Thursday, after visiting the Walmart museum in Bentonville, AR, I was at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. The museum was designed by Moshe Safdie and is an amazing and wonderful place. We had made our way through about half the galleries, taken an architecture tour and eaten lunch at Eleven (named because the museum opened on November 11, 2011). As we continued through the rest of the art galleries, we ran into an older woman walking a dog. Yes, walking a dog in the museum. The dog wasn’t wearing the normal service animal vest so I thought it was odd that he was there. I like dogs, so I asked if I could pet him and the lady said, “Of course. He loves to be petted.”
As I bent to pet “Friday”, the woman was making normal small talk about the dog and how much he enjoyed coming to the museum to visit with the kids (though they were there that day for a special event.) She then said they were planning to write a children’s book about Friday coming to the museum, from the dog’s point of view, and call it “Friday Comes on Tuesday.”
It was only after I stood back up that I realized I was talking to Alice Walton, one of the richest women in the world. Alice is one of three heirs to the Walmart fortune. On November 11, 2011, she opened the Crystal Bridges museum to house an amazing private collection of American art. Alice continues to be active in ongoing acquisitions and in the museum programming. Admission to the museum is free and there is a program to reimburse schools for their expenses in taking a field trip there. Alice Walton is also heavily involved in the Walton Family Foundation which supports K-12 education and economic development.
Sam Walton started what is now Walmart with a single Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, AR. At the time of Mr. Walton’s death in 1992, the company employed 380,000 people, had annual sales of nearly $50 billion, 1,735 Walmarts, 212 Sam’s Clubs, and 13 Supercenters. Today Walmart has 11,438 locations worldwide, revenue of over $500 billion and employs 2.2 million people. Sam Walton said, “If we work together, we’ll lower the cost of living for everyone…we’ll give the world an opportunity to see what it’s like to save and have a better life.”
What I ended up taking away from this trip, other than the joy of seeing amazing art and architecture, was how critical focus is. Sam Walton was a very focused individual. He never wavered from his idea that if you gave people a better price and great service they would shop locally. To this day the quote above is the driving force behind everything Walmart does.
Whether you like Walmart or not, their success is due to that focus. “What” they focused on profoundly impacted “who” they became. Alice Walton’s focus on art and education is why Crystal Bridges exists. The buildings themselves are a result of the focus of Mr. Safdie who is committed to designing architecture that responds to human needs and aspirations. The art on display is a testimony to hundreds of American artists whose passion leads them to create works that speak to us. We often think it is money or power that brings these things into existence, and of course both are very helpful, but focus (commitment, passion) is the driving force.
At Kimray our focus is on making a difference in the lives of those we serve. We are committed to supporting that mission with our four core values: Honoring the Lord, Strengthening the Family, Being Responsible Stewards, and Maintaining Our Good Name. Finally, undergirding everything is our passionate belief in the intrinsic and equal value of everyone.
As Walmart grew and the world around them changed, so did the methods they used to fulfill their mission. The Walmart of today is very different than that first 5 & 10 store in Newport. Likewise, the Kimray of today is very different from the handful of manual machines in a rented storefront on Western in those first few years. The Kimray of tomorrow will be very different still.
Friday is passionate about coming to the museum on Tuesdays to visit the children. I will be very interested to read the book when it comes out to see his view of the museum.
Our passion is to see people’s lives change.
What defines Kimray is not growth. It isn’t building valves. It isn’t diversification. It isn’t our location or our buildings. What defines Kimray is our focus on making a difference in everything we do. That is our commitment. That is our passion. That is the Kimray Way.