David Glass' first reaction to seeing Walmart


Intelligent fanatics have a relentless drive to improve their operations. As John Patterson said, “The throbbing heart of business is the intense desire to do better. When that desire ceases, the heart stops beating.” They generally start with a grand vision, yet the first iterations are almost always bad. It is the constant learning and tinkering that allows these fanatic led organizations to build something special.

Sam Walton who founded Walmart is a superb example. It is hard to imagine how the first few Walmarts operated or what they looked like, but it wasn’t pretty. Below, David Glass, former Walmart President & CEO, described his initial reaction to seeing one of Sam Walton’s first stores. Then he describes Walton’s “throbbing heart of business” which is what separated his leadership from the rest.

David Glass:

When I saw the Harrison, Arkansas store I thought to myself this is absolutely the worst discount store or retail store that I have ever seen.

Sam bought a couple of truck loads of watermelons, and he’d stack them up across the front of the store. He had donkey rides for the kids out on the parking lot. What he didn’t anticipate is that the temperature was about 110 degrees in Harrison that day, and the water melons began to pop and that water melon juice was all over the parking lot. The donkeys did what donkeys do and tracked through all of that. You can imagine what it looked like.

The thing that I didn’t realize about Sam and the people that were involved in those early days of Walmart is that they had a quality that I haven’t seen in many people or many companies. Never a day went by that they didn’t improve something.

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