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4.7 out of 5 stars
Sam Walton: Made In America
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on 14 May 1998
I didn't really expect to like this book. Afterall, what could be so compelling about some guy who started a bunch of discount stores in Arkansas? Boy, was I wrong. This book is a jewel. It's a must read for anyone in business, whether a small business or a big corporation. You'll never look at a store the same way again after you read this book. You can easily believe that Sam Walton's approach would improve most business. Work hard. Work smart. Learn from your mistakes. Treat people right (employees and customers). Keep your eye on the ball and the bottom line. Don't listen to naysayers. Keep a smile on your face. Sounds like good advice to me!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2003
It could not have been better to read the world's greatest retailing story from its very own founder: Sam Walton! Sam Walton shared his philosophy of life and the way he built one of the greatest empires on earth... by sheer determination, courage and wit. Those who aspire to be great business men or women should learn from the master of retailers.
Business that sells commodity products are faced with overwhelming competition. And the only way to survive is to be the low cost operator... and it will be extremely hard to find anyone more effecient than Wal Mart. Wal Mart is just a superb machine oiled to take the world by storm with its excellent low cost and efficient operation.
I truly believe that anyone will benefit from this good book, whether you are business men or women or just ordinary folks who are searching for interesting books to fill your time. Even my parents, who are not into business, find this book extremely interesting to read.
I highly recommend it to everyone!
-Dah Hui Lau-
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2000
It is a great book not only for people in retailing but also for people in other businesses, and students as well. And when you compare it for example to Southwest (Freiberg & Freiberg: Nuts!) or Virgin (Branson: Losing my Virginity) stories, you'll find some interesting similarities. In addition to that the book might give you some ideas, which could be useful in your business.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Wal-Mart is not just a gigantic retail company. It is the ultimate retailing juggernaut, setting the bar for products, packaging and pricing, and demolishing its competitors. Given its staggering influence, some would say Wal-Mart has become the very embodiment of retailing. It is the world's biggest private employer and its largest (by revenue) public corporation, with 2008 sales topping $400 billion. It has 4,264 stores in the U.S. and, with its international subsidiaries, serves more than 100 million customers weekly across the globe. The personality of Wal-Mart's late founder, Sam Walton, is still a driving force, a source of homespun, countrified wisdom and old-fashioned common sense. In this engaging autobiography, Walton explains how he built his mammoth corporation from a small five-and-dime store in Bentonville, Arkansas. The book doesn't include much bad news, but you wouldn't expect to find it here anyway. getAbstract recommends this colorful, entertaining book by America's ultimate entrepreneur. He clearly was a determined steamroller as a businessman, but he was also a charmer - and that won't surprise you either.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Walton's story is certainly worth reading. He built a business - now the biggest in the world - that can only be described as the work of a genius.

The great virtue of this book is the portrait of his mind: he was utterly obsessed with retailing and bent a truly formidable energy to think about it at almost every working hour of the day. It may sound corny, but he reminds me of Miles Davis, who lived, breathed and ate his music. Walton looked at things from every angle, learning as he worked and unafraid to walk into a competitor's office unannounced with a tennis racket to talk. He was a showman and true believer, but also focused maniacally on operations and implementation. (About this, he pontificates about his competitors enjoying the trappings of success to the detriment of their attention to business - surely this is true in some cases, but repeatedly hearing it gets a bit boring.)

The business model he created is simple: always offer the lowest price possible, depending on higher volume to generate higher profit. The second pillar was to relentlessly pursue logistical superiority, in both a distribution system and computer-aided controls, enabling Wal-Mart to continually enhance its efficiency and speed of delivery. As the company grew, it was able to use its power to force suppliers to sell at ever-lower prices. Its stores spread slowly, oozing out like molasses, always supported by the distribution system. The third pillar, which in my opinion is exaggerated to the point of self-delusion, is the "family" aspect of employees (or "associates"), both as members of a store and in relation to customers. Certainly there is something to that, but it is far more limited than he seems to be aware of. Throughout, Walton offers many invaluable recommendations for business men and entrepreneurs. THere is no question he was one of the best.

The great failure of the book is Walton's inability to reflect on the impact of his company. Rather than taking the arguments of critics to heart honestly in the slightest, he dismisses them as people who moved to cities and are merely nostalgic about their childhoods in rural towns that have changed in no way because of his business practices. He also refuses to contemplate the impact of his company's power to act as a monopsony (sole buyer), forcing conditions on suppliers that can ruin them. That is one of the great changes in 20C capitalism: the shift of power of retailers to the detriment of manufacturers and suppliers, which Wal-Mart pioneered. Finally, he views unions exclusively as divisive influences rather than legitimate players and potential allies. In this, he shows little realistic empathy whatsoever regarding employees who don't appreciate their position or treatment in his stores.

