retail news in context, analysis with attitude

A story in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the new Wegmans store, after describing all the innovations in the new unit, featured this quote from CEO Danny Wegman:

“I think we are a life-changing experience, and I say that with humility.”

Reading that, I was reminded of a similar comment from Hy-Vee CEO Ric Jurgens, who was telling me why he believed so fervently in the nutritional labeling program that his company was adopting:

“I want to change the world.”

I’ve worked for a number of people in my life, but I think it is fair to say that I’ve never worked for anyone who believed - or said - that they wanted our efforts to result in changing people’s lives or changing the world. And we were in the information business, where you’d think that shaping opinions and changing lives would be a natural goal. Mostly, the guys I’ve worked for were about making the numbers.

Both Danny Wegman and Ric Jurgens run companies that have as their chief goal helping people to feed themselves intelligently, responsibly, and creatively. That is a noble cause, and they treat it that way. Maybe it is because both Wegmans and Hy-Vee are private companies, but I don’t think it is coincidental that they use similar words to describe their missions.

Think of the message they are sending ... and not just to customers and the media. They are saying to the people throughout their organizations that they have a higher purpose. The guy who stocks the shelves, or the woman who runs the deli counter, or the people at the front end - they hear their CEOs and cannot help but think that they aren’t just supermarket employees. They are engaged in something more. It gives them a better reason to go to work in the morning, and to do their jobs better, to be more productive, to be an ambassador and advocate for the companies that employ them.

That’s what I call leadership worth emulating.

That’s my Friday morning eye-opener.

- Kevin Coupe
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