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#150 Sam Walton (America's Richest Man)
October 24th, 2020 | E150

What I learned from reading Sam Walton: The Inside Story of America's Richest Man by Vance H. Trimble.


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[3:11] Charlie Munger on Sam Walton: It's quite interesting to think about Walmart starting from a single store in Arkansas – against Sears Roebuck with its name, reputation and all of its billions. How does a guy in Bentonville, Arkansas, with no money, blow right by Sears, Roebuck? And he does it in his own lifetime – in fact, during his own late lifetime because he was already pretty old by the time he started out with one little store. He played the chain store game harder and better than anyone else. Walton invented practically nothing. But he copied everything anybody else ever did that was smart – and he did it with more fanaticism. So he just blew right by them all. 

[4:46]  Sam Walton was no ordinary man. He was a genius in business, with an iron mind —some say pig-headed—unwilling to compromise any of his carefully thought out policies and principles. 

[5:08] To him, making money was only a game. A test of his imagination and expertise to see how far he could drive a business concept. Wall Street had a hard time getting the drift of that Sam's idea, he readily admitted was absurdly simple: Buy cheap. Sell low. Every day. And do it with a smile! 

[9:23]  No one in the Walton household worked harder, except his father. ‘The secret is work, work work,” said Thomas Walton. “I taught the boys how to do it.” He was a bear for work, and would not tolerate sons who were not likewise industrious, ambitious, and decent. 

[12:08] Sam was optimistic all the time. He felt the world was something he could conquer. 

[15:13] A lesson the founder of JC Penney personally taught Sam: Boys we don't make a dime out of the merchandise we sell. We only make our profit out of the paper and string we save.” 

[21:42] The lawyer saw Sam clenching and unclenching his fists, staring at his hands. Sam straightened up. “No,” he said. “I’m not whipped. I found Newport, and I found the store. I can find another good town and another store. Just wait and see!”  

[27:09] Sir, I never quarrel, Sir, but sometimes I fight, Sir, when I fight Sir, a funeral follows. 

[28:27] Sometimes hardship can enlighten and inspire. This was the case of Sam Walton as he put in hours and hours of driving Ozark mountain roads in the winter of 1950. But the same boredom and frustration triggered ideas that eventually bought him billions of dollars. 

[34:02]  One of the basic lessons Sam Walton learned at JC Penny was not to be so smug you ignored your competitors, especially their successful policies and practices. “If they had something good, we copied it,” Sam always said with total candor. 

[37:52] To these sophisticated and experienced businessmen in tailored suits and custom shoes, it looked like the tail was trying to wag the dog. What was that Arkansas country fellow’s experience with only a dozen or so stores compared to their thousand outlets and nearly a century of retailing know-how? 

[42:28] His tactics later prompted them to describe Sam as a modern-day combination of Vince Lombardi (insisting on solid execution of the basics) and General George S. Patton. (A good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week.) 

[43:43] I love this mindset: Move from Bentonville? That would be the last thing we do unless they run us out. The best thing we ever did was to hide back there in the hills and build a company that makes folks want to find us. 

[44:13]  The public conception of Sam as a good ol’ country boy wearing a soft velvet glove misses the fact that there’s an iron fist within. 


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