Starting the Walmart Supercenter Concept | An Interview with Sam Waltons Right Hand Man (Tommy Smith)
Sir on today's show have exclusive opportunity to interview Sam Walton's right hand, man. Tommy Smith earth, all his death was wobbly. It had a cylinder block of one corner. Ave was Chris would like disk you buy cheap office furniture stores today. That's kind of what his desk was. And then his couch couch in front of his best was an old vinyl cout, Tommy Smith. Cheers with us about the character. The dry the intention -ality and the management style that allowed Sam Walton to build America's largest big box retail store. Sam Walton was famous for flying his own private plane from point eight to point being as opposed to flying commercial and the man who wrote with him on those flights was none other than Mr. Tommy Smith. Today's guest. I'm shows don't need a celebrity narrator to introduce this show this show. To may eight kids co created by two different women thirteen multi dollar businesses. Ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to thrive time Shaw. Yes. Yes. Yes. And yes, welcome back to the exciting edition of the drive time show on your radio and podcasts. Download doctors. The I want to ask you a question. I don't want you to play the game. With me what you to be give me an answer. If you ask me a question. I'm going to give you an an and you always give me the director answer. Someone ask you the hot question. Number one. Have you ever been to a WalMart? Yes. Okay. West Carter, no B as well. It's not was pump up our guest too much here. Have you ever heard of the company WalMart, I've heard of it? Okay. Well on today's show we have the guy that guy who helped to create the WalMart super center concept. This man worked directly with Sam Walton for nearly twenty years and Tom Smith. I am so honored to have you on the show? How are you, sir? Hey, guys, I'm doing great good to be here shit. Y'all have in me and look forward to discussing the journey. We had well, I wanna ask you want. It's gotta start at the bottom. And at the beginning, I've read Sam Walton's book called made in America as my wife can attest one of the few books. I've ever read that when I got to the end of the book, I cried like I was at a funeral that book is just so good. When did you join WalMart in what was your role when you first joined WalMart? Join walmart. I guess in the. The fall of nineteen. I think it was nineteen eighty and I was hired by j a guy named Jay Parker and he hired me. On a management training program. I guess in the summer fall nineteen eighty in. My first job was I I went to a store store to eighty in. Jasper Alabama the store is not open yet. It was was a dirt parking lot that had the roof partially owned, but we were unloading freight yet understand the wal mart story is you did whatever it took that might if you in the store manager, the vice president of a Stockman you clean toilets. You did whatever they need to be done. But I was unloading trucks. Unloaded trucks from I guess daylight the dark input merchandise up, but my first paycheck. My job was answered question. I was a management trainee. And that was you can take it WalMart, you can take a title of quarter and bicep Cup of coffee, but the I was pop per paychecks. The for two weeks was a hundred and fifteen dollars for two weeks. You're bragging now now now. A lot of money to me. Tell I want to I want to give listeners some context who are perhaps not as aware of the WalMart the story as as you are or as I am resulted in the research here. Walmart today has approximately eleven thousand six hundred ninety plus stores. I say approximate 'cause they're always building something they're always optimizing stores. And WalMart was started in nineteen sixty two by Sam Walton and his brother, bud woman. What was your when we when did you first interact with these guys because you were joining WalMart with store to eighty in the company now has eleven thousand six hundred ninety five stores. So that was kind of early on. I mean, what kind of access did you have with Sam? And how did you first meet him? We actually had when I went to store to eighty seven in jazz brow Obama. There was we had I think they were two hundred and sixteen stores in the company they were actually open. Okay. We had two hundred sixteen stores when I join, and I I met Sam Walton at store to eighty seven Jasper Sam traveled Sam was his own pilot. He flew a people who was everywhere. And you know, he and I've been together that plane for many many hours, but Sam flew himself everywhere we had grand opening day we always open stores on Tuesday. And and so the store manager was Don gets lovely friend of mine. Steve Q keeping touch with midday. But the store manager and assistant managers they heard that Mr Sam was coming. You never knew where Sam Bush Sam would fly in unannounced Bari of playing at the airport that the F B O and drive in and surprise the store. He never wanted him by no way was but we knew where he was that they grand opening based or two eighty seven Jasper. An old ROY was alive. Sam he'd been Quayle on he was a huge quilt on her. Well, he jacked shoemaker Jack was the president of the company time we called him the big shoot because he would come down on you with a big boot. And he would fire years. Oh, I remember. And I was a trainee. So I wasn't invited to be with the group. So I wanted to meet this man named Sam Walton we only had like I said, you know, two hundred fifteen six things. So we're so I remember them saying here comes Mr. Walton. Well, nobody in the story made him because it was brand new. You know what I mean? No, the store was brand new. So he comes walking in an old. Roy was the mole Roy's the dog food, and the stores thing old ROY that was actually a real dull old ROY was a long haired corner. And the one of them's Quayle ball is best Quayle dog, and I've hunted by ROY well old ROY was with Sam Jack McCain walking through the parking lot, and oh ROY comes in the door and Sam stops and shakes all the management hands with a very first counter in the store was abroad. Biro c k Brock came to counter. No, ROY walked right, there hikes, his leg and peas on the counter. I swear guts this this yellow dog pees all over the candy and run on the floor, and I reached back behind the counter to service. This could grab a roll of paper towel, and I've right wideness big role of Brown. Paper tile will love and I'm putting my hand on the floor to wipe up the dog pee and this big huge hand goes right on top of my head. And I look up as Mr Sam on one. They said son, I'll get that. So I shook Sam Walton's hand. But he had dog pee on his hand. I had dog on my end, and we shook hands, and that's the day that I met Sam was the grand opening day of store to seven Jasper Alabama to eighty seven in Jasper, Alabama. Now, do you said something that I think the listeners could easily miss if we're if we don't spend the time to dive on this deep dive on this that same had big hands. Well, one I think we could deep dive on the fact that they shook hands for the first time while covered in dog. He said it was a big