Bill Kilbride knew Wal-Mart was going to be big even when the retailer had fewer than 1,000 stores nationwide. As president of Mohawk, Kilbride wanted his company to have a piece of that growth.
So he visited Wal-Mart's headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., roughly 10 times in the 1980s to convince the retailer to sell his area rugs and bath mats. His persistence paid off when Wal-Mart placed its first order in 1989.
"It was the beginning of a lot of work and a lot of building," Kilbride said. "We were in the big leagues."
Mohawk employed about 115 people when it signed on with Wal-Mart. Today, he has about 1,600 employees and ships hundreds of thousands of rugs to nearly 4,000 Wal-Mart stores each day.