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Chapter 7 Taking the Company Public
  "When we went on the stock market, it didn't mean anything to some of us country boys. The chairmanalways said I came across the Red River barefooted and hunting a job, which is almost the way it was. Ididn't even know what stock was. But I bought some, thank God, because Phil Green said, Hey, youbuy some of that stock, boy.' I bought it and I kept it because I believed in Mr. Walton, and I believed inmy store. It's real simple. I believed him when he said we could do all these things with the company.

And we did."al miles,first assistant manager, store number 6, Fayetteville, Arkansas, now a retired Wal-MartexecutiveFrom the time I took out my first bank loanthe $1,800 to buy that ice cream machine for the BenFranklin down in NewportI was never really comfortable with debt. But I recognized it as a necessity ofdoing business, and I had gotten pretty good at accumulating it. For a while, I would just go down to thelocal bank and borrow whatever I could to build a store or buy something we needed to grow thebusiness. That practice had gotten me in debt to practically every bank in Arkansas and southernMissouri. They believed in what we had done up to that point, and they believed we would pay them off.

I always did pay them off on time, but sometimes I would borrow from one to pay the other. I hadbought a bank in Bentonville, for about $300,000, just a little old bank with only about $3.5 million indeposits. But it really helped me learn a lot about financing things. I made some new acquaintances andbegan to study more about bankers and how they liked to do business.

I struck;, up a relationship with a guy named Jimmy Jones at Republic Bank down in Dallas, and heloaned us a million dollars. And, of course, I had tried all along to attract some equity investment fromour store managers and a few relatives. So by 1970, we had seventy-eight partners invested in ourcompany, which really wasn't one company, but thirty-two different stores owned by a combination ofdifferent folks. My family owned the lion's share of every store, but Helen and I were also in debt up toour eyeballsseveral million dollars' worth. I never dwell on the negative, but that debt weighed heavy onme. If something happened and everybody decided to call their notes, I kept thinking, we would be sunk.

Maybe that's what being raised in the Depression does to you, but I wanted out of that debt in the worstway.

I had talked a little bit about the idea of taking the company public, seeking advice from people like AbeMarks and some of those other discounters in that association we all belonged to, but I really hadn'tpursued anything seriously. One day in 1969 we got a call from Mike Smith, who said he wanted tocome up and talk to us. Mike worked for Witt and Jack Stephens in Little Rock. Today, Stephens Inc. isthe largest investment banking firm west of the Mississippi, and one of the most respected in the country.

Back then it was mostly a bond house. Jack, by the way, was the fellow who had come in andsuccessfully developed that Little Rock shopping center after I failed. So Mike Smith drove up toBentonville. We were still in those old three rooms of offices over the lawyer's office and the barbershopon the square. I remember Mike climbing those stairs. He is a bit of a renegade himselfhe has a lot oforiginal ideasand during our conversation that day, he planted the seed that maybe we really were doingwell enough to go public, that is, to issue stock in the company and sell it to the public.

MIKE SMITH, STEPHENS INC.:

"I went up there to see them in the fall of 1969, and it was really the height of ambition. We had onlydone one public offering, and I had done it, so I thought I was an expert. Sam was eager to talk becausehe had borrowed all the money he possibly could. I stopped at every Wal-Mart between Little Rock andBentonville so I would know something about his stores. Of course the first thing he did was throw me inthat plane of his and fly us all over Oklahoma and Missouri looking at stores."Not long after that, Bud and I went quail hunting up on the Robson ranch in Oklahoma, and the huntingwas really good. We spent most of that day talking about our options. We wanted to expand, and werealized we weren't generating enough profits both to expand and to pay off our debts. In fact, our cashshortage had forced us to give up five land sites where we had already planned to build new stores, sowe knew we had to do something. Driving back that night, we agreed to seriously explore thepossibilities of going public. It was a huge step for us, and we were concerned about losing control of thecompany. My son Rob had graduated from Columbia University law school the year before and hadgone to work at the biggest law firm in Tulsa. We, the Walton family were his first client. As our lawyer,he also kept track of the various Wal-Mart store partnership agreements, so I asked him to start lookingat all our options.

We still weren't sure we could take the company public. Meanwhile, money was getting tight, and someof our creditors were pressuring us. I flew to Dallas and tried to borrow some more from Republic Bank,whose officers were getting nervous about what they'd already loaned us. They made it clear we had allof their money we were likely to see, and that ended our relationship. By then, Jimmy Jones had movedto a bank in New Orleans, First Commerce, so I flew down there from Dallas to see if he could help us.

