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Bill Child

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Bill Child was the owner of the R.C. Willey furnishings chain. He is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Warren Buffett, one of America's ricest men, purchased the R.C. Willey chain of stores from Child in 1995.

R.C. Willey furniture stores began as a small operation in Syracuse, Utah, with $250,000 in annual sales. Their earliest television commercials ended with a jingle telling viewers when and where shoppers could come, but "Never on Sunday." Buffett was expected to keep this tradition when he took over the chain, and Child turned down more lucrative offers for the company in order to control this and other aspects of the business. Child had already decided to take the company outside of Utah, especially since R.C. Willey already claimed over 50% of Utah's market share. Child wanted the first store outside of Utah to be opened in Las Vegas, NV, but Buffett felt the Sunday closing would cause the business to fail.

Statistics showed that 23% of home furnishing sales were transacted on Sunday, and analysts figured that would increase to about 35% in Las Vegas. Child suggested Boise, Idaho, as an alternative, but Buffet refused, thinking Utah was the only state where a furniture store closed on Sundays could succeed, and knowing there were already entrenched businesses in Boise that were open on Sunday. Child decided he would rather not expand his business, if it meant compromising his principles. Pursuing a new idea, Child offerred to purchase the land and erect the building personally (a $9 million investment), and then watch the business for six months to see if it was successful. Buffett agreed, but with the caveat that the business had to do $30 million the first year to be considered successful. Child agreed, and offerred to sell the store back to Buffett at cost, if it were successful. Sales exceeded $4 million the first month in Boise, and $50 million the first year. Buffett was so impressed, that he featured the success story in the Annual Chairman's Letter, issued to Berkshire Hathaway's shareholders, spotlighting Child's unshakable religious convictions.

Child said, "Closing on Sunday allows everyone in our business to refresh and do their church work. If you miss church a few times, soon it becomes a habit. We have been able to attract better people to work for us because of this rule. They have worked at other stores, but change to work for us just because of this reason. Closing on Sunday pushes you to be better than your competition. It is an incentive to do a better job, have better pricing, better products, and better service. We have to be innovative. We have to be creative in our advertising, offer more and better" (as quoted in Meridian Magazine). [1]

R.C. Willey now has stores in Utah, California, Nevada, and Idaho. In every location they outpace their competition. The store locator page on the R.C. Willey website states the following: "Regular Store hours 10:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sunday."


Read more in How to Build a Business Warren Buffett Would Buy: The R.C. Willey Story, by Jeff Benedict, with a forward by Warren Buffett.

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