48 of 55 people found the following review helpful
on February 10, 2005
First off, this is a very strong story of a man and a business. Walton does a nice job of telling a clear, concise story about how he built the business of Wal Mart. It's very enlightening to hear him admit with pride that he invented very few of the ideas that made the store such a success, instead borrowing the best ideas from every store he visited (and he visited a lot).
Secondly, this book contains a valuable example of how capitalism forces the evolution - for better or worse - of industries. Walton takes the reader from the days of the small-town five and dime all the way through the mega Wal Marts of today. It's a valuable read for anyone interested in business.
Third, reading "Made in America" provides the reader with some important context for considering all of the attacks on Wal Mart in the popular press. You get to see that Wal Mart was built with really good intentions and that even though not everything born of Wal Mart's rise to dominance is an unmitigated good, it has done a lot of positive things for American consumers. That's really valuable because Wal Mart has become a bit of an unequivocal evil in the modern press and that simply isn't an even-handed treatment of the subject.
Highly recommended for those who would like to understand the motivations behind Wal Mart being what it is today and a great business story to boot.
36 of 43 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2009
Walton's story is certainly worth reading. He built a business - now the biggest in the world - that can only be described as the work of a genius.
The great virtue of this book is the portrait of his mind: he was utterly obsessed with retailing and bent a truly formidable energy to think about it at almost every working hour of the day. It may sound corny, but he reminds me of Miles Davis, who lived, breathed and ate his music. Walton looked at things from every angle, learning as he worked and unafraid to walk into a competitor's office unannounced with a tennis racket to talk. He was a showman and true believer, but also focused maniacally on operations and implementation. (About this, he pontificates about his competitors enjoying the trappings of success to the detriment of their attention to business - surely this is true in some cases, but repeatedly hearing it gets a bit boring.)
The business model he created is simple: always offer the lowest price possible, depending on higher volume to generate higher profit. The second pillar was to relentlessly pursue logistical superiority, in both a distribution system and computer-aided controls, enabling Wal-Mart to continually enhance its efficiency and speed of delivery. As the company grew, it was able to use its power to force suppliers to sell at ever-lower prices. Its stores spread slowly, oozing out like molasses, always supported by the distribution system. The third pillar, which in my opinion is exaggerated to the point of self-delusion, is the "family" aspect of employees (or "associates"), both as members of a store and in relation to customers. Certainly there is something to that, but it is far more limited than he seems to be aware of. Throughout, Walton offers many invaluable recommendations for business men and entrepreneurs. THere is no question he was one of the best.
The great failure of the book is Walton's inability to reflect on the impact of his company. Rather than taking the arguments of critics to heart honestly in the slightest, he dismisses them as people who moved to cities and are merely nostalgic about their childhoods in rural towns that have changed in no way because of his business practices. He also refuses to contemplate the impact of his company's power to act as a monopsony (sole buyer), forcing conditions on suppliers that can ruin them. That is one of the great changes in 20C capitalism: the shift of power of retailers to the detriment of manufacturers and suppliers, which Wal-Mart pioneered. Finally, he views unions exclusively as divisive influences rather than legitimate players and potential allies. In this, he shows little realistic empathy whatsoever regarding employees who don't appreciate their position or treatment in his stores.
Walton appears to believe in his own myth and he presents it well: his tone is down home, expresses a genuine Christian humility, and believes in small-town values. Fair enough, but there are many who see things differently. I suppose that that self-serving tunnel vision and absolute confidence in the system he created is part of his entrepreneurial genius, but it is also a clear statement on its limits.
Recommended. This is on a par with Ray Kroc's autobio and will interest all students of business.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 18, 2000
Sam Walton is a legend in the retail business. Building on core values, he created a whole new business concept that grew to become the largest retailer-the largest company-in the world. How did it happen?
In Made in America, SamWalton and his writer, a FORTUNE senior editor, take the reader through a chronological adventure of how a man started with nothing and gradually built an empire. He based everything he did on particular values that really made sense, though they were radical for his time and his industry. Gaining an understanding of those values, their sources, and their impacts, helped me better grasp my own values and business management philosophy.
Sam came up with a lot of innovative ideas, but was unabashed in his drive to glean ideas from his competitors. He had a knack for snatching someone else's idea and growing it into something really significant. Reading about these adventures was fascinating. I couldn't put the book down . . . and I thought I knew something about Wal-Mart!
Particularly interesting was insight into the unique culture of Wal-Mart and how it was created and nurtured. Educational, inspirational, stimulating. A great read!
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on October 29, 2001
Despite my hesitation at picking up an autobiography, I must say Made in America turned out to be quite a pleasant surprise. In it, Sam intersperses story telling with quotes from his colleagues, family and the media. After reading the story, you get a very clear picture of Sam's humble beginnings as a local boy who delivered papers, a boyscout who saved a person's life, a variety store franchise owner who was driven out of town because his lease expired and he didn't know that it was part of the contract he signed. In it you also learn what the Walmart Way was about. It's about hard work, passion for the job and thoughtful spending.
He completed it just before he died of cancer. And a good thing he did because nobody can tell the story better than the person who's lived it.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2005
I definitely see why Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the world! This is a step-by-step guide on how to create a successful business. Anyone can do it as long as he/she is motivated, dedicated, selfless, flexible, passionate and a lifetime learner. (Easier said then done, right?!)
