Excerpts from Running a Successful Company: Ten Rules that Worked for Me
Sam Walton, in Made in America
I didn't expect to find "get taxpayers to pay for your health insurance" on this list, and I didn't. Still, it's a pretty good list.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve been asked to to come up with a list of rules for success, but it is the first I’ve sat down and done it. I’m glad I did, because it’s been a revealing exercise for me.
I do seem to have a
couple of dozen things that I’ve singled out at one time or another as the
“key” to the whole thing. One thing I don’t even have on my list is “work
hard”. If you don’t know that already, you probably won’t be going far enough
to need my list anyway. Another thing I didn’t include on my list is the idea
of building a team. It almost goes without saying that you absolutely must
create a team of people who work together and give real meaning to the overused
word “teamwork”. To me, that’s more the goal of the whole thing, rather than
some way to get there.
- COMMIT to your business. Believe in it more than anybody else. If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody will catch the passion from you – like a fever.
- SHARE your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners. In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will perform beyond your wildest expectations. Encourage your associates to hold a stake in the company. Behave as a servant leader in a partnership.
- MOTIVATE your partners. Money and ownership alone are not enough. Constantly think of new and more interesting ways to motivate and challenge your partners. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. If things get stale, cross-pollinate – have managers switch jobs with one another to stay challenged.
- COMMUNICATE everything you can with your partners. The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. Information is power, and the gain you get from empowering your associates more than offsets the risk of informing your competitors.
- APPRECIATE everything your associates do for the business. All of us like to be told how much somebody appreciates what we do for them. We like to hear it often, especially when we have done something we’re really proud of. Nothing can substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free – and worth a fortune.
- CELEBRATE your successes. Find some humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Show enthusiasm – always.
- LISTEN to everyone in your company, and figure out ways to get them talking. The folks on the front lines – the ones who actually talk to the customer – are the only ones who really know what’s going on out there. You’d better find out what they know. To push responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.
- 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 – apologize. Stand behind everything you do. The two most important words I ever wrote were on that first Wal-Mart sign: “Satisfaction Guaranteed”.
- CONTROL your expenses better than your competition. You can make a lot of mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you’re too inefficient.
- SWIM upstream. Go the other way. Ignore conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find a niche by going in exactly the opposite direction.
Those are some pretty ordinary rules, some would say even simplistic. The hard part, the real challenge, is to constantly figure out ways to execute them. You can’t just keep doing what works one time, because everything around you is always changing. To succeed, you have to stay out in front of that change.