Abstract Sam Walton, a leader with an innovative vision, started his own company
and made it into the leader in discount retailing that it is today. Through his
savvy, and sometimes unusual, business practices, he and his associates led the
company forward for thirty years. Today, four years after his death, the company
is still growing steadily. Wal-Mart executives continue to rely on many of the
traditional goals and philosophies that Sam's legacy left behind, while
simultaneously keeping one step ahead of the ever-changing technology and
methods of today's fast-paced business environment. The organization has faced,
and is still facing, a significant amount of controversy over several different
issues; however, none of these have done much more than scrape the exterior of
this gigantic operation. The future also looks bright for Wal-Mart, especially
if it is able to strike a comfortable balance between increasing its profits and
recognizing its social and ethical responsibilities. Why is Wal-Mart so

Successful? Is it Good Strategy or Good Strategy Implementation? -- In 1962,
when Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas, no one
could have ever predicted the enormous success this small-town merchant would
have. Sam Walton's talent for discount retailing not only made Wal-Mart the
world's largest retailer, but also the world's number one retailer in sales.

Indeed, Wal-Mart was named "Retailer of the Decade" by Discount Store

News in 1989, and on several occasions has been included in Fortune's list of
the "10 most admired corporations." Even with Walton's death (after a
two-year battle with bone cancer) in 1992, Wal-Mart's sales continue to grow
significantly. The Wal-Mart Philosophy -- Wal-Mart is successful not only
because it makes sound strategic management decisions, but also for its
innovative implementation of those strategic decisions. Regarded by many as the
entrepreneur of the century, Walton had a reputation for caring about his
customers, his employees (or "associates" as he referred to them), and
the community. In order to maintain its market position in the discount retail
business, Wal-Mart executives continue to adhere to the management guidelines

Sam developed. Walton was a man of simple tastes and took a keen interest in
people. He believed in three guiding principles: 1. Customer value and service;

2. Partnership with its associates; 3. Community involvement (The Story of

Wal-Mart, 1995). The Customer -- The word "always" can be seen in
virtually all of Wal-Mart's literature. One of Walton's deepest beliefs was that
the customer is always right, and his stores are still driven by this
philosophy. When questioned about Wal-Mart's secrets of success, Walton has been
quoted as saying, "It has to do with our desire to exceed our customers'
expectations every hour of every day" (Wal-Mart Annual Report, 1994, p. 5).

The Associates -- Walton's greatest accomplishment was his ability to empower,
enrich, and train his employees (Longo, 1994). He believed in listening to
employees and challenging them to come up with ideas and suggestions to make the
company better. At each of the Wal-Mart stores, signs are displayed which read,
"Our People Make the Difference." Associates regularly make
suggestions for cutting costs through their "Yes We Can Sam" program.

The sum of the savings generated by the associates actually paid for the
construction of a new store in Texas (The story of Wal-Mart, 1995). One of

Wal-Mart's goals was to provide its employees with the appropriate tools to do
their jobs efficiently. The technology was not used as a means of replacing
existing employees, but to provide them with a means to succeed in the retail
market (Thompson & Strickland, 1995). The Community -- Wal-Mart's popularity
can be linked to its hometown identity. Walton believed that every customer
should be greeted upon entering a store, and that each store should be a
reflection of the values of its customers and its community. Wal-Mart is
involved in many community outreach programs and has launched several national
efforts through industrial development grants. What are the Key Features of

Wal-Mart's Approach to Implementing the Strategy Put Together by Sam Walton --

The key features of Wal-Mart's approach to implementing the strategy put
together by Sam Walton emphasizes building solid working relationships with both
suppliers and employees, being aware and taking notice of the most intricate
details in store layouts and merchandising techniques, capitalizing on every
cost saving opportunity, and creating a high performance spirit. This strategic
formula is used to provide customers access to quality goods, to make these
goods available when and where customers want them, to develop a cost structure
that enables competitive pricing, and to build and maintain a reputation for
absolute trustworthiness (Stalk, Evan, & Shulman, 1992). Wal-Mart