hand. It was a big hand. But I was a. Yeah, you did not many people know this. But Sam was a quarterback of the university of Missouri. Well, there you go. So he was a leader. He's always been a leader of quarterback of football team. He had big big hands. And may you never wanted to hear those hands route the table hit the table because you knew when those hands at the playbill that he meant business, but yet he had big hands. He really did. Now Sam Walton in his book made in America, it's discussed that he believes one of his competitive advantages was that he literally could flies on plane, and he wouldn't do it. And he said he would fly out over to the edge of a city, and he'd look out the window and look at where the edge of the development was and he's like, well, that's what we probably need to put in our store, and where it was growing too. So he flew his own plane. This is this is not a that. We can just skip over here and you flown with Sam in his plane. How many times do you think that you and Sam flew together? And you have a favorite story a favorite trip. He went on where you thought. Wow, lower trip. We flew together. I up teen time. But I don't know. I can't give you a number probably seventy eighty hundred times. But Sam always flew was on. He didn't he wouldn't fly on a plane. That pilots are hired pilots. Flutie? Plea was on playing the call numbers of his plane was three thirteen j pre three thirteen. Juliette? It was a twin engine dead Cessna free eighteen. And so he flew his own play. We put a hush kits on it for Christmas prison one year. And he got mad at us because we spent too much money. But and he would take all of the seats out of the plane. It was like a six seater. Maybe eight passenger he took during coil season. He'd take all the seats out of the plane and put dog boxes in there. So we can haul old ROY and Katie and Molly, and he'd hold all the bird dogs back forth. Them to pal furious to go well on, but and you and he didn't believe in having a plane detailed like you clean, your car that plane stateful the dog air for twelve months, but. Awfully with Sam just numerous numerous times. Sam was the airplane was one of his meaning competitive advantages. You never knew where he was not many people do this about Sam, but Sam he may have had an instrument rating, but he didn't know how to use instruments. Sam followed highways. He would take a highway map. I heard he did this. He would actually not read the instruments and just follow highways while flying he didn't know how to read less. Look at the highway and he would follow the highway, and he wears highway turned he may take a shortcut going over to the highway over there. He knew how to read the the all temperature. He knew how to read the fuel when you were getting close empty gas. Does I saw him tapping on the fuel thing a couple of times? I was going. Oh my God. We all but but he would get up there. And he would he would fly the outside of town. He would look in. And he would check if they were competitive in town say they was a K mart store. He would buzz the parking lot. Turn his wings this go vertical with a parking lot. And he would count the the cars the customer cars in the K mart parking lot. And he would go both WalMart store, and he'd count the number of cars in the WalMart parking lot. And I'll tell you if the God bless the manager who had less cars than K mart because he was stopping and going to go visit that store because I were you know, I I. Were responsibility to the customers in America was to lower their cost of living every day. And if we delivered the the quality service quality products at lower price every single day with smiling faces and you spoke to the customers. There was no reason they would go anywhere else. So if you had a store that was had less cars and your competition. There was a problem, and he would stop in fix that problem. But that's when he would land in the fans, and nobody knew Sam was nobody knew way was that kept everybody United States on their toes. You how did you there were? So many associates so many people that worked here thousands of people. How did you break out of the clutter other than covering your hand in urine as a way to attract the attention of Sam Walton? Just work. I mean, you know, WalMart, you know, Sam told me one time guy people ask me still today. And it's been a long time. People ask me today. A lot of people think they know what the success of the secret to WalMart was whether it's distribution, whether it's you know, IT, whether it was the the the the replenishment cycles, I everybody has this grandiose my excuse me during idea about what the the success of WalMart is warmer success, a WalMart was people and Sam believed in every single person. He never shook a person's hand that he didn't believe any never shook a person saying he didn't look them in the eye. He never shook a person's hand they didn't care about. And those associates knew it and the management knew. And I knew it, but the key to WalMart. Sam told me one day, we were when we were starting this thing called supercenter Nazi about that admit, we didn't know what to do. Sam calling me his office one day. And he said, Tom, I I got this crazy idea. I said what is I was. I was a regional vice president I had Oklahoma, and Kansas and Carter Missouri and Sam we're gonna meeting in Bentonville, and I look up. I see these big old hands. He threw a window. He's motioning me with his finger to come there. And I opened the door. And I said, yes, sir. I thought I was in trouble. Martha disturbing Sam he starts walking back his office. We'd go back his office and in his office. Sam never had a door on his office for because the open door policy and he associates anywhere in the company convoke in his door in his office anytime any door. Wow. No didn't have a door in his office. No you walk right in. So. And then his counts right in front of the in front of his first of all his desk was wobbly. It had a cylinder block on one corner. Ave was pressed wood is like you buy, you know, those deaths by these cheap office furniture stores today. That's kind of what his desk was. And then his couch. The couch in front of his desk was an old vinyl couch and the vital was split and peeling off on the side and Ed linoleum tile floors linoleum floor in his office, and he was the wealthiest man in the world. But. You know, Sam told me one day he said, Tom and wasn't say we went into office. And he said, Tom, I got a need you to help me. And I said what is it saying? Hey said. I want to sell groceries, and I thought he'd lost his mind. I said you'd want to say what he said I want to groceries and I need your help. I said, well, what do you need me to help you slam face it, Tom? I want you to help me find a way to convince a lady to put a white blouse on top of the piece of red meat. And that's how the supercenter started. And I thought he'd lost his mind. And I said, we'll say, you know, what what else are you going to tell the chairman the company. No, you're not gonna help him. I help you. So I gave up my job. I and I looked at him. I said Sam I've worked my whole life since