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Nightly Business Report Presents Lasting Leadership: What You Can Learn from the Top 25 Business People of our Times by Robbie Shell, Sandeep Junnarkar, Susan Warner, Jeffrey Brown, Mukul Pandya

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6. Using Price to Gain Competitive Advantage

Sam Walton was just plain cheap. He learned the value of a dollar early from his parents, who struggled to raise their family during the Great Depression. His father worked at a mortgage company and foreclosed on farms; his mother set up a family-run milk business. The two quarreled incessantly, except about one topic. “One thing my mom and dad shared completely was their approach to money: They just didn’t spend it,” Walton writes in his autobiography, Sam Walton: Made in America.

That devotion to a bargain became the foundation for Wal-Mart. Walton always resisted the temptation to move up profit margins at the expense of price; he lived by a simple formula: “Say I bought an item for 80 cents. I ...

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