Walton Ten-Foot Rule
Sam Walton, Walmart’s iconic founder and perhaps the most successful entrepreneur of his generation, demonstrated considerable charisma, ambition, and drive from a very young age.
Sam was a committed student leader when he attended the University of Missouri, Columbia. One of the secrets to his reputation in college was that he would greet and speak to everybody he came across on campus. If he knew them, he was sure to address them by their name. In a short time, he had made many friends and was well-liked. Small wonder, then, that Sam triumphed in nearly all the student elections he entered.
From his bestselling autobiography, “Made in America”:
I had decided I wanted to be president of the university student body. I learned early on that one of the secrets to campus leadership was the simplest thing of all: speak to people coming down the sidewalk before they speak to you. I did that in college. I did it when I carried my papers. I would always look ahead and speak to the person coming toward me. If I knew them, I would call them by name, but even if I didn’t I would still speak to them. Before long, I probably knew more students than anybody in the university, and they recognized me and considered me their friend. I ran for every office that came along. l was elected president of the senior men’s honor society, QEBH, an officer in my fraternity, and president of the senior class. I was captain and president of Scabbard and Blade, the elite military organization of ROTC.
When Walmart became sizeable enough, Sam realized that it could not offer prices lower than those of other retail giants—yet. As part of his customer service strategy, he institutionalized the very trait that had made him popular when he was a student. He insisted on the “Walton Ten-Foot Rule.” According to the rule, when Walmart associates (as Walmart calls its employees) came within ten feet of customers, they were to smile, make eye contact, greet the customer, and offer assistance. As Walmart grew, Sam added greeters who would greet customers at the door (and control “shrinkage” / shoplifting.) Even today, the Ten-Foot Rule is a part of the Walmart culture.
Likeability: A Predictor of Success
Likeability is an important predictor to success in life. Some people seem naturally endowed with appealing personalities. They tend to complement their talents by being personable and graceful, presenting themselves well, and by possessing the appropriate social skills for every occasion. They often win others over effortlessly. At school and in college, they are their teachers’ favorites and are chosen by their peers to represent their classes. They are invited to the right kind of parties and gatherings, and infuse them with life. At work, they are persuasive; they get noticed and quickly climb the corporate ladder.
From my observations of the traits of the talented and successful, I offer you a few reminders to help you become more personable, develop rapport, and thus maximize your chance of success:
- Look people in their eyes. Smile. Greet them by their names.
- Listen. Speak with a pleasant tone of voice and in a positive manner. Show respect. Indeed, even your adversaries have some admirable characteristics.
- Show genuine interest in others. Try to build a rapport by sharing something about yourself with them.
- Say “Please,” “Sorry,” and “Thank you.” Offer a kind word. Compliment them. Do not superficially flatter.
- Consider the other’s perspectives and his/her circumstances before disagreeing.
- Practice compassion. Make a sincere effort to help others.
- Do not overdo any of the above. Try your best. Do not please others at the expense of your own sanity—stay true to your values, principles, and happiness.
Sam Anon says
— And this is along with greeters is listed as one of the contributing factors in why Wal-Mart failed in Germany, as customers felt harassed by the unasked personal attention, and the labor costs required to perform this superfluous function efficiently were prohibitive.
The WalMart near me recently began aggressively stressing the “10 Foot Rule.” As a customer, I absolutely HATE it!! I just want to be left alone to shop in peace, but the constant interruptions by employees has become ridiculous. If I need assistance, I know how to ask for it. I hate it so much that I now just stop and stare at the employee, without saying a word, until they go away.