In this debut book, a retired executive examines the genesis and evolution of his family’s business, Dollar General.
Turner was born three months after his grandfather and father established a wholesale business in 1939, the entrepreneurial seed that would eventually blossom into the iconic Dollar General. During the lean Depression years, retailers everywhere were going under. The Turners made a business of buying leftover inventories and selling them to healthier merchandisers or moving them through their own general store in Scottsville, Kentucky, at bargain prices. But the author’s father had an incurable penchant for overbuying and was chronically saddled with too much stock, so he began to sell that inventory in his own stores at a single price—one dollar—inspired by single-day sales popular at the time. The first Dollar General opened in Springfield, Kentucky, in 1955; went public in 1962; and by the time the author retired after serving a quarter century as its president, the company boasted $6 billion in annual sales, with nearly 6,000 locations and 60,000 employees. Turner’s impressively candid chronicle—written lucidly and sometimes affectingly with Simbeck—covers not only the company’s triumphs, but its dark days as well, including its brutal disputes with the Teamsters, a risky overexpansion in the ’80s, and an embarrassing accounting scandal in the early 2000s. The fulcrum of the intriguing tale is the dual joy and anguish of a family-run business—as CEO of the company, Turner fired his younger brother, Steve, and oversaw the forced expulsion of his father from the board of directors. The author also thoughtfully reflects on his own life and the lessons he learned from his father’s and grandfather’s examples, not only about business, but responsibility, family, and spirituality as well. Turner once considered becoming a preacher, but ultimately the family business issued a clarion call: “It turned out I was called into true ministry—ministry that matters in the real world, the world of hurt and pain and error and sin, which to my mind was an even higher calling than the institutional ministry.”
An edifying account of entrepreneurial success.