Are you afraid that making a mistake could damage your career? Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton made such a big mistake that it would have broken the spirit of many people.
In 1945, after getting out of the Army, he wanted to go into business for himself so he and his wife Helen borrowed money and used their savings to buy the failed Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas, a small town of 7,000-people. Walton’s only previous retail experience had been as a J.C. Penney management trainee in a Des Moines, Iowa store.
During World War 2, the military moved him and Helen 16 times in a two-year period, and now the Waltons, with their infant son Rob wanted a home. At 27, Walton was naïve in business. He overpaid for the store but he was determined to make it a big success. He committed himself to the town, becoming Chamber of Commerce president, a Rotary Club member and a Presbyterian Church deacon. Meanwhile, Helen gave birth to the rest of their four children and she became a devoted homemaker.
In his store, by trial and error, and by studying competitors, Walton began to develop the knowledge that would later be invaluable in building Wal-Mart. After five years of long hours and hard work, sales almost quadrupled and he had the most successful Ben Franklin store in the six-state region.
What was his big mistake? He had a five year store lease with no renewal option. With the enormous success of the store, the property owner ignored Walton’s frantic plea and refused to renew the lease as he gave the store to his son. There was no place else in town for Walton to move his business so he, his wife, and their four children had to leave. He later said, “It was the low point of my business life. I felt sick to my stomach.”
But instead of letting that mistake crush him, he drove across a four state area looking for a new site and found one in Bentonville, Arkansas. Now as a veteran retailer, Walton bought a small store, and with his experience and energy, soon built it into a chain of successful stores.
So if you’re afraid of making a mistake, recognize that we all make mistakes, even someone as capable as Sam Walton. As in Walton’s case, if you learn from your mistakes, they could be the best thing that could happen to you as you apply their lessons to really get ahead.
In the next KazanToday: The Chinese immigrant who arrived broke and made his fortune by using a simple process you too could use.