I've been with you to bid to get promoted to be of regional vice president us, and you want me to give his job. He didn't hesitate said. Yep. I said, okay. I'm doing. So we're in the plane. What is your title become adapt point, I know titles don't matter at WalMart. But what was your title where you the super manager of the supercenter? Were you the protege of the man were you what were you white blouse on the red meat? Yeah. White blouses and red meat guy with the urine handsome. Oh, I don't. I really you know, what I don't know if we had a tight didn't slam. We we took office kinda funny after I said, yes. The next morning. You asked me about a funny story was playing I'll tell you one about me flying with him. This happened the very next day. So I said, yes, I am. I'll help you said great meet matere port in the morning. I said, okay, Loretta boss was his sick and Loretta. She were just about to retire. She called me and said, Tom Mitch Sam what you meet him at four thirty in the morning. And I said, yes, ma'am, I be there. So we made at the airport at four thirty get a Cup of coffee. They pull SAM's because you never know when Sam I tell you this in his book people said they tried to beat Mr Sam do the office. Nobody could ever beat Sam to the office. He he was whether you got there for clock four fifteen four thirty. He was always in his office working. But so we pull they pulled them at SAM's plain out and everything so it's probably four forty five and Sam when I get in the plane. And Sam crank it up. Like, you get in your car in the morning and crank it up. Just put it in reverse and back out of the driveway. Sam crank the plane up crank the the engine till the right 'cause we got in the door on the left. You crank engine to the right? He was already in in the pilot's seat. I closed the door and he's already taxiing out to the runway heat owed run any check. See don't do check this. He didn't do anything. It's just like your car you push gas in run. So we're taking off on my first morning with in the super of it. I was division director of supercenter. So we take off down the in Rogers Arkansas, and we're just we're just hauling but down the runway about to take off and Sam pools back on the yoke and the damn Penn is still in the rear flaps. He forgot to take the peon on the flaps. He went oh, the reached and shut the engines. Down and we turned around. Actually turned ramp. So enter into runway Sam got out of the plane, pull the peon odd the flaps, and we took off. You. I Tom where did you guys? Open up your first supercenter. Well, we we started the test. The the thing was a pass that we didn't know what we're doing. We didn't know how to get into food business. We we partnered with guy he was a mayor actually the mayor of Dallas. And it was. Oh, I wanna say Tom thumb. I forget his name. He was a mayor. He passed. I heard he passed away. Now. Really good gab. It. We started with three what they call, hyper. Mark USA. We opened the for those three really huge towards the first one was in garland, 'then, Texas. A second one was in Arlington and third was in Topeka, Kansas. Oh stores like two hundred and forty thousand square feet. So our charge to the buyers in WalMart and a bar. This was a buyer's, you know, they pick they'd done gone to heaven. But. To to buy products. Oakland products much higher. Scale products to attract as many people as you could get into a store because if it was a laboratory those first three stores were laboratory of how to generate a traffic be revenue and see how to handle the freight, and what kind of volume could produce. There was only really one combo retailers of any any count in the United States at the time. And we studied them that was car for it was big and big out of Cincinnati. And we studied those guys a lot and and kind of tried to emulate some stuff. They did Kazan was always he would take. If you were good at something. He would beat you at it without you know, what about it? And, but when you found out he'd beats you then he was already better than you. And but we open these three stores in garland Arlington in Topeka. Did tremendous tremendous. That was also our first entry into the fuel gasoline. We open those three convenience stores and found out that we could sell more gas than fry refinery could deliver us we found out. We could sell more groceries than the trucks could bring in. But we didn't know how to make any money. We were losing money. Really? You know, we were losing a lot of money. I'm member going over to salmon. Helen's house every Sunday morning. San would go over the PNL's and stuff like that. And we'd go over there. And and I was all depressed because I'd never lost money. But Sam said son, just keep your head up. We're going to bring figure this thing out. So. After about a year. Maybe I don't know. Eight months we figured out kind of what a little bit about what we're doing. We partnerships with a guy in Dallas. Walmart's not a good partnership in by irrational, you're gonna partnership WalMart just walk away as WalMart likes to dominate partnerships. You've gotta get along WalMart dominates at the time. So. We opened the had a store in Washington, Missouri. I think it was store sixty three. And we re located that store from. One side of the road. The other side, it was a sixty thousand square foot store. I think we built one hundred twenty thousand square foot store, we double the size in the store moved into cross the street opened the supercenter and grand opening day. I think that store did right at a million dollars grand opening day. And it had gone. I think that's store. Probably did. I think Washington did twenty million a year before we before we relocated. It a year that we relocated anywhere from twenty million to seventy three million. We knew then we had we knew then we had a winner. Yeah. I have a question for you that I think a lot of our listeners one. I wanna ask you you spent hundreds of hours. How many I mean, you spent just ridiculous minutae with same? You're with them on a consistent basis. There are just so many hours, you spent with the man what was he really like, you know, you saw the Barbara Walters feature where they're asking them about being worth a billion dollars. You've heard the myths which have turned out to be true Z about the driving. The old beat up truck having the beat up couch. What was he like up close and personal? And what was your relationship? How would you describe what your relationship with Sam was like? I love fan more than I did my father. Oh, fam- was like Monday at Sam was like all of our debts. He would he would bust your butt when you didn't perform, but he put his arm ranching and tell you thank you when you did Sam told me one day. And we we're talking about the secret of WalMart. Here's the secret to Woolmer guys as people he told me one day when we were losing money, and I was all disappointed in everything he told me one day. We were walking to store. I think we were in. I forget where we're obey may have been Wagner, Oklahoma. We walk in the store one day. And he said, son. Let me tell you something. I look they must said, yes, sir. He