My column on and Q&A with John Mackey of Whole Foods and Kip Tindell of the Container Store, who were housemates in college and now both run companies on the principle that employees and customers come before shareholders, has been generating some intriguing responses.
I heard from another of their University of Texas housemates, an economist-turned-yoga-association-director (a career path to emulate) who knew all about Mackey but had no idea Tindell had turned into some kinda big cheese too.
I heard from a reader who wrote:
Tindell and Mackey might be interested that Abe Lincoln had this to say about their business philosophy. “Inasmuch as most good things are produced by labor, it follows that all such things of right belong to those whose labor produced them. But it has so happened in all ages of the world that some have labored and others have without labor enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong and should not continue. To secure to each laborer the whole product of his labor, or as nearly as possible, is a worth object of any good government.” I wonder how many business leaders and others who venerate Lincoln as an icon to emulate, including Mr. Bush, know this was his view. I wonder if Tindell and Mackey know it…even though they practice it.
And via the magic of Google Alerts, I heard from my long-ago Fortune colleague Rob Walker (Hi Rob!), who wrote in his Murketing blog:
Maybe these companies are exceptions, but I think there’s some value in at least considering the idea that Fox is writing about. And also about the broader idea underneath it, which is one I’ve thought about a lot lately as I’ve been out and about talking to some manager-and-executive-type people about Buying In. That broader issue is that I think a lot of companies that sense the need for a change are way more focused on changing their image (via marketing) than in changing their business practices.
Then Rob quoted something he’d written elsewhere:
There’s a widespread tendency to think “branding” just means logos and slogans and ads. I see branding more broadly, as the process of attaching an idea to a product. That idea lives in consumers’ heads and can come from an ad campaign—but it can also come from direct experiences. It doesn’t matter if the advertising for a drugstore chain depicts kindly pharmacists going out of their way to help—and the actual experience you or I have at that chain in real life involves a dirty store and a rude pharmacist who makes you wait around for no reason and screws up your prescription—well, the idea that gets attached to that drugstore chain’s brand is going to be the one that comes from real life.