Jimmy came up with a $1.5 million loan, which helped us out in the short term, but it really wasn't theanswer to our long-term problem.

For various reasons, including taxes, Rob recommended restructuring our debt, consolidating it into onebig loan for the company. Ron Mayer and I had heard that the Prudential was making loans to a lot ofsmall retail chains, so we made an appointment with one of their loan officers and flew to New York. Bynow we really needed the money, pure and simple. I went to Prudential. I had my predictions all spelledout on my yellow legal pad, and I was sure they were going to loan us the money. I went through myfive-year planmy sales, profits, number of storesand talked about our strategy of going to the smalltowns where there was no competition and told the loan officer how much business we thought there wasout there waiting to be plucked. He didn't buy it at all, told us he didn't think a company like thePrudential could afford to gamble with us. I saved those projections for a long time, and they were allexceeded by 15 to 20 percent in the years to come.

Somehow we had a contact at another insurance company, Mass Mutual, so we went to see them. Theyagreed to lend us a million dollars, and, in turn, we agreed to give them our right arm and our left leg. Wedidn't just pay interest, we had to give them all sorts of stock options in case we did go public. By nowthey had us over a barrel. I had no choice: we had to have the money. When we went public they mademillions and millions on that deal.

By then, I was tired of owing money to people I knew, and I was even more tired of begging moneyfrom strangers. I made up my mind for sure that we were going to take Wal-Mart to the stock market. Ilet Mike Smith and Jack Stephens know we wanted to go ahead with the idea, but I also let them knowthey were going to have to compete for our business, just like I've always made everybody else competefor business with us. Also, I let them know I didn't feel comfortable going with a Little Rock firm; Ithought we needed a Wall Street underwriter. Maybe that was right, and maybe it wasn't. I know Mikeand Jack didn't feel too good about it. But I went running off to New York to see what I could find out.

MIKE SMITH:

"Obviously, we wanted to handle the whole offering, but Sam was always one to shop around. Here'swhat happened the way I remember it: Sam was up in New York on a buying trip, and he decided to godown to Wall Street and hear what some of those guys had to say, just cold callingright off the street.

He knew that White, Weld had taken public a retail chain called Pamida up in Omaha, so he went to visitthem. He introduced himself to the receptionist as Sam Walton of Wal-Mart storeslike he alwaysdoesand said, 'I want to talk to somebody about taking my company public' She said, 'Oh really, whereare you from' And when he told her Bentonville, Arkansas, she said, 'Well, we have a Mr. Remmelhere, and he's from Arkansas. Perhaps he could help you.' And she introduced him to Buck Remmel,who was from Little Rock."I don't really remember how I met Buck, but Mike might have it right. I remember introducing myself tohim and saying something like, "What are the chances that you folks would be interested in backing us onthis offering" Well, he said he would look at it, and, sure enough, they decided they were interested. Istill think that's one reason the offer was so successful, because at the time White, Weld was one of theleading institutional investment banking firms. Not everyone around here agrees with me, but I'm stickingto my opinion.

MIKE SMITH:

"Sam decidedcorrectly at the timethat White, Weld knew more about public offerings than we did, sohe let them have the business. But he told them, 'I hope you'll include the folks at Stephens, becausethey're good friends, and they're good people.' White, Weld asked us if we wanted to take a third of thedeal to their two-thirds. I talked it over with Jack, and he asked me what I thought of the company. Isaid I thought we ought to do it. And we did. Later on, in other offerings, we got a fifty-fifty piece of thedeal along with White, Weld."So Rob started to work on the plan, which was to consolidate all these partnerships into one companyand then sell about 20 percent of it to the public. At the time, our family owned probably 75 percent ofthe company, Bud owned 15 percent or so, some other relatives owned a percentage, Charlie Baumowned some, Willard Walker owned some, Charlie Cate owned some, Claude Harris owned some. Allthose early managers would borrow money from our bank to buy stock in the stores. Willard was themost skillful at getting money. He would cultivate the guys who ran the banks and they'd let him havewhat he wanted. Consequently, he realized fabulous returns on it. He had more ownership than any of themanagers.

