A parable. Of sorts.
Just then a young man came up to Forrest to test him, saying, “Sam Walton, the late billionaire who founded Walmart, taught us to succeed already.”
“Well what did he tell us after he became a billionaire?” Forrest asked him.
And the young man answered him: “Sam taught us thusly: ‘There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.'”
“He has spoke correctly,” Forrest told him. “In this is the secret of all career success.”
The young man smirked, knowing that he had shown up manasclerk. But as he turned to go, he heard Forrest ask him one more thing.
“The real question is one he does not tell you the answer to,” Forrest said. “Who, then, is my actual customer?”
Forrest took up the question and said:
“A salesman was hired by a man to sell quidgets. The salesman had heard Walton’s pearl of great wisdom about who his boss really is. He thus put the customer first in all his workings and his sales numbers broke all records. He was surprised when his boss fired him after only six months.
“For his boss had held the sales record previously, and said in his heart, ‘This new guy is getting too much attention. Soon he will be gunning for my job!’ To preserve his own flesh, he fired the salesman who, because he now had a spotty employment record, was considered unhireable and spent the rest of his life living beneath a bridge.
“So I ask you, who was this man’s true customer: the person who paid the company or the person who paid him?”
“That’s the way it goes,” Forrest told him. “Performance does not make you successful. Power comes to those whom know who butters their bread.”
The smirking young man lost his smirk and went away very sad, for he knew that Sam Walton had deliberately lied to him.
Yardmaster in railroad yards working, Amarillo, TX, 1943. By Jack Delano via Library of Congress Collection (LOC). Public domain.