"A profound unmitigated loneliness is the only truth of life"
- R.K. Narayan

I can say that my interest in reading - and more precisely reading history and biographies - started with this book. This was the first book that I picked from my client's corporate library when I flew to Portland, Maine in Sep, 2004. I was not interested in the usual business, administration, finance, retail domain, stores operations books and this one stood out. The plain look on Sam's face (wearing a Wal-Mart cap) belied the spirit - the steely spirit behind that simple face - the unrelenting simpleton yet ferocious businessman that hid behind those glassy eyes.

The book portrays nothing less. Sam Walton was not a man of noble birth nor was he gifted with out-of-the-Earth qualities. It does not even appear he was a visionary. Yet his restlessness in being the best always bore fruit. His attitude of ‘take care of the minutes and the hours will take care of themselves’ worked for him. There also does not seem to be an innovativeness about him - he accepts that he used to visit the stores of his competitors (mainly K-Mart) to get his ideas. He used to borrow the best out of all of them and get it running in his stores.

Once deep into the book – one can feel the real spirit of the man. As it becomes him, he gets straight onto business right from the word go. This is also evident from the fact that he starts abruptly with his first days in retailing – about the couple of stores that he experiments with and even has to close down his ‘only’ store reluctantly just to move to Bentonville, Ark and start off a juggernaut of an empire that none has been able to stop till-date. Though he moves from one store to a handful to a score and eventually to hundreds - he is still reluctant to abandon his older ways of working - giving importance to the smallest of aspects like building a store with his own associates, procuring the goods from local markets while working out deals himself, etc.

Wal-Mart today is the biggest private employer and right there at the top of the Fortune list. Though Wal-Mart stands out in every respect of its ballgame, Sam Walton stands out for something different. He stands for the simplistic nature of building formidable business empires, for valuing family life and personal time in the face of growing professional responsibilities, for always being one with the community and preserving communal identities, for building a foundation of a core group of values and standing by it always. The book flows through with such panache that I felt a part of the Walton family all the while – and mourned the death of Sam at the very end.

Truly an inspirational read. Truly... ‘Made in America’!