Rob Walton:

"Dad had a spread sheet listing all the minority ownerships in the various companies, and the problemwas figuring out on what basis to value them all for the initial offering. As I recall, we basically proposedusing book value. We did not do any kind of sophisticated relative evaluation of the companies whichwould have taken into account earnings and growth projections and all that sort of stuff. But everybodysigned right up. And as far as I know, everybody's happy today with the way it worked out."We were all ready to go at the beginning of 1970, and Ron Mayer and I did a dog and pony show allover the placeLos Angeles, San Francisco, Chicagotelling everybody how great we were going to be.

But before we got the stock issued, the market fell out on us, and we had to postpone the offering. Wewere already having unusual managers' meetings in those days. We would all go fishing together, withoutwives, for four or five days at a time and talk about the business. I remember we were on one of thosetrips to Table Rock Dam, and I had to tell everybody that we were pulling back on the deal. But themarket recovered some, and on October 1, 1970, Wal-Mart became a public company, traded over thecounter. Our prospectus offered 300,000 shares at a price of $15, but it sold for $16.50. It was wellreceived, though not widely held; we only had about 800 shareholders, most of them either institutions orfolks we knew. Those who bought in that offering, or who owned some of those early partnerships andhad them converted in that offering, made an absolute killing.

As everybody today knows, Wal-Mart's stock performance, and the wealth it has created, is a story initself. Just fifteen years ago, the market value of the company was around $135 million; today it's over$50 billion. But here's a better way to look at it: let's say you bought 100 shares back in that originalpublic offering, for $1,650. Since then, we've had nine two-for-one stock splits, so you would have51,200 shares today. Within the last year, it's traded at right under $60 a share. So your investmentwould have been worth right around $3 million at that price. Obviously, our stock has made a lot of folkshappy over the years, and pure and simplethat's where the Walton family net worth has been created.

It's paid off beyond any of our dreams.

Here's a chart that shows the course over the years of that 100 shares:

SHARES/100% SPLITS /MKT. PRICE ON SPLIT DATE200 /May 1971 / $46/47 OTC400 / March 1972 / 46/47 OTC800 / August 1975 / 23 NYSE1,600 / November 1980 / 50 NYSE3,200 / June 1982 / 49  NYSE6,400 / June 1983 / 81  NYSE12,800 / September 1985 / 49  NYSE25,600 / June 1987 / 66  NYSE51,200 / June 1990 / 62 NYSEOne funny memory about that public offering. The day it went through Ron and I were leaving NewYork, and at the airport we met a guy from T. Rowe Price, a money management firm in Baltimore. Wewere so full of ourselves that somehow we made him believe we were going to do well. He went back toBaltimore and bought a pretty large share of that stock for his firm. They held it for ten or fifteen yearsand became the star of their industry. We would split and split, and they would sell and sell. I don't knowhow many millions they made on that stock.

HELEN WALTON:

"I realized before we went public that I didn't want it to happen. I guess if I were going to be mad withSam about anything, it would be over the fact that I always felt we could have gotten by without goingpublic. Nothing about the company ever affected me as deeply, and it was at that point that I decided Ihad to pursue my other interests outside the company. I just hated the idea that we were going to put allour financial interests out there for everybody to see. When you go public, they can ask all kinds ofquestions, and the family gets involved. We just became an open book, and I hated it."Helen's right, of course, about the downside of taking the company public. It did end up bringing us a lotof unwanted attention. But coming back from New York that day, I experienced one of the greatestfeelings of my life, knowing that all our debts were paid off. The Walton family only owned 61 percent ofWal-Mart after that day, but we were able to pay off all those bankers, and from that day on, we haven'tborrowed one dime personally to support Wal-Mart. The company has rolled along on its own andfinanced itself. Going public really turned the company loose to grow, and it took a huge load off me. Wehad another offering later on, trying to get broader ownership of the stock so we could be traded on theNew York Stock Exchange, but as a family we've only sold very limited amounts of Wal-Mart stockoutside of those offerings. I think that has really set us apart, and, as I said, that's the source of our networth. We just kept that stock. Most families somewhere along the line would have said, We don't wantthis rat race. We don't need to do what we are doing. Let somebody else have it. And then either Iwould have retired and backed out of the company and sold it to some Dutch investor or to Kmart orFederated, or somebody like that. But I enjoyed doing what I was doing so much and seeing the thinggrow and develop, and seeing our associates and partners do so well, that I never could quit.

