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So he obtained a pilot's license and bought a small, single-engine plane to make store visits.

Walton soon discovered another use for the plane: scouting prospective store sites. Walton swooped down as low as possible and eyeballed a community from end to end. From the air he could better observe traffic patterns, see which direction the town was growing and evaluate the location of potential competitors. If Walton saw a site he liked, he landed at the nearest airstrip, found out who owned the property and tried to cut a deal right away.

After Wal-Mart grew to about 130 stores, Walton no longer had time for aerial site prospecting. But he encouraged his associates to observe how potential sites looked from above.

Lesson: Even if you aren't a pilot, the small price to hire someone to provide an aerial perspective of a possible purchase could yield a wealth of information you may not see as clearly from the ground.

Source: "Made in America: My Story," by Sam Walton with John Huey, Doubleday.

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Articles in our Entrepreneur’s Resource Center appeared in print and online newsletters published previously by the foundation. More than 1,000 articles can be found in the categories below, addressing timeless challenges faced by entrepreneurs of all types.