Sam Walton Was “America’s Greatest Entrepreneur of the Twentieth Century”

(p. 194) Sam Walton is my pick for America’s greatest entrepreneur of the twentieth century.
He not only built the world’s largest retailing empire and the single most valuable company in America, he created the institution with the greatest muscle to do good today.

Source:
Wyly, Sam. 1,000 Dollars and an Idea: Entrepreneur to Billionaire. New York: Newmarket Press, 2008.

Entrepreneur Sam Walton Sought to Learn from Others

(p. 40) So where is Ames at the time of this writing, in 2008?
Dead. Gone. Never to be heard from again. Wal-Mart is alive and well, #1 on the Fortune 500 with $379 billion in annual revenues.
What happened? What distinguished Wal-Mart from Ames?
A big part of the answer lies in Walton’s deep humility and learning orientation. In the late 1980s, a group of Brazilian investors bought a discount retail chain in South America. After purchasing the company, they figured they’d better learn more about discount retailing, so they sent off letters to about ten CEOs of American retailing companies, asking for a meeting to learn about how to run the new company better. All the (p. 41) CEOs either declined or neglected to respond, except one: Sam Walton.
When the Brazilians deplaned at Bentonville, Arkansas, a kindly, white-haired gentleman approached them, inquiring, “Can I help you?”
“Yes, we’re looking for Sam Walton.”
“That’s me,” said the man. He led them to his pickup truck, and the Brazilians piled in alongside Sam’s dog, Ol’ Roy.
Over the next few days, Walton barraged the Brazilians with question after question about their country, retailing in Latin America, and so on, often while standing at the kitchen sink washing and drying dishes after dinner. Finally, the Brazilians realized, Walton-the founder of what may well become the world’s first trillion-dollar-per-year corporation-sought first
and foremost to learn from them, not the other way around.

Source:
Collins, Jim. How the Mighty Fall: And Why Some Companies Never Give In. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2009.

Corruption, Inefficiency, Inflation and Bad Policies Lead to Decline in Foreign Investment in India

ForeignDirectInvestmentGraph2011-05-19.jpg Source of graph: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) While inefficiency and bureaucracy are nothing new in India, analysts and executives say foreign investors have lately been spooked by a highly publicized government corruption scandal over the awarding of wireless communications licenses. Another reason for thinking twice is a corporate tax battle between Indian officials and the British company Vodafone now before India’s Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the inflation rate — 8.2 percent and rising — seems beyond the control of India’s central bank and has done nothing to reassure foreign investors.

And multinationals initially lured by India’s growth narrative may find that the realities of the Indian marketplace tell a more vexing story. Some companies, including the insurer MetLife and the retailing giant Wal-Mart, for example, are eager to invest and expand here but have been waiting years for policy makers to let them.

For the full story, see:
VIKAS BAJAJ. “Foreign Investment Ebbs in India.” The New York Times (Fri., February 25, 2011): B1 & B6.

(Note: the online version of the article is dated February 24, 2011.)

Banks Try to Suppress Competition Through Federal Finance Regulations

Wal-MartBanco2010-07-24.jpg

“Banco Wal-Mart plans to open more than 160 branches in Mexico this year.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B2) Banco Wal-Mart plans to open more than 160 branches in Mexico this year, nearly doubling its presence south of the border. Wal-Mart Canada Bank also opened this month. It is offering a credit card and may make loans, including mortgages.

As Wal-Mart has done with retail in America, a Wal-Mart bank could be a disciplining force in keeping down costs for customers. It could also act as an engine of credit creation for a significantly underbanked subset of the American populace.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation estimates that 60 million Americans, most of them low-income, are underserved by local community banks and wind up using usurious check cashers, payday lenders and pawnbrokers for financial services.
. . .
As part of the financial reform legislation, bankers have supported a three-year freeze on new applications for industrial loan corporations, the charter Wal-Mart would need.
That runs contrary to the supposed spirit of reform that seeks to empower and protect consumers. Greater competition, coupled with sounder regulatory supervision, would help accomplish that. And Wal-Mart could be its catalyst.

For the full commentary, see:
ROLFE WINKLER, ROB COX and MARTIN HUTCHINSON. “Reuters Breakingviews; The Halls of Finance Fear Wal-Mart.” The New York Times (Thurs., June 24, 2010): B2.
(Note: the online version of the article has the date June 23, 2010.)
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Chicago’s South Side Welcomes Wal-Mart: “The Audience Stood and Cheered”

WalmartChicagoSupporters2010-06-29.jpg“Supporters of a proposed Wal-Mart store in Chicago demonstrated at a City Coumcil zoning panel hearing Thursday.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B4) “We need jobs for our neighborhood, and Wal-Mart is willing to come, and they’re willing to provide the jobs,” said the Rev. Dr. D. Darrell Griffin, the pastor at Oakdale Covenant Church.