said you got to remember something we're not in the retail business. We're in the people business and we just happened to be selling merchandise. Interesting and hit me like a ton of bricks. I said they dammit he, you know, he this man. Right. And then. Later on after noon. He he said did you understand what I say? I said yesterday a D, And he said, Tom, let me tell you. How to be successful in this business? And I looked at him. I said gesture he said, Tom. Hire below average people. Pay 'em an above average wage treat them with dignity and respect, and they'll be loyal forever. And will always be with you could you repeat that again while because that right there was was really really good. And I'm just trying to marinate on that. We're trying to take notes on that could you repeat that again or paraphrase that again that was good. Sure, he said, you know, he said Sunday, you want to know how to become successful has been in this business. I said, yes, sir. He said son, if you will always hire below average people. Pay them when above average wage treat them with dignity and respect they will be loyal and with you forever. That is Z that is a knowledge that will sell. Can I see that dog that dog will hunt and it'll be on your candidate? I look around you look around the country today do that nobody you know, what I some of us old guys me and Ed Nagy. And and a lot of the guys my buddies at, you know, have have left we still talk every day. And then have we thought about getting together and putting the retailer together? We'd keep pick kick. Everybody's but nobody practices at any more today. Yeah. What would you name it? Tom mart nail probably name it. I don't know. Give me some time to think Z mart. There you go. That's a name. That's a good now. Sam Sam Walton? He's a guy who led a certain way, and you can take this as far as you want in my opinion. We're we're right now, we're on the Tom time show. So you you have the floor here when you left WalMart, right? Because would Sam past. I'd like for you to share about what it was like watching your dear friend and father figure. Battling to the end. What was Sam Walton? Like during those last couple of years, and what were you going through as you are watching him fight for his life? Well, I can give you firsthand knowledge of that not many people can't at that time. I had we had grown the supercenter division. I don't know we had. I don't know maybe a hundred hundred and fifty supercenters. And I had gotten a point where I I was ready to do something different. And I went up took over the state of Texas. The state of Texas. I wanna say I forget how many stores we had in the state. I want to say that was. Three hundred and eighty one or maybe four hundred stores in Texas. And so I I went from. I I ran the whole developed the whole supercenter concept division and all that kind of stuff. And then I went to Texas and Sam you heard me say earlier that Sam had eighty seven thousand acres while I didn't tell acres, but Sam got eighty seven thousand or had eighty seven thousand acres foul fear as Texas and that's was to quail hunt. He would always take his management down there. He would take you want to know how keen Sam was before he hired a an executive from another company or anywhere. He would take them quail hunting. You found out a lot about a man with a gun in his hand if see cautious this he think before he shoots this. He protect the dog this he just shooting in eight or does he aim and shoot or does he look at his surroundings that was SAM's interview? Then you sit around the fire, and you talk to a man about his wife and his family and in his church sitting around the fire you go. Find out a whole lot more about him than you are sitting in in a in a steel shirt sitting around interview tape, so everybody we hired basically went quail hunting with us. But Sam had that hunting land down there. I basically took care of his land slammed got sick. And you know, he everybody's he tried to. And I'll tell you the day he found out he got sick. We have been hunting down at the ranch. And we send everybody home this. We had we hundred like three weeks straight, and he would bring vendors down. He would bring this district managers down. He bring the I'm the regional vice presidents down. And then the divisional come down. I'd stay there and help him close up the camp and load all the dogs up close it up when bird season was over every year. And. Sam had. Climate leftist keys to though red truck you talking about I've been at many time. It's in a museum Meadville now, he left the keys to the truck inside the ice room in ice room. Everybody left with Quayle. He freeze it and clean it and freeze it and everybody left with a cougar Quayle packed on ice where he left his keys in this ice. And he looked over. And it was locked and he saw him laying over there on top of one of a Kootenai. And he broke the window of ice house, which I had to get fixed. But he broke the wind and he climbed through the window the ice house to get his keys. Well, they had a Sam always worth you see in his pitchers in his in the books and stuff. He always wore a dog whistle when he was hunting. To call his dog. He got a dog whistle. And he when he climbed through the window. He thought that that Wessel press the get the whistle pressed against his sternum in his chest. And he thought he'd just BRUCE'S the bone in his chest continued to hurt. And I saw him press on it a couple of times on two three four weeks. And what it was when the bone cancer starting. So it that's where that's when he found out. He better go to the doctors. That's when the bone cancer started. But then you can move move forward. You know, two or three years I had Texas and Sam we brought samba Sam had all kinds experimental treatments. All over the country all the world for that matter. We brought him DMV Anderson. And Sam and Helen stayed at MD Anderson, and when Sam began to get really sick got to stand he visited scores. Everyday y'all don't understand he loved his associates with all of this heart with all of his my any loved is customers. And because the the the better associate could do the the more they could benefit their family, the more they're family. You know, we could lower the cost of living for the customers and everybody one. But when Sam got really sick. I was down there, and Sam was very very modest, man. And I remember going to MD Anderson and mis- Helen. But asked me if I saw Tom do you mind gifts them a bath today because Sam didn't I mean, he was just very modest and helps them take a bath. He'd look me say, okay, boy, we're gonna go. Visit some stores. Miss Helen big Sam, please don't go. Visit the store, please. You're not strong enough. We'll you know what we did. I think his name was I forget the guy's name was in the pharmacy division. Wesley, right. Wesley writes live, and he's a great guy. You'll talk to him. He's awesome guy. I think it was Wesley that helped us make them belt for Sam to wrap around little oh waste. I could put my hand behind his coat and hold him up. That was putting my handle Avila. Crow. Hype handle the we would walk