It seems like everyone has a theory or a blog about how to be a successful entrepreneur. How can you sort through all this information? Let’s trade the theories for some reality. Take a look at the example of an entrepreneur who defied all conventional wisdom.
Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, is one of America’s most successful entrepreneurs. From managing his first store of small-sized variety at 26 years old to becoming the biggest corporation in America, Walton went on to manage his second store. The merchant extraordinaire was a pioneer in the retail business and changed the way people do business. He left behind a few important lessons for entrepreneurs worldwide in the wake of his success.
Sam Walton’s Mistake
Walton’s success wasn’t without its obstacles. The merchant did have his fair share of failures. His lowest point was in 1950. Let’s look at what happened in 1950.
In 1946, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin franchise in Newport, Arkansas. Walton’s unique management methods helped the store nearly triple its sales in just a few years. Walton’s magic attracted attention. His landlord was one of the first to notice. The landlord refused to renew the lease when the store’s lease expired.
In his autobiography Made in America, Sam Walton described the experience.
… There weren’t any mistakes that we couldn’t quickly correct, none that were so serious as to threaten the business. It turned out that we had made a small legal mistake at the beginning. I forgot to include a clause in the lease that allowed me to renew my lease after five years.
He offered to purchase the franchise, fixtures, and inventory at a fair cost; he wanted the store to go to his son.
Walton had to sell his store, which was unthinkable.
It is obvious: Walton’s Newport disaster was disastrous. Although conventional wisdom holds that failure is bad, Sam Walton saw it differently. Walton understood that failure was inevitable. Walton understood that failure was inevitable in the business startup game. He knew that obstacles, even outright failures, were a part of the game. He wrote in his autobiography that the Newport disaster was a blessing and gave him valuable insight. I had the chance to make a fresh start, and I knew exactly what I was doing.
Walton’s story offers struggling entrepreneurs many morsels to chew on:
Failure is an inevitable outcome for entrepreneurs.
Setbacks should not be a deterrent to entrepreneurs.
Opportunities are everywhere.
As you face the blizzard of information available to entrepreneurs, keep Walton’s far-from-conventional view of failure in mind. Remember that conventional wisdom is not always the best friend of entrepreneurs.
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