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TheRumpledOne
6,358 posts
msg #46728
Ignore TheRumpledOne
9/3/2006 12:42:57 AM

"Wise men don't need advice. Fools won't take it."

-Benjamin Franklin

Black Bart, Sam Walton, and a Grain of Salt

By Robert Ringer

Whenever I have the unpleasant need to interact with employees of major corporations, I find that the majority of them are incompetent and negligent. And, above all, not very responsive. So, with foot soldiers like these in charge of day-to-day operations, why are so many of these companies so successful?

To answer this, I'm reminded of an anecdote from Sam Walton's biography.

When he was still only a little regional guy with about 30 stores, he went to New York in the hopes of learning something from big-city discounters, and was granted an audience with an executive at one of the country's major discount chains. He pulled out some crumpled papers from the breast pocket of his suit and showed them to Mr. Big. On those papers were handwritten sales and profit figures for Walton's small-town discount chain - the one with that local-yokel name: Wal-Mart.

Mr. Big perused the figures for a few minutes, shoved the papers back to Walton, and urged the Wal-Mart founder not to show his figures to anyone else and not to seek information from any other New York discounters. Instead, he advised him to turn around and go back to Arkansas as fast as he could get there ... and to keep doing whatever it was he was doing to produce the kind of results his crumpled papers revealed.

The executive assured Walton that no one in New York was even close to achieving the kind of numbers he was producing in his small chain. And he was obviously right. Because in a relatively short period of time, many of the biggest discounters in New York - including such giants as E. J. Korvette and Alexander's - began closing their doors. In fact, those old enough to remember know that it was a bloodbath for major discounters throughout the country for a couple of decades.

In retrospect, it's quite humorous that Sam Walton was trying to find out how the big discounters got so big, considering most of them went broke and he ended up becoming the largest retailer in the world. Sounds like an old-time movie plot, doesn't it?

It's not just the big guys, either. During my prehistoric era, back when I was a real estate broker, I had an acquaintance that many people fondly referred to as "Black Bart." He was a shoe-shufflin' good ole boy from Kansas - about six-foot-four - who spoke with one of those disarming cowpoke drawls.

If you didn't know Black Bart very well, you might have assumed he had succotash between his ears. And your assumption might have cost you your house. We're talking smart here. Real smart.

I've often told the story about my multimillion-dollar real estate closing in Lawrence, Kansas. The featured characters in that story were two hard-drinking cowboy types I nicknamed the "Booze Brothers." I mean, these guys brushed their teeth with Scotch and took bourbon enemas.

Many years after I had put millions of dollars in their pockets by selling eight of their apartment complexes, Black Bart blew into town and called to ask if my wife and I would like to join him and his wife for dinner. I accepted his invitation, and that night we got to talking about the Booze Brothers.

He said that when he was an apartment developer in Kansas, he never could figure out why they were able to build apartment units for $X per square foot when it was costing his company $Y per square foot. He chastised his top people and demanded that they bring the company's building costs down.

Black Bart repeatedly - and heatedly - told them, "If those guys can build an apartment unit for $X per square foot, then we've got to figure out how to do it too. We just have to sharpen our pencils."

But guess what? Turns out the Booze Brothers went broke a couple of years after I sold their apartment units ... while Black Bart - still building his units for $Y per square foot - managed to sell his company for $13 million! He ended the story by saying, "So the answer to my question about how in the heck those guys built their apartment units for so much less than we did was: They didn't. That's why they went broke!"

Moral: Whether it's a business or a personal issue, it's good to teach your children early in life to take what others say with a grain of salt. Talk really is cheap. It's been my experience that most people simply like to hear the sound of their own voices.

Worst of all, a high percentage of those people are guilty of nothing more than slinging bull. And the worst of the worst are those who actually believe their own b.s.

It's a mistake to assume that the other guy knows more than you just because he talks more than you. And that includes people from the highest ranks of corporate America. They may be bigger, but they're not necessarily smarter.

Keep up to date on what's going on in your industry, and focus on opportunities rather than problems. That will give you the security of knowing you're on the right track. The trick is to have the self-discipline to be selective about what you choose to believe ... and to not be so quick to assume that the guy who pontificates on "the right way to do things" knows what he's talking about. More often than not, he doesn't.



alf44
2,025 posts
msg #46729
Ignore alf44
9/3/2006 1:51:13 AM

AMEN !!!


marine2
805 posts
msg #46741
Ignore marine2
9/4/2006 12:04:11 AM

Most cases, wise men or women became such because they heeded wise advice and remembered it when the time came.


heypa
283 posts
msg #46746
Ignore heypa
9/4/2006 9:05:44 PM

Wise men became wise because they were careful about what they let into their internal model of reality. We all have such an internal picture of the world we think exists around us.Try not to contaminate it with false facts.
live long and prosper heypa


nikoschopen
2,824 posts
msg #46747
Ignore nikoschopen
modified
9/5/2006 12:10:13 AM

Ah, hell, the only difference I know for certain is the divide between the two camps of the wise ass and the jackass. They're both asses all the same. Of course, I'm only half-kidding.



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