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The legacy of Sam Walton is ever present.

BENTONVILLE, Ark -- By far the world's largest retailer--its sales eclipse those of the entire chain drug industry--Wal-Mart continues to strive to operate like the much smaller company it once was.

Much of what defines the company today, executives point out, harkens back to the guiding principles established in Wal-Mart's informative years under founder Sam Walton. For example, there is the way the company treats its people--from store managers to hourly associates.

Because of the company's rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s the need for qualified associates became critical for Wal-Mart. While other retailers were only hiring store managers with a vast background of retail experience, Wal-Mart opted to give untried people with a knack for the business a chance to run a store.

"Down here," a former Wal-Mart executive recounts in a biography of Walton, "Sam would take people with hardly any retail experience and give them six months with us, and if the thought they showed any real potential to merchandise a store and manage people he'd give them a chance.

"He'd make them assistant managers," the executive recalls. "They were the ones who would go around and open all the new stores, and they would be next in line to manage their own stores."

The feeling among many who were in Wal-Mart's upper-management ranks at the time was that this system was des tined to fail. The inexperienced managers, they felt, were going to be in over their heads.

"Sam proved me wrong there," the former executive said. "If you take someone who lacks the experience and the know-how but has the desire and the willingness to work his tail off to get the job done, he'll make up for what he lacks. That proved true nine times out or 10. It was one way we were able to grow so fast."

That way of thinking has not really changed that much over the years, the company's current executive team says. When considering whom to promote Wal-Mart still gives more weight to a person's drive and management skills than to his or her specific job experience.

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Title Annotation:Beyond Pharmacy
Comment:The legacy of Sam Walton is ever present.(Beyond Pharmacy)
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 19, 2004
Words:349
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