Sam Bruce stores. And when he is knees book a little bit. We just hold him up. We walked Pam. He was so sick we walk, and he had a pump on his side that was pumping that experimental sheet blood. I think was what they were doing testing some stuff win walk Sam through the stores, and he'd go to two or three stores in a day. And he would just look at me and shake his head when it was time to go. Then I would get him taking back up to 'em the Anderson. But you know, the book doesn't do it Justice. He he loved his people. He loved every single one of us. And I remember. Rob Walton his son rob who ended up being chairman. The board. Rob called me. I want to say it was Thursday afternoon. He called me and said, Tom are you in Houston? I said, yes. And they said we're coming to get dad and rob had bought rob bought a citation. I think it was a citation five or something. Sam hated to spend money good God of money. Sam always warning. I don't think he'd let us by was prop, you know, Trump planes, turboprop planes, and rob his son goes up by the citation, but he was really mad at rob by the citation. Much money. Sam was on the front cover every magazine in in the world is you know, the wealthiest man in the world and Sam was pissed off because his son bought it yet. But he called me and said, Tom we're coming to get bad. So I remember being went to Houston west lakeside airport is about six thirty that night. Rob landed rob was flying the plane. We went and they brought Sam and hamlets, and we loaded him up in Rob's plane and flew him back home that was close to the end. And and we Sam went home and that he couldn't stay home long. He went down the hospital down there in the I think we Springdale, and I guess the next week. That's when President Bush game. And and we were there when he got the medal of freedom, and I was standing right there and Sam medal of freedom. He was in a wheelchair. He couldn't stand up. In the what do you call this, folks? FBI who CI who have they come through and make sure they sweep the building. Service. Yeah, they were trying to, you know, tell us what do hell they didn't know they WalMart. We did what we wanted to not what they want us to. He Sam was standing up or Sam got on the stage. And and I still have videotape when you can Google it and watch it with President Bush. Breaks up when he's talking to Sam about giving this speech, but presidential medal freedom. And Sam was I'm able to stand and President Bush. Was going to hook the medal around his neck and Sam stopped him me put his hand out. He stopping. And Sam looked over at his wife Helen, and he shook his head no at her. And then he grabbed a hold of that wheelchair those arms that wheelchair and he stood up by himself. He didn't want any. He stood up. There wasn't a dry anywhere. It was like that's the man. That's what he always. Did he stood up for us? He fought for us. He fought that cancer and that stuff just got him. But you know, what that that? Modern his spirit lives on lives on today in me it lives on today and a lot of us across this country. Unfortunately, you know, the people that never met Sam they they work at WalMart today. The folks that know Sam and know his beliefs in his heart and how we listened when I went to work for WalMart. We didn't have a modular. We didn't have schematic. We didn't we had the order our merchandise. We had. Unloaded off the trucks. We had to get the damn green ticket guns and put green stickers on it put it on chill. And then we had to go front and run two registers. And you know, the the three foot rule, you know, what the three foot rule is. Now, if any customer ever comes in three put a you you do three things you look me smile, you look into on you greet them. Oh nice. Wow. Every sing. Oh. And if you got caught not phone three foot rule. I it just hey, why not because the customer is only reason we were there. How different how is it different now than it was when you were there. Man, if I have one word to say how different I mean, what's different about it. It's. People people was a strength back then. And I think people is the weakness today, WalMart has all of the systems. They got the trucks they got all the technology that money can buy they can buy all the merchandise that they won't make in bite at the cheapest price. They can buy from China. They can buy from Indonesia, but whatever money is not. An obstacle to WalMart. Walmart can bowel the real estate. They won't. They can hire. All the contractors. They won't. They are the king of whatever you want them to be the king. But what's holding them back today is the lack of focus on people because you say, I don't hear people talk about these millennials with all these tattoos and all this and the I hear these things young people. They don't get it. Let me tell you. Some people are people today. Just like they were people in nineteen in the eighties. Just like were in the nineteen fifties. If you treat people with dignity and respect they're going to respond, and they're gonna do what you ask them to do. They may speak a little bit different language, and they may look a little bit different than we did back in the sixty seventies and eighties, but they're still red blooded God fair and Americans for the most part, but WalMart has gotten away they think that the the I don't know what you call them PHD's. And all these folks, always damn computer degrees are smarter than the store manager who's out there with the associates on the sales floor everyday. You know, how many Jack sits jumping jacks should I buy the store managers WalMart today Kate by any merchandise a human being inside a WalMart store today came out order any merchandise. A computer does it back when we were coming up when we built WalMart, we ordered every single piece of merchandise in. There wasn't no computer ordering nothing. It was all ordered by people. So every item has a season and every season has an item. So you say more jacks in William July or you sell more coloring books win in June. When you go into if money buys coloring books and colors, take in the car when killing bake ASICs over kids showed up, you know, win the sale the most, you know, you know, wind you sell the most plastic words if proficiencies in a computer don't know that damn stuff people. So the difference today in WalMart weather. It's it's all over the it's not just WalMart Gaz. I'm not picking a woman, I love WalMart. But it's it's it's people that they've lost the emphasis of people, and they are hiring people based on their degrees versus their people skills. And I I don't get it's all about people guys. I don't care whether you're selling merchandise or real estate or cars or you're selling computer quipped when it's all about people because you know, what takes people to push the buttons. You know, what I'd like to do just to pile on. And I want I want to kind of teach us up here. I've got two final questions for N Z has a great question for you in west does after WalMart. You went on to have a continue as very successful career. Can you share with the listeners your next role the next big retailer you went to work with after