One of my favourite entrepreneurs of all time was a man named Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, the American retail giant.
Its almost hard to imagine that just over 50 years ago, he started a company which has annual sales of just less than $500bn, and employs over 2m. It is the largest company in the world.
When he died in 1992 his wealth was divided between his wife and children, most of whom are still alive. The combined wealth that he left his heirs is currently at $175bn. If Sam were still alive, he would be worth twice more than Bill Gates.
Now, why am I talking about Sam Walton?
He was a “FAST follower”.
I remember reading his autobiography, called “Made In America”, when it first came out.
This guy began his business as what we call in Africa, “a flea market trader”. No hi-tech, here; just a savvy guy who knew how to buy and sell cheap clothes, and other household utensils.
– I read his little book over and over again. Not because I wanted to buy and sell clothes, but because I needed to understand how this guy built such a large business. It was amazing!
The most successful Fast Followers, are those who already have a grounding, in a particular field, and stay in it. They don’t jump about from business to business. They make themselves master of one game:
They watch everything that goes on in that game, always trying to anticipate the next thing… But they don’t get into things they don’t know.
You must be in the race, before you can chase. A Fast Follower knows they are already in the game. Steve Jobs did not look for opportunities running a PIZZA company or try to develop Real Estate.
Bill Gates, was a Fast Follower, in areas around computer software. This is how he made his money. He stayed focused in his chosen field:
Success requires you to be both a “a FAST leader”, as well as a “FAST follower”. This is because sometimes you get the chance to be the one who pioneers something new, but more often than not you must also be ready to be a “fast follower”, if the situation calls for it.
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa