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Sam Walton: Made In America, My Story - Sam Walton with John Huey


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[amazonsearch]Sam Walton: Made In America, My Story[/amazonsearch]

 

I picked this up on Amazon a few weeks back for about 99p.

 

Initially I was somewhat concerned by how good the quality of writing was going to be given that he'd spent his life building Wal-Mart not producing literature, but if anything the book turned out to be a total page-turner (nothing fancy, just an honest and wide-ranging account of his life and business experiences).

 

Some of the things that really stood out were his almost incomparable work ethic as well as his drive to be the low-cost provider of as broad a product offering as possible. I think it really gives some interesting insights into his character and for all his professional ambition he seriously came off as being nothing more than just a genuine, family guy who enjoyed his hunting and tennis and happened to be real proud of what he and his team had eventually been able to accomplish for their customers.

On top of that, his humility was clear as were his focus on fun and his tendency to sometimes be extremely bull-headed (mostly for the better, occasionally not).

 

Also gives some interesting behind-the-scenes stories about the bigger developments throughout his time in the industry relating to procurement, distribution, tech implementation, etc and how those things were managed and utilitized at Wal-Mart (which, for the few who aren't aware, was usually the standard-setter at the time).

 

Book was name-checked by Buffett at some point I think. Dirt cheap & highly recommended.

 

 

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I thought it was great and recommend it as well.  I'm pretty sure it was co-authored by a mass-market, easy-to-read author guy as well so, yeah, very easy and quick to read.

 

Derailing the thread a little bit, I read it as part of the readings for the Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzsky, probably the best book I've ever read for understanding how different businesses work.  One of the "assignments" in the book is to read Made in America and Pour Your Heart into It (the Starbucks book) at the same time and look for similarities in their business models, business strategies, and how the two companies (Wal-Mart and Starbucks) first got off the ground.  Suffice it to say, your mind will be blown if you actually do the assignment in full.  The two companies really are cut from the same cloth.

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I thought it was great and recommend it as well.  I'm pretty sure it was co-authored by a mass-market, easy-to-read author guy as well so, yeah, very easy and quick to read.

 

Derailing the thread a little bit, I read it as part of the readings for the Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzsky, probably the best book I've ever read for understanding how different businesses work.  One of the "assignments" in the book is to read Made in America and Pour Your Heart into It (the Starbucks book) at the same time and look for similarities in their business models, business strategies, and how the two companies (Wal-Mart and Starbucks) first got off the ground.  Suffice it to say, your mind will be blown if you actually do the assignment in full.  The two companies really are cut from the same cloth.

 

 

Now you are making me want to buy all 3 books mentioned. My library is already stuffed.

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I thought it was great and recommend it as well.  I'm pretty sure it was co-authored by a mass-market, easy-to-read author guy as well so, yeah, very easy and quick to read.

 

Derailing the thread a little bit, I read it as part of the readings for the Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzsky, probably the best book I've ever read for understanding how different businesses work.  One of the "assignments" in the book is to read Made in America and Pour Your Heart into It (the Starbucks book) at the same time and look for similarities in their business models, business strategies, and how the two companies (Wal-Mart and Starbucks) first got off the ground.  Suffice it to say, your mind will be blown if you actually do the assignment in full.  The two companies really are cut from the same cloth.

 

 

Now you are making me want to buy all 3 books mentioned. My library is already stuffed.

 

Don't buy The Art of Profitability!  It's a rabbit hole of (required, but all awesome) books to read!

 

Seriously tho, it's an amazing book.  I have no idea why no one knows about it.

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I thought it was great and recommend it as well.  I'm pretty sure it was co-authored by a mass-market, easy-to-read author guy as well so, yeah, very easy and quick to read.

 

Derailing the thread a little bit, I read it as part of the readings for the Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzsky, probably the best book I've ever read for understanding how different businesses work.  One of the "assignments" in the book is to read Made in America and Pour Your Heart into It (the Starbucks book) at the same time and look for similarities in their business models, business strategies, and how the two companies (Wal-Mart and Starbucks) first got off the ground.  Suffice it to say, your mind will be blown if you actually do the assignment in full.  The two companies really are cut from the same cloth.

 

 

Now you are making me want to buy all 3 books mentioned. My library is already stuffed.