It was always interesting to me that, except for those folks who worked in our company, our stock gotvery little support early on from the folks right here in northwest Arkansas. I always had the feeling thatthe people around here who remembered us when we had one store and three stores, or rememberedme when I was president of the Rotary or the Chamber of Commerce, somehow thought we were doingit with mirrors. They couldn't help but think we were just lucky, that we could not continue long term todo as well as we have done. I don't think it was anything peculiar to this part of the country or me oranything like that. I think it must be human nature that when somebody homegrown gets on to something,the folks around them sometimes are the last to recognize it.

Like any other company, we obviously wanted to keep our stock price up and attract as many newinvestors as we could. And the way we went at that early on was about as unorthodox as everything elsewe've done. Most public companies hold annual stockholders' meetings, and many hold sessions for WallStreet stock analysts, where they tell their company story and try to drum up support for their stock. As Itold you, Mike Smith is an off-the-wall guy with good ideas and suggestions that are somewhatunorthodox. So right after we went public, Mike suggested that we might want to turn our stockholders'

meeting into an event, and we went along with him.

Most meetings are held in some hotel ballroom in a big city, and are pretty quick, formal affairs with thereading of the minutes and the passing of a few shareholder motions. A lot of them, I understand, are heldin places like Wilmington, Delaware, where the companies are incorporated, in the hope that a whole lotof people won't show up. We took the opposite approach. We figured we were already out of the wayenough to discourage anybody from coming, but since we wanted to encourage folks to attend, wescheduled a whole weekend of events for them. We invited folks down from New York, Chicago, orwherever. They paid their own way down and back, but we really showed them a time.

MIKE SMITH:

"It's true that I came up with the idea of making the annual meeting more of an event, but Sam didn't tellyou the whole reason why. I'll never forget Wal-Mart's first annual meeting, or I should say, meetings. Iwent up a day early to help prepare for it, but this friend of Sam'sFred Pickens from Newportgotconfused on the dates and showed up a day early. So Sam decided to go ahead and hold the meeting forFred, right there in his office. The next day we had the official annual meeting: six of us met around a tableof the coffee shop there by the warehouse.

"The next year I said, 'Sam, you're a public company, and we ought to have a real meeting and try to getsome folks to come. Let's do it in Little Rock. You're from Arkansas, and Little Rock is the capital ofArkansas and people can get there a lot easier than they can to Bentonville.' He didn't like it much, but heagreed to it. So we held the second meeting at a motel, the Coachmen's Inn, in Little Rock. Nobodycame. And he said, 'So much for your idea, Mike.' Well, I was getting desperate to get some analystsdown to really start following the company, so I came up with the idea of bringing them all in for aweekend at Bella Vista, which is this nice development in the hills just north of Bentonville, with lots ofgolf courses, tennis courts, and lakes. I still remember Sam's response to the idea when I brought it up:

'Sounds like a big waste of money to me.' But he decided to give it a try."It turned out to be a really good idea. These folks would come down, and we would assign a managerfrom the company to meet them at the airport and drive them around for the weekend. We wanted theseinvestment types from the cities, including a lot of the bankers who were lending money to our companyat the time, to see firsthand what we do and how we do it. We wanted them to get to know ourmanagers as individuals and come to understand our company's principles. And we felt like to do thatthey really had to come to Bentonville and see what kind of people we were, understand our integrity,our dedication, our work ethic, all the ingredients that were enabling us to outperform our competitors.

They couldn't do that back in New York. The values and the approach of most retailers were entirelydifferent from what this crazy bunch in Arkansas was doing, and we wanted them to see it forthemselves. So they would come down and we would have the stockholders' meeting on Friday,followed by a big picnic that night. I remember one lady wore a formal gown to one of our dinners. It gotquite a few curious looks. Then we would get them up early on Saturday morning and have them come toour meeting and listen to us talk merchandising and finance and distribution, or whatever we were dealingwith at the time.

In the early days, it wasn't anything like what it's turned into now, which is the largest, most raucousstockholders' meeting in the world. But it was different. After the meeting on Saturday, we always had aspecial event. One year it was a golf tournament, which is not all that unusual, I guess. But another yearwe went fishing on Bull Shoals Lake. And another year we took everybody on a float trip down SugarCreek. The wildest event I remember was when we all went camping overnight in tents on the banks ofSugar Creek. That was a real fiasco. Remember now, these are a bunch of investment analysts from thebig cities. Well, a coyote started howling, and hoot owls hooting, and half of these analysts stayed up allnight around the campfire because they couldn't sleep. We decided it wasn't the best idea to trysomething like this with folks who weren't accustomed to camping on the rocks in sleeping bags.

