No doubt, Walmart founder Sam Walton (1918 – 1992) helped turn many smalltown Main Streets into ghost towns. At the same time, certain small businesses figured out how to benefit from the arrival of the retailing giant. Sam Walton even created a game plan small businesses can follow when up against any competitor.


Walton believed running a successful business can be boiled down to ten simple rules. He believed in these principles so much, he made them a part of Walmart’s brand, mission, and culture. But unlike the secret ingredients of Coca-Cola, Walton didn’t think his recipe for success should be locked up in a vault. The company he started even promotes the ten steps on its website for all the world to see. “We continue to apply them to every part of our business,” says the company’s website where you can find the following.

Photo: Walmart.com

Sam Walton’s Ten Rules for Building a Business

1 | Commit to your business

Believe in it more than anybody else. If you love your work, you’ll be out there every day trying to do it the best you possibly can, and pretty soon everybody around will catch the passion from you – like a fever.

2 | Share your profits with all your associates, and treat them as partners

In turn, they will treat you as a partner, and together you will all perform beyond your wildest expectations.

3 | Motivate your partners (employees)

Money and ownership alone aren’t enough. Set high goals, encourage competition, and then keep score. Don’t become too predictable.

4 | Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners

The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them.

5 | Appreciate everything your associates do for the business

Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They’re absolutely free – and worth a fortune.

6 | Celebrate your success

Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up, and everybody around you will loosen up. Have fun. Show enthusiasm – always. All of this is more important, and more fun, than you think, and it really fools competition.

7 | Listen to everyone in your company

And figure out ways to get them talking. To push responsibility down in your organization, and to force good ideas to bubble up within it, you must listen to what your associates are trying to tell you.

8 | Exceed your customers’ expectations

Give them what they want — and a little more. Make good on all your mistakes, and don’t make excuses — apologize. Stand behind everything you do.

9 | Control your expenses better than your competition

This is where you can always find the competitive advantage. You can make a lot of different mistakes and still recover if you run an efficient operation. Or you can be brilliant and still go out of business if you’re too inefficient.

10 | Swim upstream

Go the other way. Ignore the conventional wisdom. If everybody else is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going in exactly the opposite direction.