 

Same here. Damn you west - I thank you, but I hate you.

Seriously though, I have visions of an early death under a ceiling-high avalanche of as-yet unread books gleaned from the various recommendations on this forum.

 

Also, as an aside, it seems the co-author was the former editor-in-chief at Time Inc and as you mentioned he did a really awesome job of formatting and editing the material so that Sam's character and story was able to genuinely hit home. So, props where they're due on that. 

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I thought it was great and recommend it as well.  I'm pretty sure it was co-authored by a mass-market, easy-to-read author guy as well so, yeah, very easy and quick to read.

 

Derailing the thread a little bit, I read it as part of the readings for the Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzsky, probably the best book I've ever read for understanding how different businesses work.  One of the "assignments" in the book is to read Made in America and Pour Your Heart into It (the Starbucks book) at the same time and look for similarities in their business models, business strategies, and how the two companies (Wal-Mart and Starbucks) first got off the ground.  Suffice it to say, your mind will be blown if you actually do the assignment in full.  The two companies really are cut from the same cloth.

 

 

Now you are making me want to buy all 3 books mentioned. My library is already stuffed.

 

Same here. Damn you west - I thank you, but I hate you.

Seriously though, I have visions of an early death under a ceiling-high avalanche of as-yet unread books gleaned from the various recommendations on this forum.

 

You have that fear too!  I like to joke, when people are shocked when they see my piles of books and other reading materials, that one day, when I least expect it, all those dead trees are going to topple and get their revenge! :D

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You have that fear too!  I like to joke, when people are shocked when they see my piles of books and other reading materials, that one day, when I least expect it, all those dead trees are going to topple and get their revenge! :D

 

Ha. It seems pulling a Carnegie in early life via outright book donation is starting to look more and more like the intelligent course of action.

Forget philanthropic recognition, I'll just be trying to avoid ending up 6 feet under over here!

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  • 3 weeks later...

One big thing I got from the Art of Profitability was the whole idea of mental math and applying Fermi problem type solutions to business models. The basic idea is back of the envelope type calculation where you get an order of magnitude estimate but not precise numbers. Its a pretty good exercise to do with any business to estimate how much money they should be making.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 4 weeks later...

I thought it was great and recommend it as well.  I'm pretty sure it was co-authored by a mass-market, easy-to-read author guy as well so, yeah, very easy and quick to read.

 

Derailing the thread a little bit, I read it as part of the readings for the Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzsky, probably the best book I've ever read for understanding how different businesses work.  One of the "assignments" in the book is to read Made in America and Pour Your Heart into It (the Starbucks book) at the same time and look for similarities in their business models, business strategies, and how the two companies (Wal-Mart and Starbucks) first got off the ground.  Suffice it to say, your mind will be blown if you actually do the assignment in full.  The two companies really are cut from the same cloth.

 

 

Now you are making me want to buy all 3 books mentioned. My library is already stuffed.

 

Don't buy The Art of Profitability!  It's a rabbit hole of (required, but all awesome) books to read!

 

Seriously tho, it's an amazing book.  I have no idea why no one knows about it.

 

Thanks to you and Plan.  It is indeed a great book. Beautifully placed simple concepts leading you down the rabbit hole as you've put it.

 

As for the Wallmart book, I though it's OK.  A quick and easy read.

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  • 5 months later...
  • 1 month later...

Just finished reading Sam Walton - Made in America and it was excellent. His story is incredibly inspiring. He started with some savings and loan from his folks to buy one franchised variety store and eventually turned it into WalMart. He wasn't from a wealthy family and didn't have tons of connections or advantages. He (and his team) earned it. If he was half as hard working and competitive as the book makes him out to be, he was workhound. it's very impressive.

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  • 7 months later...
  • 3 years later...
Guest longinvestor

Just finished reading this book. Irrespective of where one is when thinking about his baby, Wal-mart, this is an exceptional story. He is a true original, and arguably there are only a few every century. Winning this big in brutal retail is quite something. Sam's winning approach reeks of simplicity and putting customer first.

 

Here are some interesting tidbits that I was not aware of before hearing it from the horse's mouth,

 

- He copied shamelessly; there was never a trip that he took (family camping, business meetings) where  he did not pay a visit to the local retailers. He says he's been in more K-Mart stores than he can count, probably more than K-Mart management!