MIKE SMITH:

"These get-togethers became a big hit. The Wal-Mart folks would stay up all night barbecuing, and theanalysts or other big shareholders would stay up with them to 'help.' But after a while, things got a littleout of hand for Sam's taste. Some of those Yankees got so drunk floating down Sugar Creek theycouldn't stay in the boat. And some of those fellows barbecuing had a few too many beers. Well, Samisn't a Puritan or a strict teetotaler or anything, but he can't stand for people to get drunk. So he bannedalcohol completely from the events, and, of course, they were never quite the same after that."They did get a little wild for me, I guess. But if nothing else, our meetings generated a lot of talk about usback on Wall Streetnot all of it good, I'm surebut the ones who paid attention understood that we wereserious operators who were in it for the long haul, that we had a disciplined financial philosophy, and thatwe had growth on our minds. They also knew we liked to have fun, and a few of them probably thoughtmaybe we were a little nuts.

Those meetings are just one example of how, in the early days of being a public company, we really didhave to go to greater lengths than most companies to let Wall Street get to know us and understand us.

Partly that was because we operated so differently from everybody else, and partly it was because wewere so isolated from New York, where a lot of folks seem to think you have to be to do business onthe scale and size that we are. And in the process of wooing Wall Street, we met all kinds. We've beenblessed and appreciated by some analysts and dismissed by others who have believed all along that weare just a house of cards waiting to fall down any second.

One of our most loyal followers has been Maggie Gilliam, an analyst for First Boston who has believedin us for years, and she's made her clients an awful lot of money by sticking to those beliefs. Here's anexcerpt from a report, one of my favorites, that she wrote:

MARGARET GILLIAM. FIRST BOSTON:

Wal-Mart is the finest-managed company we have ever followed. We think it is quite likely thefinest-managed company in America, and we know of at least one investor who thinks it is thefinest-managed company in the world. We do not expect to find another Wal-Mart in our lifetime...

On the other hand, I remember another analyst who came down here in the mid-seventies. I'll neverforget her visit. I had been out hunting all day, and I was pretty grubby when I came in to go out to dinnerwith her. My son Jim, who was head of the real estate department in those days, joined us. And he wasnever one for dressing up. Really, he always looks pretty grubby. We took her out, and we wereextremely honest with her. We told her what we felt our weaknesses were at that time, and what some ofour problems were. But we tried to explain our philosophy too, and to get her excited about all thepotential we felt we had. She went back and wrote probably the darkest report on Wal-Mart that hasever been written. The impression you got from reading it was that if you hadn't already sold your stock,it was probably too late.

Over the last ten or fifteen years, most of the analysts who've followed our stock have been consistent intheir support, although they'll go off us temporarily for one reason or another. By and large, though,they've stayed with us.

I don't subscribe much to any of these fancy investing theories, and most people seem surprised to learnthat I've never done much investing in anything except Wal-Mart. I believe the folks who've done thebest with Wal-Mart stock are those who have studied the company, who have understood our strengthsand our management approach, and who, like me, have just decided to invest with us for the long run.

We have a group of longtime investors in Scotland who have done it better maybe than anybody. Backin the early days of our growth, the Stephens people took us to London, where we first attracted theinterest of these folks. They told us right off that they believed in investing for the long term. They saidthat as long as they felt good about the basics of the company, and had confidence in the management,they wouldn't be buying and selling the way many of these fund managers do. Man, they were talking mylanguage. Years after that first trip, we visited with them in Edinburgh, and they really laid it on for us. Wehave a similar group out in California.

And we also have an investor in Francehis name is Pierre, and he's done exactly the same thing. Wealmost drowned him that first year we floated down Sugar Creek, and I was afraid we'd never see himagain. But Pierre started believing, and he started acquiring our stock and recommending it to his Frenchfund members. He's been with us for about fifteen years, and he's had exceptionally good success withour company.

Our long-term investors are happy because we have consistently rewarded them with one of the highestreturns on equity in American business. From 1977 to 1987, our average annual return to investors was46 percent. And even in the middle of the recession, in 1991, we reported a return on equity of morethan 32 percent.

