While Walmart is frequently maligned over many issues -- rapacious capitalism, ruthless bargaining that cuts margins for small manufacturers, and low pay to name a few -- it's hard to ignore the sheer sophistication of their operations. But the road to streamlining Walmart's operation wasn't smooth.

Here are three problems they encountered, and what you can learn from their journey:

1. Inventory Control + Mismanagement = Empty Shelves

In 2013, Walmart was losing money over the same issue every retailer has to deal with, inventory control. Their stock room was a disorganized mess, shelves with fast-moving goods were empty, and they had huge stocks of goods they couldn't move taking up space, collecting dust, and sucking up worker time. After $3 billion in lost sales -- one percent of their $300 billion annual revenue -- company executives knew they had to make changes.

Walmart needed a comprehensive, item-specific inventory control program, and if you're a retailer, you need one, too. An inFlow Inventory survey found that 41 percent of small businesses are using Excel or Access spreadsheets to track inventory, and 32 percent are using pen and paper. Some have no inventory system at all. Considering the options available today, those numbers are astounding.

How do you solve this problem on a small business budget? Even though your business may not have billions in profits to build enterprise software, or the same giant network of stores and suppliers, you can get the same quality of control over your inventory and realize significant savings with a third-party system.

With a solid inventory system, you'll know what's in stock, what's selling fast, and what's not moving. You can track trends and plan ahead by predicting when you're likely to run out of popular items. Savvy retailers turn to SaaS inventory management systems like InFlow to get all the features of a custom enterprise system with a much smaller price tag.

2. Underpaid + Undertrained Employees = Poor Customer Service

In 2015, Walmart was on a downward trajectory. They were making the classic mistake of taking too much profit for investors. The result was a sparse and demoralized workforce, customer satisfaction at an all-time low, and a snowballing social media disaster fueled by their apparent disdain for worker concerns.

Oliver Isaacs, founder of opinion-based social network Amirite.com commented, "I believe that being able to innovate and think outside the box is no longer optional, but essential, there will always be fierce competition, so I think it's important to always think differently and innovate."

To turn things around, Walmart announced raises for the entire workforce, with the minimum wage starting at $9 per hour, with average wages coming in at $13 per hour. The higher wages came with better training and more job stability.

For small and medium business, the lesson is clear. Your workers are your profit. Invest in them first, leaving the vacation house on the lake for when you can afford it without strangling your business. Walmart knew they would take a hit in profits for the first few years, but expected a happier, better trained workforce to result in happier customers and higher sales. By May of 2016, the gambit had begun to pay off. Walmart profits were up.

Trevor Gormley, founder of The Millennial View mentioned, "We continually challenge the norm. It is super cliché, but until companies understand they don't need to look like Google to attract and retain millennials, companies will continue to waste money on poor solutions that don't add true substance or help turnover."

3. Poverty + Few Employees = Crime Wave

Walmart is a deep discount store, often located in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the nation. With fewer employees on the floor to keep an eye on things, and even automated checkout lanes, Walmart made it easy to shoplift. And with the effects of the recession hitting poor neighborhoods hardest, Walmart had the makings of an epic crime wave.

Walmart chose a multi-pronged approach that makes sense for any business. They moved more employees to the exits and installed eye-level camera surveillance. They also chose a more compassionate approach to shoplifters, instituting a program where thieves can pay a fine and attend a theft-deterrent class.

Walmart's experience can help you avoid the same issues, reduce costs, and better serve your customers. If a huge business like Walmart can be rocked by the loss of billions to such common problems, just imagine the financial impact on a small business.

Chances are you're on a tight budget and can't afford to make mistakes. Avoid making Walmart's mistakes by implementing solutions before issues become a huge drain on your budget.