WalMart? Yeah. I left WalMart and went to work for Home Depot. I got a phone. Call one day from got him. I didn't never been. No. The guy's name was Bernie, Marcus. And he called me and. And he said, hey, Thomas, Bernie, Marcus. I said I'm sorry. Mr. Vargas, I don't know your. I'm Tom Smith. He said yellow yards. Sam always said you want to his best ones. I'd like to know if he would come to Atlanta and talk to me and Bernie of me, and the Arthur I didn't do Orford's. I said who's our three-set Arthur blank? He and how the co founders of Home Depot, I said, well, sure, I'll come talk to you. So they came and picked me up by fluted Lanta. We went to chops in book here that night, and they offered me a job. They that the the question they had for me was Tom. They knew I had done the supercenters. And they said, Tom, how does Home Depot continue to grow? In through the year to this kind of funny tells old I am the Home Depot continued to grow through the year two thousand in twenty if we're only serving MSA populations of five hundred thousand grader, what's be, you know, servants seasons. They knew they needed to give smaller markets across the country. And that's I don't know. But I'll find out. So I took the job with with Home Depot when trading the new division of Home Depot. Call the crossroads across road. I don't know if you guys are saving slickers, you'd result note across rodeos anytime or eighty time where road meets wearing intersection is that that's not county seats reformed where farmers could get to town and get back home on their on their horse and buggies before the sun went down. And that's where county seats and so forth where roads cross or where people meet. So we created new division called crossroads at Home Depot. And. That division was up and running. We ran it. I don't know maybe three or four years. And then they was folded back into the Home Depot because we figured out how to run it. Folded back in the Home Depot. Home Depot, I met these these I call him surfer dudes if John and Randy price they kept trying to get me to come out to California for I don't know three four five years. And I kept saying, no, I'm I'm I'm a son guy. I'm a gentleman open doors for ladies and say, yes, ma'am. And no, ma'am thanking pleasing I wouldn't California wasn't for me. Well, I guess it was I I went out and California and was the CEO this company called FRY's electronics we had I think seven or eight stores at the time. And we grew that company from top of I think we were doing a hundred million dollars when I got there. And when I left we did two point eight billion. I was there for I guess five years little right at five years. And then I had the opportunity to go to a company in. I'd never always been in successful companies. And I got a phone call one day from a pad hundred used to be worked for me at WalMart. And she wanted to know if I wanted to go to Boston. Well, hey, you know, you go from San Jose, California, Boston that's by far you can go. That's why you know. I'll go talk to him. I went up there and colder Red Eye in flew to Boston, and I met with his the guys up there. And they offered me a job bub-bubba blah, make long story short. I ended up at place called Bradman's Bradley's was you may have made out of her to Bradley's. They're out of business today. But they're like the target of the northeast. They were upscale kinda like higher than WalMart. They sold a higher quality goods WalMart, and they were in bankruptcy chapter eleven, and we, you know, kind of put some programs and some people in place and brought some people with me and kinda retool that thing and had some good leadership there, and we, you know, got Bradley's back on the NASDAQ. It was on new York Stock Exchange got at least on NASDAQ did that for a few years. And then I got a phone about Boston is wonderful place. To visit not I. The weather. It's just cold up there guys that on April the seventeenth it snowed. Nineteen inches and it took me two hours to get five miles. I got home and my wife said are you ready to get out of here? We go. Anyway, I call that he had hundred friend of mine Elaine there, some and hey, Elaine if you listened to but anyway and ended up with an interview for a place called debate. Smith never heard they were the of oldest retailer in the world. Based out based out of London, Manchester England there and all the hotels and airports around the world. And you you've seen them in in airports and hotels. Deb gate Smith bookstores Smith booksellers, and so I took that job as a ran North America, which United States Canada Caribbean islands Dominican Republic Hawaii we acquired a couple of companies companies in South American Santiago down there. And it was great, dude. I'm gonna take somebody with a really really fun. The. And. Nine eleven hit. You're in the travel business and planes flying the towers, and they shut travel down the world changed. So after eighteen months of after after nine eleven trying to get the business back up gates me up sold the US operations to the Hudson group. So if you're an airports, and they'll tro tells you now you see Hudson news or the Hudson guy. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's that is that's w h Smith. Okay. Although stores are Doug date. Smith kind of I I did that for ran those stores and we sold out to Hudson news. Well, when we sold out I play golf for about six months, eight months, and my wife told me I was losing my mind because I need to go back to work lotto my wife. I wanted to go home. I'm originally from Meridian Mississippi, I grew up in this metropolis, Eric call your Alabama. Population the whole population and the county's thirty two hundred people and I loved it. Oh, overpopulation is a danger. Yeah. You know? Oh, say and you spend the first eighteen years you life trying to get out of your hometown. You spend the rest of your life trying to get back to you hometown. I wish you know. I I'd love it was the best place in the world of two girl up as a kid and the child but racially from Meridian grew up in York outbound. And I told my wife one day, I said baby I wanna go home, and my wife, Ellen is from Chicago inner city, Chicago, you don't wanna go back home there. You don't wanna go back home? And right. You don't want to go yet. She right. And I'm she grew up looking at Wrigley field on Dover street. And I said I want to go home, and she looked at me. And she said Mississippi, and I said, yeah, baby. I wanna go home. So. Bless her heart. We we ended up back in Mississippi sixteen. Yeah. Over sixteen years ago and came here. And I look I knew that I wa- I was done with a corporate world. I after twenty eight years in corporate world Tomas twenty nine years. I started looking around the state of Mississippi to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I knew I wouldn't go to work for anybody else. I had done that for you know, twenty seven twenty eight twenty nine. And and I don't you figured me. I'm pretty pretty blunt by now, but I don't anything disparaging by this. But I went in trying to figure out what I was going to do round the state. I was always had a keen interest in