Penney training program, he taught him an easier and faster way to do everything in the business. Sam once said “There aren’t many secrets in this industry.”(“Walton” Current 590) Another big influence was his dad. His dad was always hardworking and switched from doing what he loved (being a farmer) to what the family needed him to do which was becoming a businessman. Maybe the biggest influence on Sam Walton’s life were his employees. He always listened to what they had to say about improvements. “These people out here are smarter and more capable than many of us realize.”(Greenburg 9)

Sam also influenced many other people. He influenced his customers because he was always friendly and helpful. Whenever he wanted to but something, he refused to pay anything but full price, and he always waited in line with the rest of the customers. He also influenced his employees. He treated them as friends, not workers and he never acted like their boss, always as their equals.

Sam Walton can influence my life in a lot of different ways. Wal-Mart is influencing our town as we speak. Instead of having a bunch of little small local stores, we have one big Wal-Mart that serves us all. If we want to buy garden supplies, we don’t think to go to town, we go to Wal-Mart. Some people think that this is a bad thing, and it is taking away the character of the town. Others think it is absolutely perfect and Wal-Mart has everything the would ever need. Still others, think we should have both.

So if you ever hear a Wal-Mart cheer, think of Sam Walton!

 

 

 

 

 

Works Consulted

“Everyday Low Prices Pay Off.” Journal of Business Strategy September 1999: 27

Greenburg, Keith. Sam Walton. Vero Beach: Rourke Enterprises Inc., 1993.

“Sam Walton.” Forbes. October 14 1996: 110

“Walton, Sam.” Current Biography. 1992 ed.

“Walton, Sam.” North American Biographies. 1994 ed.

Zellner, Wendy. “Sam Walton: King of the Discounters.” Business Week. August 9,

2004: 12

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