Book Review: Made in America

Published in 1992, Made in America, the book is full of impactful business advice and a must-read for any entrepreneur. Sam Walton was a business leader who was wise and had true empathy for his team which led to building the most successful discount retailer, Walmart. He understood the power of moving fast, change, and servant leadership which, combined, led to Walmart’s success.

Here are a few takeaways:

1. Teach your kids the value of work.

Sam Walton clearly illustrates how “it’s not slave labor” but education. I agree, if the kid is willing and wanting to do the work and it is not being forced or done for long hours, then I do not see anything wrong. My parents were both entrepreneurs. My mom ran a fitness and dance studio in Toronto and I can remember fondly each summer helping my mom stuff envelopes for her yearly summer registration mailing. My brother, mom, and I had a system. Each year we would bring new modifications to the system to improve our efficiency, for example, self-adhesive envelopes vs. water seal. Or figuring out how to automatically print the address on the envelopes vs. printed labels which then we would have to unpeel and stick. That was a game-changer!  It was never really a chore but fun. It kept us busy and thinking. And looking back, it’s introduced me to entrepreneurship and I loved it.

2. Thrive on change.

This is a mindset that is not for everyone. Most people fear change. But if you thrive on it, it makes it easier to change each time you need to. I believe that Sam Walton was so successful because he was constantly changing Walmart and embraced it. To succeed you have to change all the time. You have to overcome the resistance to change.

3. Right people in the right place at the right time.

There is this concept of being in the flow. When you are in the flow you will meet the right people at the right time. Sam Walton knew how to capture this flow and find the right people to manifest what he needed to manifest each time.

4. Spirited competition is good for business.

5. If you love your work, you will do it the best you can and people will catch the passion from you.

6. Share your profits with all your associates.

Motivate your partners. Set high goals, encourage competitions, and keep score.

7. Cross-pollinate.

The concept of cross-pollination is what has helped our eco-systems survive for millions and millions of years. Thanks to the Bees and other pollinators. The same principles align in business. Have managers switch jobs to keep them challenged and to see new ideas or perspectives. Keep people guessing to avoid becoming predictable.

8. Constantly think of new and interesting ways to motivate your team.

Sam Walton understood his employees. One thing I have noticed from building a technology startup is that not all employees are motivated by money. Sam Walton used money as a key motivator for his employees – but in startup life, autonomy and the ability to build something big can be more motivating than money.

9. Free enterprise has to adopt a philosophy of servant leadership.

You can’t create team spirit when management is so one-sided. Everyone has to be working together. True altruism.

10. Communicate everything with your partners.

The more they know the more they will care. If you don’t trust them they will not trust they are partners.

11. Appreciate everything your associates do for the business.

Paycheck and stock option only buys so much loyalty. Tell them they are good. Nothing else can substitute for well-timed praise.

12. Celebrate your successes.

Find humor in failures. Have fun. Show enthusiasm. When all else fails put on a costume and sing a silly song. Think up your own stunt. Really fools the competition. Why should we take those cornballs at Walmart seriously!! “Have fun.” Whistle while you work philosophy. No one is too important to be the butt of a joke.

13. Listen to everyone in your company.

Figure ways to get them talking. The employees that talk to the customer are the only ones who know what’s going on. Force good ideas to bubble up within the company. Listen.

14. Exceed your customer’s expectations.

If you do they will come back over and over. Let them know you appreciate them. Don’t make excuses. Apologize. Stand behind everything you do. Satisfaction guaranteed on Walmart sign.

15. Control your expenses better than your competitor.

You can always find a competitive advantage here. We ranked #1 in our industry with expenses to sales numbers. You can still recover if you run an efficient operation.

16. Swim upstream.

Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everyone else is going one way there is a good chance you can find your niche in the opposite direction. Be prepared for people to tell you you are going the wrong way. But if you stick to your vision and never quit, you will be successful swimming upstream.

17. Hard part is to constantly figure out ways to execute them.

Everything around you is always changing. To succeed stay out in front of that change.

18. Always be more creative and more innovative.

Tiff Willson

Tiff Willson is a technology entrepreneur, investor and keynote speaker. Today she is the founder of the #1 platform for sustainable interior design

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