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The Walmart Way - Don Soderquist

This book is a quick read that has some fun business lessons, to give you a flavour I will share my favourite quote:

"The ROI on a smile is infinite because a smile is free."

I was positively surprised by the key theme of the book, it's all about people. Don say's it's important to treat people with respect. He states that you must treat people as the person you want them to become.

Don starts the book by talking a lot about team, he says that Walmart exceeds because of its ability to implement and execute. It's a business that gets things done. Don says that the key to building this type of business is finding people who work with urgency and intensity, most importantly people who DO NOT PUT UP WITH DELAYS!

Something that was repeated through out the book was the need to hire friendly, positive, happy, outgoing people. Walmart built a team of smiling employees by hiring people that enjoy smiling.

Related to this cultural point is the view that everyone in the business is on the same team, it's important to engage with co workers in a non defensive manner as everyone is striving for a common goal.

Walmart was founded with a clear goal and they made sure every part of their business was optimised to achieve it. Walmart strives to provide customers with every day low prices, they are determined to keep costs low. Walmart would always get their executive team to fly economy class and they always required them to share rooms in order to keep expenses low.

Continual Don focuses on how can a business help their customers succeed first? He states that within Walmart there is only one 'Boss' and that its the customer. Even the senior management team have the same boss, the customer.

Saving money in all aspects of the business is at the heart of Walmart's culture, they are obsessed with efficiency. Walmart used technology to help them be more efficient. They pioneered creation of the UPC (universal product code, or bar code) in order to improve their logistics and help keep prices low for their customers.

It's interesting that the incumbent producers and manufactures strongly resisted UPCs. As is often the way, incumbents can be resistant to innovation and change, anything that rocks their monopolistic boat is a threat.

When the company conducted feasibility studies on new technologies they always displayed the investment with a payback time. The cost of technology wasn't of issue, it was more important to see how long the investment would take to pay itself back and to then project what it's future savings/earning would be.

Don stresses throughout the book that Walmart will do anything it can to satisfy it's customers and believes in treating people in a way that makes them feel special. They also believe that you have to sell customers what they want to buy. Some simple things Don wrote really stuck with me namely: If you're out of stock the customer will leave the store unhappy and they won't come back; value is what customers are looking for and value has many meanings to people.

(These things may sound obvious, but in start up world many people forget or ignore them!)

Some other take aways that I enjoyed are:

  • Discover errors and don't make the same mistake twice. Review what could be done better, passion for excellence.

  • Celebrate your success but never get enthralled with your own PR.

  • A leader must make the team believe that the seemingly impossible is possible.


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