Sam Walton: Made In America by John Huey


Sam Walton founded and scaled Wal-Mart with his strong passion to compete, humble nature, and bias towards action. He used simple and timeless principles, such as hiring and empowering young and hungry individuals, striving for constant change, and giving praise.

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Key Takeaways

Have a passion compete

“If I had to single out one element in my life that has made a difference for me, it would be a passion to compete.”

I’ve never hard a particularly strong desire to compete, except with myself. But time and time again, I see stories of the world’s most successful business leaders who attribute their accomplishments to an insatiable desire to win.

Accept, reflect on, and move forward from your mistakes

“When somebody made a bad mistake—whether it was myself or anybody else—we talked about it, admitted it, tried to figure out how to correct it, and then moved on to the next days work.”

If someone makes a mistake, don’t berate them or make it into something that it doesn’t have to be. Talk openly about it. Figure out what happened and how to move forward. And then let it go.

Find and empower good people

“So my role has been to pick good people and give them the maximum authority and responsibility.”

If you want to scale a business, you can’t do it all on your own. You need the right people to round out your weaknesses and allow your strengths to flourish. But once you get the right people, don’t suffocate them with your view of how things should be. Give them autonomy, responsibility, and space to really show their talent.

Hire for desire and a willingness to work hard

“If you take someone who lacks the experience and the know-how but has the real desire and the willingness to work his tail off to get the job done, he’ll make up for what he lacks. And that proved true nine times out of ten. It was one way we were able to grow so fast.”

Throughout my career, people have hired me for my potential, not my experience. And while I may not have been as skilled as other people in the field, I made up for that with a passion for learning and a strong work ethic. Particularly when you’re scaling a business and have constantly changing needs, you want people who can grow with those needs and who are willing to do the hard work required to adapt.

Give praise

“Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free—and worth a fortune.”

Sam sums it up well. Don’t forget to give people praise.

A good approach to management

“Celebrate your success and find humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm. When all else fails, put on a costume and sing a silly song.”

I’ve used this quote in team presentations before. It’s a simple, but smart way to approach management and your work. Don’t get too consumed by the noise, and have some fun along the way.

A good approach to management

“But all this requires overcoming one of the most powerful forces in human nature: the resistance to change. To succeed in this world, you have to change all the time.”

The world is moving faster than ever, and both individuals and businesses will only survive if they learn to get comfortable with the process of constant change.

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