Sam Walton
Leadership Case Study

Sam Walton Leadership Case Study is a part of Leadership Stories, a series of biographies of great leaders in history that have impacted the world in a huge way.

Sam Walton Leadership
Who was He?

Sam Walton is the founder of Walmart, the international discounting retail giant.

He is a model business leader who has changed the way big business is done.

In his life, he has built Walmart from a single store to one of the largest corporations in America.

A Short History

Sam Walton was born on 1918 in Kingfisher, Oklahoma. During his teenager years, it was during the Great Depression and this cultivate the habit of prudence in Sam Walton, even till his old age.

Walton was a high achiever in his school days; he was President of the student body in his senior year. He won state titles in both basketball and football and performed well enough academically to receive honors.

Walton always wanted to be in retail from his youth and he had a deep passion for it. Apart from a short stint in the military, he had been in retail for the whole of his life.

His first job started in JC Penney at a management training program, but he left soon after because he enlisted in the military for World War II.

When he returned from World War II, he wanted to start variety stores and he bought a Ben Franklin franchise to start off. He did extremely well with the franchise and achieved extremely good sales in his stores.

His strategy of buying in bulk and discounting proved to be a hit with the customers and it was then that he saw a future in discounting.

Over time, he opened up several more Ben Franklin stores with his father and brother assistance.

Because he felt that he could not have the flexibility to run the business with Ben Franklin stores, he decided to set up his own Wal-mart store; the first one in Arkansas.

With his Wal-mart, he began to use the discounting strategy that he had begun to adopt in the Ben Franklin stores. It proved to be wildly successful and he saw that discounting was the future of retail.

With this strategy, he began expanding in the area, and ultimately all over the United States. Eventually, Wal-mart became the largest corporation in the US, with revenue of US$404 billion in 2009.

Awards and Honours

1. Richest Man in the US, 1985 to 1988
2. Presidential Medal of Freedom, 1992

Sam Walton
Leadership Lessons

1. Stick to fundamental values

Sam Walton had simple values that guided him through his life and business. He didn’t follow the latest management fad, nor did he believe in any of the get-rich-quick ideas. He was solidly living his life by the values that he grew up with.

Similarly, as a leader building a team or an organization, you need to get away from all the ‘noise’ about the latest management framework, or the next idea about how leadership should be done.

The principles that existed for thousands of years still exist today and all you have to do is follow them, and people will follow you. There is nothing new under the sun and you shouldn’t be swayed by different ways and ideas; but stick to your values and you will be successful.

2. Don’t follow the money, follow your passion

Sam Walton didn’t start off his variety stores with an ambition to become rich; he simply had a passion for his craft and at each point in time, he only wanted to do it better and better.

If you follow the money, you’ll be running from one business opportunity to another without any focus. But Sam Walton had one focus: retail and so should you. When you follow your passion, you’ll be successful in whatever craft you do, and you will become a leader in that field that you commit yourself to. 

3. Take care of your people

Sam Walton took extremely good care of his employees and he gave very employee a chance to become successful with him by allowing them to purchase stock options of Wal-mart at a discount. He treated them as associates of the business and wanted them to enjoy part of Wal-mart’s success.

If you can value every single employee or team member in your organization, it will help toward your personal success as well. But do it only because you genuinely care. Make them part of the organization by allowing them to share the organization’s success, be it by stock options or other forms of rewards.

There’s a saying that goes, if you can make people around you successful, then you will be successful too.

Related Books on
Sam Walton Leadership

Best Quotes from
Sam Walton Leadership

“We're all working together; that's the secret.”

“Capital isn't scarce; vision is.”

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish.”

“Each Wal-Mart store should reflect the values of its customers and support the vision they hold for their community.”

“High expectations are the key to everything.”

“I had to pick myself up and get on with it, do it all over again, only even better this time.”

“I have always been driven to buck the system, to innovate, to take things beyond where they've been.”

“There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

“We let folks know we're interested in them and that they're vital to us. cause they are.”

Other Links

Wikipedia: A highly detailed account of Walton's life
Time.com: Time's profile of Sam Walton
Walmart: The Walmart Official Site

Other Business Leaders

» Jamie Dimon
Jamie Dimon is the current CEO and chairman of JP Morgan Chase & Co, the second largest bank in the United States by assets.

» Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs is the Chairman and CEO of Apple Computers Inc. and arguably one of the world’s most successful businessmen today.

» Ray Kroc
Ray Kroc is the man behind the multimillion dollar fast food empire, MacDonald’s. In his life, he has built the fast food chain from a simple hamburger restaurant to a multi-billion dollar franchise that has reached almost every part of the world today.

» Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie was the father of modern steel and was one of America’s richest men. He started the Carnegie Steel Company, which later merged with Steel Company to become U.S. Steel.

» Walt Disney
Walt Disney is the famous founder of Mickey Mouse, the loveable cartoon character that has permeated almost every country and culture in the world. He is the co-founder of Walt Disney Productions and one of the most influential motion picture producers in the world.

» Henry Ford
Henry Ford is the founder of the Ford Motor Company and also the inventor of the modern day assembly line method of production for his Model T cars. He is also an inventor who has been credited with over 100 patents. During his time, he was one of the richest people in the world.

» Sam Walton
Sam Walton is the founder of Walmart, the international discounting retail giant. He is a model business leader who has changed the way big business is done.

» Donald Trump
Donald Trump is an American business magnate and television personality. He is the Chairman of the Trump Organization, a US-based real-estate developer. To date, Donald Trump has accumulated wealth of up to US$2.7 billion, primarily through his real estate investments.

» John D Rockefeller
John D Rockefeller is an American Oil Magnate and the first billionaire in the history of the world. In today’s dollars, Rockefeller is still considered the richest man in modern history. He was also one of the first few philanthropists in the world, giving back a huge portion of his wealth to the community.

» Warren Buffet
Warren Buffet is one of the world’s richest men, with assets totally up to US$50 billion in 2011. His main source of wealth comes from his company Berkshire Hathaway, a conglomerate holding company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, United States. His philosophy of value investing and prudence and influenced many investors worldwide.

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