The secret of prosperity of the richest family in the world

AmericaFrom grandfather, father to grandson, the Walson family, which owns the Walmart retail empire, has always been on the list of the richest families in the world.

How many generations can a family business last? The Internal Revenue Service has drawn the “no more than three generations rich” rule by tracking and studying the top 400 taxpayers from 1992 to 2000, only 13% have been on this list for more than two years.

American economist Gregory Clark of the University of California believes that half of the children of upper-class families will eventually descend into the lower social classes.

But it seems the Walton family, the people behind the Walmart retail chain, have “avoided the curse”. From the generation of Sam Walton who borrowed $20,000 from his father-in-law to open the first grocery store in 1951, to becoming the richest family in the world in 2019, the Walton family has gone through three generations of continuous growth.

Husband and wife Sam, Helen and 4 children Rob, John, Jim, Alice. Photo: Bloomberg

In the list of 25 richest families in the world in 2021 Bloomberg just announced, Walton still holds the top spot. Over the past 12 months, they earned $23 billion, bringing their total wealth to $238 billion, nearly $100 billion more than the world’s second-richest family, Mars ($141.9 billion).

The story of Walmart stems from its founder Sam Walton. He was born in a small town in the state of Oklahoma in 1918. Mr. Sam has worked many jobs since he was a child such as raising rabbits, milking cows, delivering newspapers and serving as a waiter.

Before marrying Helen Robson in 1942, Mr. Sam was an outstanding student of economics at the University of Missouri. In the 1950s, he noticed that the two retail giants Kmart and Sears owned most of the retail stores in Arkansas and surrounding states but did not appear in small and remote towns like the countryside. me. He borrowed money from his father-in-law, with his own savings, hired eight workers, and founded his first retail store, called Walmart, in his hometown of Bentonville in 1962.

Follow New York TimesBy 1991, his supermarket chain had surpassed Sears, Roebuck & Company to become the nation’s largest retailer. As of April 1, 1991, Walmart had 1,735 stores in 42 states, as well as 2 stores in Mexico.

Walmart’s success can be summed up in the following criteria: lowering the selling price by buying in bulk; Customer is god; open in small towns; promptly authorize business managers…

Sam himself is a workaholic. He gets up at 4:30 a.m. every day to work. Even when the family goes on vacation, he enlists the “act” of his local shops.

Three children Jim, Alice and Rob Walton of the Walton family (from left to right).  Photo: Walton Family Foundation

Three children Jim, Alice and Rob Walton of the Walton family (from left to right). Photo: Walton Family Foundation

The prosperity of the Walton family has a lot to do with the values ​​of the Sams and their wives and their influence on future generations.

Mr. Sam and his wife Helen are both typical Americans, born and raised in small towns, with values: value family relationships; very devout to God; oppose materialism; value personal efforts; doing charity… The relationship between Sam and his wife is always harmonious, they grow up together, grow old together, live frugally. Even after becoming America’s richest man in 1985, he was used to wearing casual clothes and driving an old pickup truck.

Mrs. Helen was born into a family with a banker father, who was beautiful and had high intelligence. In the early days of starting a business, Helen was determined not to participate in the operation but to support her husband.

Both husband and wife raise their children strictly. “I didn’t have test scores below A’s when I was in school. My kids had to get A’s, too,” says Helen. Mr. Sam said: “My children can feel being treated like slaves when they are young. Why not let them do the housework and understand the value of labor.”

Robertson, Sam’s eldest son, recalls: “Back then we were always working at the store, cleaning the floors, cleaning the house. My parents gave me less pocket money than many friends, sometimes making us feel like home. I was poor. My father also asked me to invest my own money in the store. Of course, this investment later helped me pay for the house.”

Before his death, Sam wrote a memoir with the sole purpose of “keeping it for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, so that they don’t get into the habit of extravagance”.

In 1992, Sam Walson passed away. Two questions posed before the Walton family, one is how to deal with the equity, the other is who will take over. Many observers speculate that the Walton family may choose to sell 50% of their Walmart stock for cash.

When he was alive, Sam once expressed concern that the wealthy second generation of several family businesses maintained a lavish lifestyle by selling shares. He hopes his children firmly hold the property. “We don’t need too much money, we don’t need to buy a yacht or a private island,” he advised.

So virtually all of the Walton family fortune was maintained in Walmart stock. Ten years after Sam’s death, Walmart’s market value has increased nearly eightfold. It can be affirmed that if they sold shares for cash, they would not have been at the top of the list of the richest families in the world for so long.

David Glass, the former CEO of Walmart, once commented: “This is not a concept that every family business can have. The Waltons are very far-sighted.”

Sam’s four children, except for the eldest, three others are not interested in the retail industry. Before his death, he established a policy of co-management of the business. Walmart has no absolute leader, only collective leadership.

The retail empire’s smooth transition of power is partly due to the Walton family’s always harmonious relationship. On the other hand, it is also because Mr. Sam is very reputable in the company and family. Years after his death, the “big trees” of the business still talk about “Sam’s thoughts” and “Sam’s ways” when discussing major issues. Walmart has grown rapidly for nearly 30 years following this collective leadership model.

Photo: Walton Family Foundation

Steuart Walton, a lawyer and businessman, son of Jim Walton – a banker, became the heir to the present Walmart. Photo: Walton Family Foundation

In 2016, Steuart Walton (Jim Walton’s son) was chosen as the next person to steer Walmart. With strategic understanding in the field of e-business, Steuart quickly grew Walmart to more than 11,000 stores in about 30 countries and territories around the world.

Steuart Walton also continues the family tradition with a simple, youthful life. This lawyer and entrepreneur has a deep passion for rock climbing, extreme sports and philanthropy.

With the exception of Steuart Walton, the other young members of this family rarely appear in the press. They choose to live a secluded, idyllic small-town life like family tradition.

Bao Nhien (Follow Aboluowang/Nytimes)


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