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The Walmart Cheer

The Walmart Cheer

In building Walmart as the world’s greatest retailer, founder Sam Walton borrowed every good idea he’d come across. And one of those ideas is the famous Walmart Cheer:

Give Me a W!
Give Me an A!
Give Me an L!
Give Me a Squiggly!
(Here, everybody sort of does the twist.)
Give Me an M!
Give Me an A!
Give Me an R!
Give Me a T!
What’s that spell?
Wal-Mart!
What’s that spell?
Wal-Mart!
Who’s number one?
THE CUSTOMER!

From Walton’s autobiography, “Made In America”:

Helen (Walton’s wife) and I picked up several ideas on a trip we took to Korea and Japan in 1975. A lot of the things they do over there are very easy to apply to doing business over here. Culturally, things seem so different—like sitting on the floor eating eels and snails—but people are people, and what motivates one group generally will motivate another.

And Helen Walton is quoted,

Sam took me out to see this tennis ball factory, somewhere east of Seoul. The company sold balls to Wal-Mart, I guess, and they treated us very well. It was the dirtiest place I ever saw in my life, but Sam was very impressed. It was the first place he ever saw a group of workers have a company cheer. And he liked the idea of everybody doing calisthenics together at the beginning of the day. He couldn’t wait to get home and try those ideas out in the stores and at the Saturday morning meeting.

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) All training activities include the Walmart cheer. Every morning, store associates participate in the cheer. A few people stand up to read the daily numbers, then break out into a chant—“Give me a W-A-L-M-A-R-T,” with the rest of the people in the room shouting back the same letter. Back then, Wal-Mart still had a hyphen, so between the L and the M they would yell, “Give me a squiggly!” and everyone would do a butt wiggle.

All across America, Walmart convenes nearly 60,000 regularly scheduled meetings each week, all of them starting and ending with the Walmart cheer. Also, each store has a 15-minute shift-change meeting three times a day, when a new wave of cashiers, stockers, and supervisors arrives. Their meetings start with a Walmart Cheer.

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Sam Walton Saw No Need for Unions at Walmart

Pro-Union Activists Protest Against Walmart's Anti-Union Policies

Walmart has always been criticized for its policies against labor unions. Supporters of unionization efforts blame workers’ reluctance to join the labor union on Walmart’s anti-union tactics such as managerial surveillance and pre-emptive closures of stores or departments that choose to unionize. Leaked internal documents show that Walmart’s strategy for fighting to keep its workers from forming unions includes instructing managers to report suspicious activity and warning workers that joining unionizing efforts could hurt them.

Walmart’s management has contended that it’s employees do not need to pay third parties to discuss problems with management as the company’s open-door policy enables employees to lodge complaints and submit suggestions all the way up the corporate ladder. Sam Walton, founder of Walmart wrote in his autobiography:

'Sam Walton: Made In America' by Sam Walton (ISBN 0553562835) I have always believed strongly that we don’t need unions at Wal-Mart. Theoretically, I understand the argument that unions try to make, that the associates need someone to represent them and so on. But historically, as unions have developed in this country, they have mostly just been divisive. They have put management on one side of the fence, employees on the other, and themselves in the middle as almost a separate business, one that depends on division between the other two camps. And divisiveness, by breaking down direct communication makes it harder to take care of customers, to be competitive, and to gain market share. The partnership we have at Wal-Mart—which includes profit sharing, incentive bonuses, discount stock purchase plans, and a genuine effort to involve the associates in the business so we can all pull together—works better for both sides than any situation I know of involving unions. I’m not saying we pay better than anybody, though we’re certainly competitive in our industry and in the regions where we’re operating; we have to be if we want to attract and keep good people. But over the long haul, our associates build value for themselves—financially and otherwise—by believing in the company and keeping it headed in the right direction. Together, we have ridden this thing pretty darned far.

Source: Sam Walton’s autobiography, Made In America

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators

Sam Walton and Frugality at Wal-Mart

Sam Walton Homespun Frugality

Sam Walton, the iconic founder of Wal-Mart, loved retailing and pursued it with boundless energy. He was famously frugal and devoted to the concept of beating merchandise prices down as part of the trademark “everyday lower prices” promise to customers. Walton once wrote, “A lot of what goes on these days with high-flying companies and these overpaid CEOs, who’re really just looting from the top and aren’t watching out for anybody but themselves, really upsets me. It’s one of the main things wrong with American business today.”

Despite being America’s richest man, Sam Walton flew first class only once in his life on a flight from South America to Africa. Wal-Mart did not have a corporate jet until the retailing giant was approaching $40 billion in sales. Walton’s “corporate car” consisted of a red pick-up truck. Bernie Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot, once recalled having lunch with Sam Walton, “I hopped into Sam’s red pick-up truck. No air-conditioning. Seats stained by coffee. And by the time I go to the restaurant, my shirt was soaked through and through. And that was Sam Walton—no airs, no pomposity.”

Wal-Mart's Small-town Roots

Under the leadership of Sam Walton, Wal-Mart stuck to its small-town roots. “Every time Wal-Mart spends one dollar foolishly, it comes out of our customers’ pockets,” Walton preached wherever he went. Some particulars on how Sam Walton’s homespun frugality is still ingrained in Wal-Mart’s culture:

  • As part of corporate policy, Wal-Mart employees are required to be thrifty as well. They were required to sleep two to a room in properties of Holiday Inn, Ramada Inn, Days Inn, and other economy hotel brands. They are encouraged to eat in family restaurants.
  • At a 2007 convention of 250 CEOs of suppliers, Wal-Mart’s third CEO Lee Scott famously raised a pen he had picked up from the Embassy Suites hosting the conference. He declared that Wal-Mart asked its business travelers to bring pens and notepads from their hotel rooms (yes, with the hotels’ logos) back to their offices and use them as office supplies. With thousands of business trips, the Wal-Mart home office in Bentonville probably accumulated thousands of dozens of pens.
  • On business or purchasing trips to New York City, Wal-Mart employees would avoid taking cabs, and instead walk or take subway wherever possible.

Such corporate-instilled policies to drive frugality across the Wal-Mart organization were more about instilling in its employees the miserly, no-waste, keep-costs-down attitude than about saving, for instance, $10,000 or more on the cost of office pens every year. Wal-Mart aimed to limit purchasing overhead expenses to 1 percent of their purchases.

Recommended Reading on Sam Walton and Wal-Mart

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Posted in Business and Strategy Leaders and Innovators