Walton appears to believe in his own myth and he presents it well: his tone is down home, expresses a genuine Christian humility, and believes in small-town values. Fair enough, but there are many who see things differently. I suppose that that self-serving tunnel vision and absolute confidence in the system he created is part of his entrepreneurial genius, but it is also a clear statement on its limits.

Recommended. This is on a par with Ray Kroc's autobio and will interest all students of business.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 27 September 1999
Armed with my highlighter pen, I began to read and look for ideas (mine is an unrelated business)for my own operation. Now, there's more highlighted sentances than not - and having read literally hundreds of self-improvement books, this has been undoubtably the most uplifting one of them all! If you want your customer to be king, you must read this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2013
Luke Johnson, the entrepreneur behind Pizza Express and former head of Channel 4, is a compulsive reader and he warmly recommended Made in America by Sam Walton. For years I resisted the chance to read the story of the man who made Walmart and boy was I wrong.

Quite simply this is a brilliant manual on what you need to do to be a successful independent retailer. In one chapter on thinking small, Walton says: "I always wanted to be the best retailer in the world, not the biggest."

In 1960 in a newspaper article called Success Story of the Year it described how he and his family and managers had built up a nine strong chain of variety stores. He told the paper that nine was as big as it could get as it was as many as he could supervise.

Most readers don't need to worry how he moved beyond nine to become the biggest retailer in history (he did this by hiring and inspiring great people). What they need to recognise is that Walton remained a great independent retailer till the end of his life.

"If we ever forget that looking a customer in the eye and greeting him or her and asking politely if we can be of help is just as important...today...then we just ought to go into a different business because we'll never survive in this one," he says.

He provides lots of advice for success but notes that they are all just "common sense and most of them can be found in any number of books or articles on management theory - many of which I've read and studied over the years".

His 10 rules for success are prefaced with a few extra ideas such as:

· Work hard

· Build a team

· Have goals and always set them high.

My favourite rule today (tomorrow it could be different) is:

Rule 8: EXCEED your customers' expectations. If you do, they'll come back over and over. Give them what they want-and a little more. Let them know you appreciate them. Make good on all your mistakes, and don't make excuses-apologise. Stand behind everything you do. The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign: `Satisfaction guaranteed.' They're still up there, and they have made all the difference."

I also loved his tips on not buying "other people's inefficiencies" and always remembering that "we are agents for our customers".

He started out competing with the big firms and won. He says he never put anyone out of business. His competitor's customers "were the ones who shut him down. They voted with their feet."

What to do: "Most independents are best off, I think, doing what I prided myself on doing for so many years as a storekeeper: getting out on the floor and meeting every one of the customers. Let them know how much you appreciate them, and ring that cash register yourself. That little personal touch is so important for an independent merchant because no matter how hard Wal-Mart tries to duplicate it-and we try awfully hard- we can't really do it."

The book is simply brilliant. It is a manual for success. Ignore the title. This is How to be a brilliant retailer. Breathless prose. Read it today.

Read more at [...]
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 19 April 1998
This book is not only the history of one of the best American enterprises ever, but also a word for the future. Those who are looking for some good advices how to sell this or that would be disappointed, but those who are looking for inspiration in their business or life might find it very fulfilling. There is no recipe for a good business in the book, but among the rules, that Sam Walton formulates at the end the most important, he says, is "Break all rules!". This book is a must read for every businessman.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The autobiography of Sam Walton, a one-off in his life-time and something of a business guru. Sam enjoyed the retail business and spent his life immersed in its study and execution, building an empire of over 2000 stores. His account is homely and based on his small town upbringing and values, which never left him. It is enjoyable as a biography and, as such a good read - Sam Walton is a good talker and has an interesting tale to tell, but within it, there are many nuggets of business wisdom and much to learn from such as thinking small and making the customer the centre of the universe, as it were. We all talk about this, but rarely make a study of it, or practice, as much as Sam seems to have done. One could be cynical. and there is much criticism of his methods and practice, but I finished the book believing that this is a businessman one can learn from and emulate, to a great extent, without ever having to sell your soul. An impressive read that I enjoyed enormously.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 6 February 2005
Sam Walton was retailer and merchandiser all his life. In his book he gives a story of development of American retail market, building up Wal-Mart and how Wal-Malt conquered the souls and purses of American consumers. First, I found the story slightly irritable with its too folksy style and numerous nods to Wal-Mart associates that left the impression of insincerity. Only in the end I learned that he wrote the book facing the unavoidable encounter with the unknown and as such the book was first and foremost his testimony to Walt-Malt employees. Sam Walton saw the Wal-Mart as his legacy to the world and the book seems to be intended as a "bilble" to the company that would keep the values and ways of doing business alive. We can all learn something from it.
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