land and real estate, but I've always been outdoorsman hunter fisherman. I've always loved the outdoors. I went in thirty forty real estate offices from across the state northeast, south Tennessee line to the Gulf Coast. In about ninety five percent of the folks, I met real estate were dumber than a book. Booker rocks and told my wife and Ellen's got her masters from Pepperdine she owned a couple of businesses and we'd sold them along the way. I'm I'm a businessman. My wife is a woman, and I told element night. I said I think I figured out what I wanted to do. She said what is that? I said I only get real estate because as a huge opportunity in in the state of Mississippi in real state and Ellen looked at me. And she said, you know, I do too I wanna get involved real. So I said why he ever told me that she said because you've never asked me that. Well, sixteen years ago, we both got involved in real estate bins. And here we are. And we operate Tom Smith we own Tom Smith. Landon homes. We got the largest we sell more land than anybody in the state. We're probably one of the top. Five largest land companies in the southeastern part of the country can people see photos, you there too. I know they can see photos of property. I'm the Canadian see photos of you there too. If they go there right now. Yeah. Yeah. They unfortunately, man, I'm again right here that this. That's why people are going there. People are going there for the eye candy. Now, see I wanna ask you this. Here. You have the floors that you can ask you can ask Tom ask you this. What is the tough question? You have for Tom. Well, I've kind of a fun question. Thank you. First of all for your time story, it's been delightful in you know, that's that's a little bit of American history right there. I mean, WalMart is is. I mean, that's American history. Sam Walton and all that insight. That's that's awesome. That's really fun. But you said you opened up proximate one hundred supercenters before you kind of went off to the next the next thing. What was what was the most successful one, which which one made the most money? Do you do recall top of your head or one of your top producers? Mcallister. Oklahoma was really good down there in the prison. Well, that's nice Callister. Really good got. There's a bunch of them. Do the. We can people think that that's a small market McAllister is probably what I mean. That's not only people get thousand people get discharged from prison. They wanna buy all the coach. Yeah. Because it'd be imprisoned that got it by the that makes sense. I'm accent. What we what we found was. And you didn't take a rocket scientist. You all these college graduates didn't figure this crap out. But. You you take the WalMart. We you know, how we figure that we did it by the old fashioned way. We took the checks people used to write by hand. We'd take checks in we'd go through and write them all down their address wasn't figure out where people were driving from far they would drive. So when we opened the supercenter we did the people back in the cash office in the system managers, but we'd write all this stuff down. We figure out the folks were driving as far as one hundred miles away to come buy groceries. Wow. So I wor- trade territory went from about twenty miles thirty miles up two hundred miles. So you were getting three times of the population. Coming into a store is what you normally would get with a normal WalMart store 'cause everybody's gotta eat don't everybody to shoot squirrels on Saturday afternoon. Everybody's gotta eat. So, you know, whether or not you're sporting goods department got bigger, not you. Had food to it. You're going to sell more sporting goods because you got three times or twice three times as many people so three times as many people shopping the same size boarding department. You're going to sell three times more gun you'll sell three times more rifles. I'm more of shales to sell three time more of the fishing rods. And the same is true for arts and crafts or domestics or are underway, or whatever you gonna because when you bring that much in. So it took us a while. But, you know, the successful stores, they it we didn't have let me put it this way. We didn't close any stores or WalMart. We own the close one store that I was ever ever socially really Sam was alive. We only close one WalMart store, and that was Rob's town, Texas, and was the reason. And was the reason is called robbers town that store never made a profit because it was so much theft going on it was the highest fail store in the United States. Well, and we had and tried and tried, but we never we never made a dime prophet out. Stormy closed it after it's rob town was opened probably fifteen years before we we lost twenty robbery. Yeah. I'll give you the most fun story that I can't about a super son perfect. Wagner, oklahoma. He probably don't even know where that is. I went to high school twenty miles from dogs. You kidding me? It's just not far from Tillerson where we all right now. Do. Yeah. You'll enjoy this back. No one was Donald mouth Wagner. Oklahoma had the smallest WalMart store. The United States twenty nine eight await twenty nine thousand eight hundred eighty square feet. That's the smallest story ever opened or Wagner had one. Golly. The man manager's name was Joe. Oh, it just hit. Now, see his face, and that's been forty years. The joe. Golly, bald headed joke. But anyway, so whether whether weather St. whether it was Christmas week or January the second week in January. Well, her the volume really never changed it the the all gonna laugh at this. But I remember it it did thirty thousand dollars a week. Wow. Whether it was in December or whether it was in January, or June, basically Rob's. I mean, the Wagner did thirty thousand dollars a week. You do the budgets for Wagner. Home went did up a million five a year. Well. Sam would would wind people up prior to coil season. Do you understand what I mean when I say why and people up did he serve them red bull before red bulls were legal or allowed or around? Iwo challenge, you he would he would he he would tell you that he thinks you can do more and telling us at that time that we can do more s like telling the football team that, you know, they're bunch of sissies go run over you. Well, Sam would wind us before coil season. Well, Sam had told me he said Thom I think we got something here. He's the we know we can do business in these bigger markets. We know we can triple our volume we're doing sixty million seventy million. They said we'd just about getting figure it out. But he said the word just about my ears perked up. And he said I wonder how small of a market we can open a supercenter in. He shouldn't have said that. So Sam goes off quail hunting. Tom C was in charge. A real estate department at teams of the senior vice president real estate, we go off and we buy eighteen acres of land and Wagner oklahom- right across the street from where the store wars right on the corner. Right. There's probably still there today. I haven't been there in thirty years, but our twenty year what at thirty years. So we we opened a Wagner, a supercenter