retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Dayton Daily News had an interview the other day with Rob Connelly, the president of Henny Penny, in which he discussed the company's conversion to employee ownership.

"We think what makes a difference at Henny Penny is that we try to have people first," Connelly says. "I don’t want to imply that we are perfect or that we’re the only good company around — but we feel pride and feel special about the way we treat people and the benefits we enjoy by being privately held. We don’t feel that stockholder pressure many companies do. We care about the numbers, but we’re not doing what a lot of public companies have to do in the short term to show good numbers for a quarter. So your bias is different when you have a long view — you can really build value and relationships with suppliers, customers, the community. It’s better for business. Publicly held is a different game — not bad, just different. Rugby vs. soccer. But we feel fortunate to have this long-view, privately held culture."

While the ESOP model won't work for everyone, I've always been a big fan because it institutionalizes something that I do think every company ought to do - build a culture in which, by investing in employees, these same employees will feel invested in the business. Too many companies have cultures in which top execs reap all the benefits, and are rewarded based on how low they can drive labor costs. Efficiency is prized over effectiveness. Values are less important than value. And while that may have short-term benefits, and I think the long-term repercussions are likely to be negative.

And I love this other quote from Connelly:

"Our culture ... is that we don’t hire jerks. There are plenty of cultures where they don’t care if you’re a jerk, as long as you deliver. We don’t believe that. We think it’s important that you play well with others. We value that, and we think we’re better for it, and we’ll keep it going. This is a very low-ego place. We know how to get things done, and how to do things for people."

This is a very good piece, about a terrific company, and worth reading here.
KC's View: