What You Can Learn From the Wal-Mart Way

Business lessons from the nation's largest retailer

At Sam’s Club, its Small Business Division took a slightly different tack. Realizing the shifting demands for entrepreneurs, they created their version of an economic stimulus plan by creating a cost-savings drive for small business customers The goal: collective savings of $270 million for 100,000 businesses by identifying less expensive products and services. In less than four months, they hit their target, trimming thousands for more than 115,000 enterprises nationwide.


Betty Marshall

Empower Your Employees. Wal-Mart believes in being clear and consistent when sharing processes, strategies and objectives with employees. And in terms of  international acquisitions of retail outlets for instance, associates know that in breaking new territories they must meet  three criteria: portfolio optimization, global leverage and development of a winning market-share strategy. Another example of this immersion culture is the 6 to 8 weeks of training that’s required of employees hired as distribution center loaders. And those in retail operations must push customers on products that enable them to “save money, live better.” In order for employees to fully adopt the Wal-Mart Way, managers spend hours drilling these philosophies and practices are drilled into them. “They share more information here than any company I’ve been with. It makes you better at what you do,” says Regional General Manager Betty Marshall whose business card doubles as a Sam’s Club membership application.

Wal-Mart also makes sure that it has ties to the community and embraces environment sustainability measures. The impact of their business practices has been clearly demonstrated in their financial performance over the past five years: From fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2009, the compounded annual sales growth rate was 9.2%  and free cash flow expanded a whopping 48.3%  each year over the same period, from $2.4 billion in FY 2005 to $11.6 billion.

By adopting such traits, your company may be able to gain market share or boost revenues. But it doesn’t happen by chance; you must be focused on what you seek to achieve and the elements needed to get there. The Wal-Mart Way, however, may offer a few clues on how you can blend your own ingredients for business success.

Click here to see the June 5, 2009, 7:00 a.m. (CST) webcast of Wal-Mart’s Annual Shareholder’s Meeting.

Derek T. Dingle is the editor-in-chief of Black Enterprise magazine.

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  • I thought this was a great read. In my book A2Z Inspirational Marketing I put a lot of emphasis on the same things that Wal-mart did, which is customer service and empowering yourself and your employees. Companies that are small or big need to make sure if they want to survive, to focus on the right things. Which are their employees and their customers.

    Synovia Dover-Harris.,MBA

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