Scaling The Wal

Learning Curve

Whether you can leverage the Wal-Mart cachet to boost sales elsewhere is not necessarily the point. The real benefits of working with Wal-Mart go deeper than that. "The exciting thing is that in dealing with Wal-Mart, you become a better company," says Charles Monte. "You learn how to sell to a mass merchandiser, and that's a benefit some companies may not recognize."

Whether their products succeed or fail in Wal-Mart, entrepreneurs who have worked with the retailer value the education they've gained. "One thing we learned from [our experience with] Wal-Mart was to focus on our marketing plan," says Paul Cantrell. As a result, he's changing the company's distribution focus from mass retailers to automotive stores: "That's where our customer shops."

If you see Wal-Mart as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, or the finish line at the end of the race, you're thinking's all wrong. Instead, think of it as training for a marathon. You may win first place, or you may drop out halfway through. But however far you get, you'll likely be in better shape when the experience is over than you were before you began.

"Wal-Mart is a learning experience, and we're still learning," says Charles Monte. "It's a challenge, and we choose to rise to it."

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This article was originally published in the January 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Scaling The Wal.

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