Politicians who supported the Wal-Mart store said they did so in part because of employment and revenue for the city.
“There are major corporations willing to invest significant money within our communities, which has not been done, really, since the ’60s, when a lot of the corporations left the communities after the riots,” said Howard B. Brookins Jr., a member of the council. “This is huge for us.”
. . .
On Thursday, the zoning committee meeting was filled with about 200 onlookers wearing T-shirts with the Wal-Mart logo and slogans like, “Our neighborhood. Our jobs. Our decision.”
Before he asked for a simple yes or no vote, Daniel Solis, chairman of the zoning committee, told the crowd, “We are now the model in this country.”
After the unanimous vote — which sends the proposal to the full City Council, where it is expected to pass next week — the audience stood and cheered.
“It’s going to bring jobs and help the community,” Shawn Polk, 20, a college student who lives near the proposed store, said afterward.

For the full story, see:
STEPHANIE CLIFFORD. “Wal-Mart Gains in Its Wooing of Chicago.” The New York Times (Fri., June 25, 2010): B1 & B4.
(Note: the online version of the article is dated June 24, 2010.)
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Farmers in India Like Wal-Mart

WalMartIndiaFarmer2010-05-20.JPG“Mohammad Haneef, [above], a farmer in Haider Nagar, said that Wal-Mart is better than his previous clients. “You have to establish trust,” he said in Hindi. “Wal-Mart has been paying on time. We would just like them to buy more.”” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below. (Note: bracketed word added.)

(p. B1) HAIDER NAGAR, India — At first glance, the vegetable patches in this north Indian village look no different from the many small, spare farms that dot the country.

But up close, visitors can see some curious experiments: insect traps made with reusable plastic bags; bamboo poles helping bitter gourd grow bigger and straighter; and seedlings germinating from plastic trays under a fine net.
These are low-tech innovations, to be sure. But they are crucial to the goals of the benefactor — Wal-Mart — that supplied them.
Two years after Wal-Mart came to India, it is trying to do to agriculture here what it has done to industries around the world: change business models by using its hyper-efficient practices to improve productivity and speed the flow of goods.
. . .
(p. B3) Here in Haider Nagar, in the bread basket state of Punjab, farmers who supply vegetables to Wal-Mart say they like working with the company. It typically pays them 5 to 7 percent more than they earn from local wholesale markets, they said. And they do not have to pay to transport produce because Wal-Mart picks it up from their fields.
Abdul Majid, who sells cucumbers to Wal-Mart, says his yields have risen about 25 percent since he started following farming advice about when to apply fertilizers and which kinds — more zinc, less potash — from the company and its partner, Bayer CropScience.
Mohammad Haneef, a farmer in a nearby village, said he had sold to two other companies before Wal-Mart, but one shut down and the other cheated him and paid him late. Wal-Mart is much better, he said, but its buyers are picky, taking the best vegetables and leaving him with inferior ones that he still must truck to wholesale markets.
“You have to establish trust,” he said in Hindi. “Wal-Mart has been paying on time. We would just like them to buy more.”

For the full story, see:
VIKAS BAJAJ. “Cultivating a Market in India; Wal-Mart Nurtures Suppliers as It Lays Plans for Expansion.” The New York Times (Tues., April 13, 2010): B1 & B3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review is dated April 12, 2010 and has the title “In India, Wal-Mart Goes to the Farm.”)

Medicare Pays $110 for Walker that Wal-Mart Sells for $60

MedicareSavingsFromEquipmentBids.jpg Source of table: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. C1) On Wal-Mart’s Web site, you can buy a walker for $59.92. It is called the Carex Explorer, and it’s a typical walker: a few feet high, with four metal poles extending to the ground. The Explorer is one of the walkers covered by Medicare.
But Medicare and its beneficiaries aren’t paying $59.92 for the Explorer or any similar walker. In fact, they’re not paying anything close to it. They are paying about $110.
. . .
(p. C5) In the abstract, fixing the health care system sounds perfectly unobjectionable: it’s about reducing costs (and then being able to cover the uninsured) by getting rid of inefficiency and waste. In reality, though, almost every bit of waste benefits someone.
Doctors who perform spinal fusion surgeries, despite decidedly mixed evidence that they’re effective, are making a nice living. Hospitals that order $1,000 diagnostic tests, even when a cheaper one would work just as well, are helping their bottom line. Medical equipment makers selling walkers for $110, while Wal-Mart sells them for $60, are fattening their profits.
The current fight to protect those profits is a microcosm of what you can expect to see if a larger effort to rein in health costs ever gets going. The defenders of the status quo won’t say that they are protecting themselves. Instead, they’ll use the same arguments that the medical equipment makers are using — that a change will destroy jobs, bankrupt small businesses and, above all, harm patients.
. . .
But this is a case in which the market can clearly do a better job than a government-mandated fee schedule. Just look at Wal-Mart’s Web site or, for that matter, the bids that Medicare has already received.
By standing in the way of this competition, Congress is really standing up for higher health care costs.

For the full commentary, see:
DAVID LEONHARDT. “ECONOMIC SCENE; High Medicare Costs, Courtesy of Congress.” The New York Times (Weds., June 25, 2008): C1 & C5.
(Note: ellipses added.)