For some businesses, commitment to a larger purpose would be simply learning the difference between right and wrong, while others take a more responsible view of the role they play in the lives of their employees, their customers, and ultimately how they affect the world. Sam Walton’s philosophies were and are fundamentally based on giving back some of the wealth that he and his family receive. Sam Walton, was not just one of the most successful and rich men in America, but prided himself and his family on giving something back.
His family’s gifts reflect a wide variety of interests, spread across numerous organizations, with a heavy emphasis on education. His programs continue after his death. Walton funded a special scholarship program that sends kids from Central America to college in Arkansas. Presently, there are about 180 of these children enrolled at three different Arkansas schools, and Sam paid about $13,000 a year per student. He also sponsored seventy scholarships of $6,000 each year for children of Wal-Mart associates.
In addition to many educational institutions, recipients of Walton family gifts include church groups and community projects like zoos, libraries, and recreational facilities. He supported hospitals and medical research programs. He funded art groups and theater groups and symphonies. He gave to conservation and environmental causes and veterans’ groups, as well as to economic development groups and free enterprise groups. Sam and his family also supported both private and public schools.
Sam supported such groups as the Citizens against Government Waste, Students in Free Enterprise, and the Arkansas Business Council. 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. 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 stores operate according to their “Everyday Low Price” philosophy. Wal-Mart has emerged as the industry leader because it has been better at containing its costs which has allowed it to pass on the savings to its customers.
Wal-Mart has become a capabilities competitor. It continues to improve upon its key business processes, managing them centrally and investing in them heavily for the long term payback. Walton was known for his ability to quickly learn from his competitors’ successes and failures. Wal-Mart has invested heavily in its unique cross-docking inventory systems. Cross docking has enabled Wal-Mart to achieve economies of scale which reduces its cost of sales.
With this system, goods are continuously delivered to stores within 48 hours and often without having to inventory them. Lower prices also eliminate the expense of frequent sales promotions and sales are more predictable. Cross docking gives the individual managers more control at the store level. Assisted by a company owned transportation system Wal-Mart can ship goods from warehouse to store in less than 48 hours. This enables Wal-Mart to stock the shelves 4 times faster than its competition.