- Wal-mart's success came about because he was never afraid of trying new things, change at a whim. It defies the stodgy, cast-in-stone image that shopping there would present itself. Most notably the switch to IT enabled logistics from his paper based management was a huge turning point.

- Until he could no longer keep up with the growing store count, every single site was chosen by Sam flying his plane repeatedly over the target locale! He did this apparently single handedly until store #400. Apparently this continues.

- His foray into retailing with the first variety store success ending abruptly because he did not read the lease he'd signed. The owner took over the property! That day forward, all leases are 99 years. They read now.

- His employee base (especially the early and long termers) include many millionaires via stock ownership. Of course he pays just enough as the labor market pushes him to. But apparently they ask for ideas from everyone in the rank and file. Don't know if this is current practice. As an online grocery shopper myself, I am pleased as  a punch with the customer friendliness of the associates who load my car.

- How he arm wrestled P&G to submission is quite a story. Buffett / Munger are surely keenly aware of this with the ownership of packaged goods and Costco.

- I simply loved his Saturday morning management meetings at every store. That captures what it is all about..

 

- Just like Buffett, he shares in the same world view and has done similar things: newspaper routes, frugal living, inherited wealth (he threatens to come out of the "box" should future Waltons splurge in vanities), local empowerment (biz/store) etc.

 

If Wal-Mart keeps Sam's approach substantially intact, they are not going down anytime soon. But time will tell.

 

Just as Buffett says about Rose Blumkin, absorbing Walton's story is worth a business degree.

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How funny.  A 20 year old book and I just finished it this week too after picking it up a while ago in a used bookstore.  The lessons are just as timely today as at any point in the company's history.  I especially liked his rant about people complaining that they were killing off the small town mom and pop stores.  He (rightly) claimed that they offered a better experience, better merchandising, better hours, friendlier staff and lower prices - and that's what killed off other stores.  No point feeling nostalgic for operators who don't serve their customers as well. 

 

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I especially liked his rant about people complaining that they were killing off the small town mom and pop stores.  He (rightly) claimed that they offered a better experience, better merchandising, better hours, friendlier staff and lower prices - and that's what killed off other stores.  No point feeling nostalgic for operators who don't serve their customers as well.

 

It's something that comes up over and over again in different situations, and I think it's based on some human cognitive biases. When benefits are spread out over many kind of invisible people but downsides are concentrated on a few visible people, most people will go with what is visible and easy to create a narrative around.

 

You see this all the time with farmers. Free trade helps everybody who's buying food, but it hurts farmers. It's easy to create a narrative around those poor farmers, but harder to create one around millions of people having access to slightly cheaper/better/more varied food.

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Guest longinvestor

Reading this reinforced an active switch I made to Autobiographies last year. For me at least, the right biographies are far more interesting to read as a genre than other genres. I've read Walton, Jobs, Knight, Gates, Feynman, Darwin (wip); Munger and Buffett although they are not strict bios. Couldn't put them down.

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  • 3 months later...

Reading this reinforced an active switch I made to Autobiographies last year. For me at least, the right biographies are far more interesting to read as a genre than other genres. I've read Walton, Jobs, Knight, Gates, Feynman, Darwin (wip); Munger and Buffett although they are not strict bios. Couldn't put them down.

 

I agree. I couldn’t put the Walton book down either.

 

Which Buffett and munger books are you referring to? (I’ve reread Damn Right a couple of times...)

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Guest longinvestor

Reading this reinforced an active switch I made to Autobiographies last year. For me at least, the right biographies are far more interesting to read as a genre than other genres. I've read Walton, Jobs, Knight, Gates, Feynman, Darwin (wip); Munger and Buffett although they are not strict bios. Couldn't put them down.

 

I agree. I couldn’t put the Walton book down either.

 

Which Buffett and munger books are you referring to? (I’ve reread Damn Right a couple of times...)

 

Buffett and Munger: Several, of which Tap Dancing / Loomis connected with me. I believe she understands the man better from the perspective that is relevant to me as an investor. Lowenstein was good as well. Others waded a bit too far into personal matters / motives for me.

 

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