There's a demonstration against Whole Foods going on now in Washington, D.C., mostly because CEO John Mackey recently penned an anti-government health care op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. (Full disclosure: Mackey has contributed to Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website.) And instead of simply standing athwart ObamaCare, he actually offered up a series of sensible, market-oriented reforms that should be given a shot.
As the protesters protest, take a moment to read the great 2005 roundtable debate Reason staged with Mackey, economist Milton Friedman, and Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers. Since its publication, it's been one of our most widely read and discussed stories. A snippet from Mackey's opening salvo:
The most successful businesses put the customer first, ahead of the investors. In the profit-centered business, customer happiness is merely a means to an end: maximizing profits. In the customer-centered business, customer happiness is an end in itself, and will be pursued with greater interest, passion, and empathy than the profit-centered business is capable of.
Not that we're only concerned with customers. At Whole Foods, we measure our success by how much value we can create for all six of our most important stakeholders: customers, team members (employees), investors, vendors, communities, and the environment. Our philosophy is graphically represented in the opposite column.
There is, of course, no magical formula to calculate how much value each stakeholder should receive from the company. It is a dynamic process that evolves with the competitive marketplace. No stakeholder remains satisfied for long. It is the function of company leadership to develop solutions that continually work for the common good.