Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Made In America - Sam Walton

Walmart - The giant retailer almost everyone knows about. I have not yet entered a Walmart yet but with all the hype about FDI in retail going on I felt it would be good to read about the company which is like the King of Retail. In this book Made In America - Sam Walton offers many invaluable recommendations for business men and entrepreneurs.  Walton does a nice job of telling a clear, concise story about how he built the business of Walmart.

Sam Walton is the guy who made Walmart happen. He build up the Walmart empire from a single store. He started building the empire first by learning the tricks of the trade a store by store. The business model he created is simple: always offer the lowest price possible, and depend on higher sales volume to generate the profit. We all know that Walmart is famous for its logistical superiority, in both a distribution system and computer-aided controls. As the company grew, it was able to use its power to force suppliers to sell at ever-lower prices. Its stores spread slowly, always supported by the distribution system.

Sam Walton comes off as this humble guy from rural USA who made it big by his hard work. In this auto-biography we are shown the same. But personally I felt at times Sam Walton never took what is said by critics properly and brushed it off. I agree with Walton that Walmart was built with really good intentions but  not everything born of Walmart's rise to dominance is an unmitigated good. Walmart has done a lot of positive things for American consumers. But Walton refuses to contemplate the impact of his company's power, forcing conditions on suppliers which can bring them to their knees. But this aspect of Walmart has captured me, how it has been able to shift the power away from the manufactures into the retailers hands. Another thing I felt is Walton doesn't actually listen to his employees (or "associates). He views unions as bad influences rather than legitimate players and potential allies. 

I give the book 2.5/5. Walton appears to believe in his own myth and he presents it well: his tone is down home, expresses a genuine humility, and believes in small-town values. I agree there are many who see things differently. I suppose that that the absolute confidence in the system he created is part of his entrepreneurial genius, but it is also a clear statement on its limits. I would highly recommended this book to those who would like to understand the motivations behind Walmart being what it is today and a great business story to boot.

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