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In The Huddle with Fran Tarkenton

Sam Walton, America’s Greatest Entrepreneur

I believe that the greatest entrepreneur of my lifetime was Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart. He came from nothing, moving from town to town as a kid during the Great Depression. When he started his retail business in Bentonville, Arkansas, no one could have expected much. At the time (and even today), the retail business was the last place people looked for innovation. It doesn’t have the cachet and trendiness of technology, advertising, entertainment, or even manufacturing. But Mr. Sam (as I knew him) changed the world. No less than more celebrated entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, he knew how to create things that people wanted. He focused on value, on convenience, and on building a reliable brand. He had a vision for retailing, and the result is the largest employer in America today.

I met Mr. Sam at a meeting of Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE), and he became one of my great mentors in business—and a true friend. I learned so much riding in the passenger seat of his pickup truck as he drove from store to store, and watched him interact with customers, employees, and partners. He really cared about people, and he had time for everyone, listening to their feedback and ideas to improve his stores. I keep copies of some of the letters he sent me (typed, with handwritten notes in the margins) framed on the wall as I walk into my office. When he passed away in 1992, we lost a great American, and a great entrepreneur.

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Phyllis Broch

I am always unhappy when I hear jokes and stories about Walmart being something other than what it is. I find this store to be the best place to shop. I hear stories about how they treat employees, low wages, etc.. Just ask an employee how they feel, that is…one who does their job . Always they are happy with their work and given the privilege to start without experience, with a disability, or any disadvantage so often encountered when applying for a job any place else. I buy everything I can at Walmart, going there first before trying any other place.

Mary J

While one can agree that Sam Walton is a great entrepreneur, let us not forget another one…Truett Cathy, the founder of Chick-Fil-A. Like Mr. Walton, Mr. Cathy also grew up in hard times, but he has proven that a person’s success is not material things, but from being obedient to Biblical principles. He is a very humble and generous man whose love for others is shown through donations of food and money he gives to the community, the facilities he provides for underprivileged children, and scholarships he has given so that teenagers will be able to attend college. If you want a good chicken sandwich, be sure to get it on Saturday night, as you will not find a Chick-Fil-A open on Sunday.

Lincoln Sorensen

Mr. Tarkenton I agree with your assessment of Mr. Walton’s entrepeneaurial skills and his personality. It is unfortunate the same concern for convenience, value and employee loyalty died with Mr. Walton. Shopping at Walmart today reveals concern with only the profit margin. The skeleton staff results in unstocked shelves and a minimum of manned checkout counters. The wheels on the carts are square and the carts have their own agenda as to direction. I recently read about one of the Walton sons who is deceased at the age of 50 something had no interest in the world of business. He was worth billions when he died. This is obscene. How much is enough?? If all the billionaires would provide one billion to a trust to be controlled by a charity which actually gets most of the money to the needy like The Salvation Army, think of the good it would… Read more »

W. A. Starr

I love to hear about this great man What a legacy he has left for all. We just got a grocery store in our city. Man am I grateful. Wal-Mart has the other stores beat out when it comes to pricing. I don’t know how it is done but I’m so glad that Wal-Mart is a part of my everyday living and Sam Walton had the vision.

Ann

I believe Mary Kay Ash ranks right up there also with the greatest entrepreneur. Let’s give this woman the credit due her!!! It was not easy in a man'[s world in 1963!! But 50 years later the company is strong and growing!!

george anttila

this is interesting for me to read this morning–sam walton–i have been buying ole’roy dog food at wallmart ever since i read a story of his hunting dog roy getting up in age–purina made their dog chow for him to live a bit longer–so sam cared about people and dogs too–sincerely geo ed anttila

Dale S Fleenor

It really is amazing what a small world we live in. I had no idea that Mr. Sam was a personal friend of yours but I do know that everything you said about him is correct, but only a small sample of how people oriented he really was. I know this from personal experience with Mr. Walton as well since I was a Wal Mart Manager for 10 years beginning when there were only 111 stores in the chain at that time. I was at the year end meeting when the company hit it’s first billion dollars in, sales. I know the story well and had pretty much the same vision as a young manager with a different company and was told about Sam Walton from Bentonville and made the trip there to apply for a job with Wal Mart and the rest is history. I have the same feelings… Read more »