The Wisdom of Sam Walton’s “Sundown Rule”

July 26, 2010 at 5:48 pm Leave a comment

The late, great Sam Walton founded and built Wal-Mart, a company that is the world’s largest public corporation in 2010.

Wal-Mart is also the largest private employer in the US and in Mexico and Canada. Sales for the year ending January 31, 2010 were $405 billion. Clearly, in spite of the occasional criticism – there is a lot going right with this behemoth!

Some time ago, while I was teaching a first year undergraduate management course at my Alma Mater, Concordia University in Montreal, we read Walton’s best-selling biography “Sam Walton: Made in America.” Of all the wisdom contained in this story one point stuck out above all and continues to influence me to this day, many years later. Walton created and implored his employees to adhere to what he called the “Sundown Rule.” Quite simply the Sundown Rule is responding to requests, whether they be from customers (particularly important) or colleagues or even suppliers on the same-day they are received. In other words “why put off until tomorrow what you can do today?”

Now perhaps because we are living in a far more complicated world than when Walton advocated his ideas it is not always possible to respond on the same day. However, as a result of technology, it has certainly never been easier to answer, reply or simply acknowledge…eventually. Yet it never ceases to amaze me how many people simply do not respond to an email or telephone call.

Yes, being a Recruiter means my days are filled with cold calls and “cold emails” and the perception amongst some if that things are going well and consequently they have no time for the intrusion. However in these days of challenging economic times and still frequent lay-offs, bankruptcies and other downsizing how can anyone afford not to, at the very least, ask an assistant to return the call and say there is no interest or send an email reply saying the same? These common courtesies are the bare minimum and certainly not what Walton was championing. However, since we never know when the tables can get turned and our own position at risk, wouldn’t adherence to Mr. Walton’s sage ideas be more important than ever?

 

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