Sam Walton’s Rules of Business

Walton's_Five_and_Dime_store,_Bentonville,_ArkansasWe’re celebrating Walmart heritage this week, and nothing is more central to that heritage than Sam Walton, the founder of the Walmart empire.

Sam Walton had ten rules for business: ten things he believed were the basis of running a successful business, and he shared them in his book, Sam Walton, Made in America: My Story.

Sam’s 10 Rules for Building a Business

1. Commit to your business.

Sam Walton’s passion for his business was legendary. Walmart was his life. If you want to get on the shelf at Walmart, you can’t be casual about your products or uncertain about your direction.

2. Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners.

Fortunes have been founded on those early stock shares, and Mr. Sam’s associates were willing to give their all for the business. Walmart treats suppliers as partners, too, sharing responsibility for building business.

3. Motivate your partners.

“Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score,” said Mr. Sam. Team building and scorecards continue to be central to the Walmart way. Could these methods work with your partners?

4. Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners.

Retail Link was revolutionary when it began. Retailers hadn’t previously shared information with suppliers in this way. Joint Business Planning is the natural outgrowth of that sharing. Communication on this scale requires trust — and builds it.

5. Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.

You can’t do everything yourself… yet many businesses have foundered on dissatisfaction or disengagement among workers. As you build your business, take time to appreciate the contributions of your staff.

6. Celebrate your success.

Mr. Sam famously did a hula down Wall Street to celebrate reaching a financial goal. That’s a great example of public celebration of success. Even if that’s not your style, your positive sharing can pay dividends in increased confidence among your partners and lessened confidence among your competitors.

7. Listen to everyone in your company.

Mr. Sam was adamant about listening to all associates. Too often, when problems come to light in a business, it turns out that someone was aware of it and kept that knowledge from higher-ups. By listening to your people, you encourage them to tell you more.

8. Exceed your customers’ expectations.

A customer-centric business does things differently, and customers appreciate it. Go the extra mile for your customers.

9. Control your expenses better than your competition.

Walmart is famous for watching all along the supply chain for places where it is possible to be more efficient and cost-effective. This is a good example for any business.

10. Swim upstream.

Walmart was so different from the conventional wisdom that many people told Mr. Sam his ideas would never work. Those people were wrong. It’s worth testing different ideas and trying out new things.