I enjoyed the writing style. He wrote personally and I enjoyed the comments provided by the people that he was referring to. It added another personal touch making it seem like Sam was not just making stuff up.
Sam Walton was an amazing man. He was always learning and flexible. He is the role model that many business people should follow in order to be successful.
Another interesting thing that many of today's CEOs can learn from Sam is to learn from their people. If nothing else, all leaders in all types of organizations can learn from this! (This is actually a cornerstone of my company's philosophy.)
This is definitely another book to add to Esenai's corporate library...
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2005
Through a mix of small-town America patience, friendliness, hard work, and a great learning adaptability, Sam Walton was able to create the largest retail vendor in the world - all headquartered in tiny Bentonville, Arkansas. This is a business-man's journey from small Dime Store owner to the CEO of the multi-billion $ generating Walmart chain.
Among the treasures of this book are the ways in which Walton describes adapting his operations and distribution control as Walmart increased in size, methods of scouting out expansion opportunities (i.e. Flying by plane to see where roads and new housing development were being constructed, island placement), quail hunting excursions, and the thinking processes within Walton and those decision-makers close to him as Walmart evolved along each step of the way.
A must read for any entrepreneur as the creation of a legend is inscribed here in the legends own words.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on September 13, 2000
Think about it. A small time variety store retailer out of Bentonville Arkansas creates the most power retailing jaggernaut of all time, and right in the faces of powerhouses like Sears, K-Mart and JC Penny. If you are in any kind of a business with customers, you will benefit from this book, and experiencing the laser like focus Sam had on delivering the absolute best in his stores. Walton is to retailing what Jordon was to basketball, an absolute master of his art. I read this book several years ago, and as a retailer, I still refer to it, as much for the specific business tactics as to remind myself as to how Sam thought about things, and how he managed his people. An absolute classic.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 4, 2004
I have been interested for a while about the life of the man behind the Wal-Mart empire. And the man who would've been the richest man in the world had he been alive today. This book was an enjoyable first hand account written by the man Sam Walton himself in his own words. With some comments from some of the key people in his life. I felt that I kind of got to know Mr. Walton personally as I read this book. He also, of course, has some great insight on how to build and run a successful business. I highly recommend this book, whether you want to learn more about Mr. Walton himself or just Wal-Mart. Also has some great black & white as well as color pictures included in the book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 20, 2012
I have seen this book for years, and especially laying about unwanted in discount bins. I finally read it after my father started talking about it recently when he stared reading it, and some of the things he said piqued my interest. I am glad I did. Also, I was surprised how much I agreed with the other reviews, so I am going to try to take a different approach than most.
First of all anyone who was the richest man in the world has something to say that I am interested in hearing. I have wondered for years what Sam Walton was like, and one thing I was sure of is that he was driven. It turned out he was. He was, he says he was, and it comes out anyway in the narrative of his book. I was pleasantly surprised to see I was right about that. Second of all, the book was useful as history as he outlined the changes that came about in retailing as well as the decline of the old five-and-dime stores such as Ben Franklin. There was another surprise for me too. I was prepared to dislike Sam Walton, but I did not.
Sam Walton did not inherit his fortune. He made it. He made it because he was lucky, he was smart, and he worked hard. He created not just a business, but a social, economic, and even cultural behemoth that is still a force to be reckoned with. I wish we had more people like Sam Walton who really do create jobs, rather than create wealth through financial chicanery. Mr. Walton made his money the old fashioned way - he earned it. Oh, there is stuff to disagree with. Things like his visceral dislike of unions, and his paternalistic approach for all the associates he made his fortune off of. Also, the way he soft pedals the economic impact he had on communities when one of his stores came to town creating a powerful vacuum that sucked out money from the local economy. There was also, I think, a certain ruthlessness in Mr. Walton.
This is not the definitive book on Mr. Walton, or Wal-Mart. It also spends too much time on apologetics. However, it is an interesting book that provides some insight into what happened - especially in the earlier chapters. Worth the read.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2013
I’ve recently finished a fascinating book on the history of Walmart, as told by its founder, Sam Walton. Written in the last year before he died in 1992. At that time Walmart was a $53billion turnover company, and for some context, if you had bought $100 shares at its initial IPO in the early 1970’s, they would be worth $3.8million today (the shares split so many times over the years).
This is a very easy read with no effort required, but offers a great insight into how he managed the growth of such a large corporate.
He had some wonderful ideas and asked a lot from his managers – namely keeping the customer in mind at all times. He wanted everyone (and I mean everyone) to be on the shop floor at least once a week and engaging with a shopper.
There are lots of “ah ha” moments in the book (history of Sams club), why Walmart has greeters (very surprising reason), and how he is proud to say he has the biggest fleet of millionaire trucker drivers in the country (everyone has stocks in Walmart).
Also beautiful tales of how he stole ideas from all the other retailers including Kroger, Target and JCPenny.
He held all his management meetings on a Saturday morning as he didn’t believe real retailers worked 9-to-5. He also wasn’t a believer in having the company pay for things – so when the corporate headquarters got a new gym and sports centre, he said that the $3M should come out of his pocket and not out of the shoppers pocket. To this day (1992), he is proud that their offices in Bentoville will never win any design awards.
This book was on the short list for Jeff Bezos as he was inspired by Sam’s attention to the customer that he “stole” that idea for Amazon.