"You've got to realize this too. By being at that conference, he was absolutely in the right place at theright time. There were no such things in those days as minicomputers and microcomputers. He was reallyten years away from the computer world coming. But he was preparing himself. And this is a veryimportant point: without the computer, Sam Walton could not have done what he's done. He could nothave built a retailing empire the size of what he's built, the way he built it. He's done a lot of other thingsright, too, but he could not have done it without the computer. It would have been impossible."Much as I hate to admit to something like that, I expect Abe is probably right. His memory's pretty goodabout why I was at that conference, too. I wanted to show him my books, and I wanted to ask himabout merchandise control. But I knew I'd never be any whizbang computer guy myself, so I had anotherreason for going to that school: I was looking to hire a good, bright systems person, and I figured I mightfind one there. As it happened, there were all sorts of bright people in that school. Dale Wormana veryastute retailer from the Fred Meyer company out in Portland and now a good friendwas there, as wasArlie Lazarus, who became president of Herb Fisher's Jamesway Corp. And, of course, that's where Ifirst met Ron Mayer, then the smart young chief financial officer at Duckwall Stores in Abilene, Kansas. Itargeted him as the guy we needed at Wal-Mart, and started wooing him right there. Like so many ofthem, he wasn't interested just then in moving to Bentonville, Arkansas, to work for somebody he knewnext to nothing about. Later on, we changed his mind.
Unfortunately, I just couldn't quite stay away from it to that degree. The situation was quite a burden forRon, and would have been for any forty-year-old guy wanting to run his own company, I think.
This is hard to believe, but it's true: in my whole life I never played in a losing football game. I certainlycan't take much of the credit for that, and, in fact, there was definitely some luck involved. I was sick orinjured for a couple of games that we wouldn't have won with or without meso I dodged the bullet on afew losses that I could have played in. But I think that record had an important effect on me. It taught meto expect to win, to go into tough challenges always planning to come out victorious. Later on in life, Ithink Kmart, or whatever competition we were facing, just becameJeffCityHigh School, the team weplayed for the state championship in 1935. It never occurred to me that I might lose; to me, it was almostas if I had a right to win. Thinking like that often seems to turn into sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
ã€€ã€€"From day one of Wal-Mart, Mr. Walton made it clear that this wasn't just Ben Franklin with low priceson some items. He wanted real discounting. He said, 'We want to discount everything we carry.' Whenthe other chains around us weren't discounting, he said, 'We advertise that we sell for less, and we meanit!' So whatever else we did, we always had to sell for less. If an item came in and everybody else intown was selling it for twenty-five cents, we'd go with twenty-one cents."CHARLIE CATE,store managerAs I said earlier, once we opened that Wal-Mart in Springdale, I knew we were on to something. Iknew in my bones it was going to work. But at the time, most folksincluding my own brother, Budwerepretty skeptical of the whole concept. They thought Wal-Mart was just another one of Sam Walton'scrazy ideas. It was totally unproven at the time, but it was really what we'd been doing all along: