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Sam Walton’s 10 Secrets to a Successful Business

I recently finished reading Sam Walton’s autobiography “Made in America”. The book covers Sam’s journey from owning a single Five and Dime store in rural Arkansas, to growing Wal-Mart in to the nearly half-trillion-dollar business we know it as today. At the end of the book, he shares 10 rules for running a successful company. Since Sam’s business didn’t turn out half bad, I figured I would share those rules with you here.

But, since Demo Duck is a video production company, I'll provide a quick sentence for each on how that relates to what we do.

Sam Walton's Five and Dime

Sam Walton’s 10 Secrets for Running a Successful Business

  1. Commit to your business – If you run a business, you need to believe in it more than anyone else. In video production, it's important that you believe in the messaging you're trying to communicate in the video—no matter what the purpose of the video is.
  2. Share your profits – Treat your associates as partners and get them personally invested in the business. This ladders up to some internal initiatives we have at our video agency, in how we structure our team's compensation.
  3. Motivate your partners – Money isn’t enough. Set goals, encourage competition and have fun! It's important everyone in the video production process, from designers to VO artists, feel empowered to bring their best to the video.
  4. Communicate everything you possibly can to your partners – The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Makes sense, right? In our world, it's during the creative brief process.
  5. Appreciate everything your associates do for your business – Words often speak louder than money (and they’re free). So instead of just handing out bonuses, make sure to tell people when they’re doing a good job. We love to send out surveys to our video production clients, and luckily, some have some great things to say about us.
  6. Celebrate your successes – Find some creative ways to have fun and celebrate your successes in an enthusiastic way. And don’t forget to find some humor in your failures. At Demo Duck, we are never shy about publishing our work online, especially on our Instagram.
  7. Listen to everyone in your company – The people on the front lines (i.e. your sales team, customer service reps, etc.) know what’s going on with your business, and sometimes better than you do. Make sure you’re finding ways to get them to talk, and that you’re listening! We have clear channels in email, Slack, or Asana (pending their preference) for easy two-way communication.
  8. Exceed your customers’ expectations – Do this and you’ll have repeat customers for life. Let them know you appreciate them, make good on your mistakes, and don’t make excuses. We try to hold all projects to a high standard, and push ourselves to exceed that.
  9. Control your expenses better than your competition – Efficiency is the cornerstone of Wal-Mart’s business, and they were able overcome a lot of hurdles just by keeping expenses low. For video production, there's nothing worse than out of scope costs, so we do our best to avoid those and stick to our budget.
  10. Swim upstream – Ignore conventional wisdom and look for ways to do things differently (e.g. Wal-Mart focused on rural locations one region at a time, while everyone else was starting discount chains in big cities spread across the country). You can often find a niche that will set you apart from the competition. We often pitch wildcard concepts to our clients, that approach their project differently, or get them to think differently about what could be done. We love it and often, they do too, even if it's not the concept we move forward with.

If these rules worked for Sam Walton, they can work for you, and that's a bit of how they've been working for us. Any more questions on how we might apply these to your project? Feel free to drop us a line!

Written by Andrew Follett
Andrew is the Founder of Demo Duck, a video production agency. He lives in Chicago, loves startups, and enjoys traveling. You can follow him on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter.