Well done, Wal-Mart

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 30, 2002

Success speaks for itself, but sometimes it uses a subtle language. The success of a store is usually measured by P&L - the ever menacing Profit and Loss statement, where customers, staff, products and services are reduced to entries on a spreadsheet.

Do the fat cat stockholders drive top dollar cars? Are the headquarters decorated with silk wallpaper and live orchids?

In this day and age, when corporate excess is proving to be at the expense of the consumer and the minor stockholders, it is comforting to have examples other than Enron to go by. Wal-Mart, for instance. When corporations were asked to turn over their books recently for a government examination, Wal-Mart did so without hesitation. The headquarters in Arkansas, center of the world's largest retail business, consists of basic cubicles, harkening back to the days of the late, great and plain-spoken Sam Walton, founder of the chain, who stressed an everyday approach for ordinary people.

But the books and the P&L are only the tail end of the story - they don't explain how the numbers got there, just what the numbers are. The real secret of its success is in the associates - those men and women in their blue smocks who meet you at the door, help you find your item, take your money, then, if needed, help you get your purchase to the car.

Yesterday, the Wal-Mart in Andalusia honored those employees who have been with the store since its beginning, some 15 years ago. Normally, at a 15-year anniversary, there are three, maybe four employees to honor. In Andalusia - there were 23.

It is a remarkable number, and one that speaks volumes of both the management and the associates. This is a company that treats its employees well, and these are employees who respond with years of loyal service. We offer our congratulations to both store and employees for their long and dedicated relationship. To paraphrase Sam Walton himself, you are ordinary people doing extraordinary things.