and Wagner, Oklahoma. The store was twenty nine thousand eight hundred eight square feet, we opened the we built a hundred and forty thousand square foot building and Wagner. I thought Sam was going to stroke out. That's the only time. I was thought he was gonna fire me. I really did. I I'm gone. So. We had the grand opening and it was a joke. Amongst the company people send Smith, you're gone. This thing's never going to be successful Babo ball Wagner. Oklahoma. Let me say something guys. I'm there forget this as long as I live, and I'm gonna tell them myself if Sam were living, they would kind of laugh. Oh, we opened that store. The grand opening at eight o'clock in the morning. And by nine thirty. I kinda snuck outside. And I went around behind the garden center back where the Trump wills were. And I got I not going to let us mu-. I was smoking those cigars sneak in the smoke. And because I'm thinking, I'm you know, I'm I'm going to be by will at nine thirty in the morning. We had traffic they had. We had state troopers were directing traffic. We had every sheriff department directing traffic we had traffic backed up to pull so just about. And park in the parking lot was full. And I'm sneaking a cigarette, and I feel this hand on my shoulder, and I look over and you gotta understand Sam hated he hated to things he hated tobacco. And you hate it acohol sitting there hit my mouth that cigarette. He's threw it down looked to Mason son, pick it up. You need to. He said you need enjoy that what Tom respected. There's people around the world right now to our podcast in two thousand seven ten population of Wagner, Oklahoma is eight thousand nine hundred and four people that's two thousand seven inning more square footage than people. That's a. Now thinking about this. There is still I'm looking at right now Google earth. There's a Murphy USA there. There's an artist Bank over there. There's a Armstrong Bank opponents too key to banks right there. You got to count. You got to get the money somewhere courses kind of a branch of WalMart. You've got a McDonalds there again, the magazines down the yard. It's number. Specifically growing up Muskogee. Oh, everybody load up in the car. Yeah. Go the supercenter and Wagner, really. Because at that time. I don't believe Muskogee had won. And. Yeah, you Tom smoking cigarette tobacco. Did not catch that go the big WalMart. Walmart, I I'm not gonna say. Oh, tom. Thank you. But you know, it's thrown. Thank you. Okay. So what you said must go home. Oh, what am I real good friends? Terry far was a store manager must go. Get a great guy. I don't know where he is. I don't know if he's still live. He was a great guy. Remember, terry? Okay. I didn't know I didn't know Wagner had a McDonald's. Do they've gotten big time now. But yet it's on. On line parcel supercenter now west what is your final tough question for Mr. Tom Smith the man who helped Sam Walton to create the WalMart supercenters. Fulltime I always trying to glean maybe a little bit of practical advice. So I'm wondering and all those years of WalMart. Then you went to some really cool companies you had to do a lot of hiring. You saw Sam doing hiring for those of us that don't have thousands of acres to quell hunt. Any tips you can give our listeners for characteristics or personalities that you saw that made those better employee's or anything that you looked out for when you were you were hiring new people. Absolutely is three things. I mean, you know, I don't care what kind of degree. You got on care what? And you know, I sit and I look at our company we got today. And I you know, I've got we we've got the best team. We we've got a family here with these guys and gals got each other's back. They look out for each other. We we laugh together we cry together we make money together. And you know, I it's just it's all about family. But there's three things, you know, you you find out in about fifteen minutes if you're sitting and talking to somebody if they got three things lined up. And a of a of a right in their face other right where their family, and if they're right with the with their employer, and they're honest, God fearing people, I'll give them a chance. I, you know, I've given people CIA you some of the most successful people is is these these folks coming home to military all they need is a chance, and you give them a chance, and they they'll perform like you've never seen. But you don't need a college degree to be successful. And if you got 'cause review, that's great wonderful. I've got one of those too. But you know, it's never helped me make a dime. But it's it's all about looking people in the eye. You can tell somebody's honest in about thirty seconds. And they ain't got to say a word, you know, look at and it's just about finding the right folks with the right heart that that won't chains. And if. You motivate them. He show them that you care about them. You got to care about their family get on their way. You know? I've always believed in letting people make mistake people make mistakes every day. We all be but don't make the same mistake twice. But you know, I don't know. I don't know if answered your question, not right, right. Yeah. I mean, so get right with your faith your family and their your past employer or your current employer. Now, I have my final question for us. Our listeners love to read books that can help them, you know, books that they are very practical. You are come across very well read man, you've had a career that spans multiple decades, you're doing well now in another career now really doing well in real estate out there is there a specific book that you would recommend for all of our listeners. You know, I'm throwback. I'm kind of an old old type guy. I believe in basics. I believe in things that work, and I guess too. I recommend to books to anybody. I don't care what been seen where did you, you know, run on airlines or flipping McDonald's is seven habits of effective people. True home to get away with success. I don't care. You are successful. People have successful habits. Unsuccessful people have on successful habits. Don't care who all seven habits of highly successful people. That's my Stephen Covey got it and another one to one my favorite since thriving on chaos. About Tom Peters. Peter's one best business authors and motivational authors that you're ever going to read I don't know Tom's around anymore. Not. But at those two hell books, you ought to read. They're good. They're good business books and three leader. Listen to them ran country around the world, they need to read those two books because those are two books, and I hang my hat on. Tommy, thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to be here on on today's show. You have blown my mind. Many many times, I know Z appreciate you being here. I know west doesn't our listeners loved hearing these stories. Thank you again so much. We hope you have just an awesome evening and hit the road, donate it to hard, right? Yeah. Appreciate y'all. Have a great evening. Take care. Tommy as soon as the show gets edited. I'll send you a link. So you can share it. Remember?