I guess what's annoying to executivesto anybody who tries to spend their time managing a company asbig as thisis these money managers who're always churning their investors' accounts. You know, thestock will get to $40 or $42, and they'll rush in there and say, "Hey, let's sell this thing because it's justtoo high. It's an overvalued stock." Well, to my mind, that doesn't make much sense. As long as we'remanaging our company well, as long as we take care of our people and our customers, keep our eye onthose fundamentals, we are going to be successful. Of course, it takes an observing, discerning person tojudge those fundamentals for himself. If I were a stockholder of Wal-Mart, or considering becoming one,I'd go into ten Wal-Mart stores and ask the folks working there, "How do you feel How's the companytreating you" Their answers would tell me much of what I need to know.

On this same subject, I have frequently been asked if being a widely followed stock has forced us tomanage differently, to think more short term at the expense of long-term strategic planning. The answer isthat we've always had to do a good bit of both. When you're opening 150 stores a year the way we dothese days, a lot of your planning is necessarily short term. But to sustain that kind of growth, youconstantly have to consider what you're going to be doing five years out. I think that the stock marketpressure has driven us to plan further out so that there will be some consistency next year, and the yearafternot only to our profitability but to our operating sales, our gross margins, and those sorts of things.

I've never let myself fret too much about that. We've had some tremendous fluctuations of our stockover time. Sometimes it will shoot up because retailing has become a fashionable sector with theinvestment community. Or it will plunge because somebody writes a report saying that Wal-Mart'sstrategy is all wrong. When we bought a chain of stores called Kuhn's Big K in 1981which took us eastof the Mississippi for the first time in a significant wayseveral reports said we were taking on more thanwe could handle, and that we would never make it once we got to Atlanta or New Orleans. We've hadreports predicting that when we got to St. Louis, or wherever, and met somereal competition, we wouldnever be able to stay profitable. Our demise has been predicted ever since we hit the stock market. Andwhenever one of these big institutional investors reads something like that, and decides he believes it, heunloads a million shares, or 500,000 shares, and in the past that has created some fluctuations in the priceof our stock.

Just a couple of years ago, we had some retail analysts worrying that we couldn't sustain a 20 percentannual growth rate because we were getting so big. At the time, I said I would be tickled to death with20 percent. I mean, when we were doing $25 billion a year in sales, 20 percent was $5 billion, which isbigger in itself than most retailers. But these folks thought a $5 billion increase would be a disaster for us.

In the meantime, look what's happened to the industry. Nowadays, we're heroes because we're stillshowing double-digit growth. If we do 20 percent, it's the lead item on the national news broadcastsbecause they view it as an economic indicator. The point is, all those analysts may have had perfectlylogical theories about why a 20 percent increase would be a disaster for us. But they failed to see that ina big economic downturn, when everybody is suffering, Wal-Mart's fundamental strengths would keep usgoing strong. And we would look great compared to everybody else.

As companies get larger, with a broader following of investors, it becomes awfully tempting to get intothat jet and go up to Detroit or Chicago or New York and speak to the bankers and the people whoown your stock. But since we got our stock jump-started in the beginning, I feel like our time is betterspent with our own people in the stores, rather than off selling the company to outsiders. I don't think anyamount of public relations experts or speeches in New York or Boston means a darn thing to the value ofthe stock over the long haul. I think you get what you're worth. Not that we don't go out of our way tokeep Wall Street up to date on what's going on with the company. For the last few years, in fact, a groupcalled the United Shareholders Association has voted us the number-one company in the U.S. based onour responsiveness to shareholders.

What's really worried me over the years is not our stock price, but that we might someday fail to takecare of our customers, or that our managers might fail to motivate and take care of our associates. I alsowas worried that we might lose the team concept, or fail to keep the family concept viable and realisticand meaningful to our folks as we grow. Those challenges are more real than somebody's theory thatwe're headed down the wrong path.

As business leaders, we absolutely cannot afford to get all caught up in trying to meet the goals thatsome retail analyst or financial institution in New York sets for us on a ten-year plan spit out of acomputer that somebody set to compound at such-and-such a rate. If we do that, we take our eye offthe ball. But if we demonstrate in our sales and our earnings every day, every week, every quarter, thatwe're doing our job in a sound way, we will get the growth we are entitled to, and the market will respectus in a way that we deserve. Our associates and our customersmany of whom are now stockholderstoowill all be better served if we perform consistently over the next ten years, whether it is at a 15percent rate or a 20 percent rate or a 25 percent rate.

If we fail to live up to somebody's hypothetical projection for what we should be doing, I don't care. Itmay knock our stock back a little, but we're in it for the long run. We couldn't care less about what isforecast or what the market says we ought to do. If we listened very seriously to that sort of stuff, wenever would have gone into small-town discounting in the first place.


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