Retail billionaire John Menard rules his hardware chain Menards with an iron fist. He demands that everyone, including executives, punch a time clock. He decides where merchandise is set in the store and even which product cleans the floors. Managers who don’t comply with his rules get fined. His employees have hit back with a number of high-profile lawsuits. Menards has already settled one case over age discrimination and another with African-Americans who claimed they were systematically denied promotions.
Menard grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and started building farm structures around his hometown while in college at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He sold leftover lumber on Saturdays, when regular lumberyards were closed, and eventually started adding other products like shingles and nails. He founded Menards in 1964, 14 years before billionaires Arthur Blank and Bernie Marcus founded rival Home Depot.