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Born on an Oklahoma farm, he was a child of the Great Depression – and knew what it meant to struggle. By the 1950s, he had worked his way up to franchising a string of Ben Franklin variety stores in places like Bentonville Arkansas.
Sam always had a strong connection with his customers. He thought a lot about all the under-served customers across rural America, a much larger market than his variety stores could ever reach. What did they need? Easier access to goods, prices they could afford.
But that was impossible with the rules of retail. What if he broke the rules? Disrupt the supply chain. Cut out middle-men. Buy in enough bulk to dictate pricing. Discount merchandise. Pass on the savings to the consumer. More sales, bigger stores, in more places across America.
Sam brought these ideas to the Ben Franklin franchising executives—they laughed him out of the room. So he decided he’d do it himself.
Sam opened the doors to his very first Wal-Mart Discount City store in Rogers, Arkansas in July, 1962. Customers flocked to his first store, and to all the stores that followed. But Sam kept innovating. Distribution to stores was costly and unreliable, so he started his own trucking system.
He insisted major purchasing decisions not be made by executives at headquarters, but by store managers closest to the consumer.
Sam never lost his close connection with the customers. He went as far as learning to pilot his own twin-engine Cessna just so he could personally visit as many as six stores in a single day. Keeping his finger on the pulse of small town America.
Sam Walton expanded his business, and inspired his employees, through one simple refrain: Help customers, cut costs, and share profits.
And now Wal-Mart is the world’s largest company by revenue.
Sam Walton saw an opportunity and charted an independent course that would forever change the way we buy.
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