President and CEO of Wal-Mart Doug McMillon (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President and CEO of Wal-Mart Doug McMillon (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

You’ve probably seen at least one episode of “Lifestyles of The Rich and Famous” with host Robin Leach.

Mansions, jewelry, boats, yachts, villas, art and clothes all priced way beyond anything we as mere “pay-check-to paycheck” mortals could ever imagine. We wonder how they did it.

Did They Earn It?

Some didn’t do anything to earn it. Most of the Walton families, owners of the controlling shares of the Walmart Empire, do nothing but cash checks from stock options. They have never had to work a day in their lives.

But they only account for 30 percent of the worlds richest. Seventy percent ran with an idea that made them very wealthy. Many came from humble or poor beginnings. Some did it quickly while others developed their wealth over many years of work.

Greed Is Good, Greed Is Right — Greed Works

A paraphrasing of Michael Douglas’s character, Gordon Gekko, from the movie “Wall Street.”

Let’s compare two definitions:

  • Greed (Latin, avaritia), also known as avarice, cupidity, or covetousness, is the inordinate desire to possess wealth, goods, or objects of abstract value with the intention to keep it for one's self, far beyond the dictates of basic survival and comfort. It is applied to a markedly high desire for and pursuit of wealth, status, and power.
  • Entrepreneur First used in 1723, today the term entrepreneur implies qualities of leadership, initiative and innovation in business. Economist Robert Reich has called team-building, leadership, and management ability essential qualities for the entrepreneur.

After 50 years in business and talking with thousands of business owners all over the United States I can honestly tell you that no corporate giant lives by the definition of “Greed” shown above.

You can’t reach the highest levels of business without the help of a lot of people and those people desire two things.

One, they want your respect for their contribution to both their success and yours. Two, they expect to be adequately compensated for their contribution. Are they greedy to desire those two things?

The Income Gap

People are always complaining about the difference between the paycheck of the worker on the factory floor and the CEO in the corner office. The CEO’s check has gotten bigger over the years is the common lament. It’s unfair they say.

What makes it unfair?

Is a baseball player making millions playing a children’s game any different than a CEO making the same income? Why are we not using professional athletes as an example of income inequality? Why aren’t they the bad guys?

The reason is simple. We can see the contribution, or lack of it, on the field. The player produces so that justifies the salary in our minds. The team wins and the high payday is justified.

Yet a CEO does exactly the same thing but it’s unseen. The CEO directs the company to be more profitable. Just as a good player puts more paying customers in the seats a good CEO puts the company’s products in more people’s hands.

Over the course of time they have both made their companies more profitable yet one is idolized while the other is a selfish, greedy, capitalist, robber baron.

Some Final Thoughts

Doug McMillon (above) is the current CEO of Walmart. How did he get there? He started with Walmart as a summer associate while pursuing his MBA. He became a full time employee working on the Walmart loading dock in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Twenty-five years later he’s appointed CEO of Walmart.

Greedy? Selfish? Capitalistic Corporate Shill? Do you believe he thought, “Just a matter of time and I’ll be CEO and rich.”

What’s his yearly salary? He earns $1.2 million for running the world’s largest retailer. His total compensation package is $19.4 million.

But that compensation package is based on his performance and he’s not paid $19.4 million every year.

He will make or lose money if Walmart stock rises or falls. He gets no bonus.

Half the professional athletes playing today make as much as he does in a month.

The cutoff for the top 100 professional athletes keeps rising and is now $18.8 million, up from $17.3 million last year and $16.4 million in 2013.

Doug McMillon should be as much of a successful role model as LeBron James or Kobe Bryant.

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