This American supermarket chain selects the finest natural and organic foods available, maintains the strictest quality standards in the industry, and has an unshakeable commitment to sustainable agriculture. Stuffed full of organic and natural products, a Whole Foods store is a commodious, eye-popping, mouthwatering temple to guilt-free gastronomy. Whole Foods’ business model is built around a simple but powerful premise: people will pay a premium for food that’s good for them, good-tasting, and good for the environment.
The first Whole Foods Market store was founded in Austin, Texas, when four local businesspeople decided the natural foods industry was ready for a supermarket format. Among the founders was John Mackey, the current CEO. The original Whole Foods Market opened in 1980 with a staff of 19 people. It was an immediate success. At the time, there were less than half a dozen natural food supermarkets in the United States.
Whole Foods Market is a mission-driven organization. This is the purpose of the organization: “With great courage, integrity and love, we embrace our responsibility to co-create a world where each of us, our communities and our planet can flourish. All the while, celebrating the sheer love and joy of food. Among the core values are: to sell the highest quality natural and organic products available, to promote the health of stakeholders through healthy eating education, to satisfy, delight and nourish the customers, to support team member excellence and happiness, to serve and support local and global communities.
Gary Hamel wrote about Whole Foods Market business model in his book The Future of Management: “What binds Whole Foods’ more than 30.000 associates into a community is a common cause-to reverse the industrialization of the world’s food supply and give people better things to eat.”
Everyone who joins Whole Foods quickly grasps the primacy of teamwork. The staff is divided in autonomous teams, which are responsible for vitamins, vegetables and fruit, etc. Teams have the power to approve new hires for full-time jobs. Store leaders screen candidates and recommend them for a job on a specific team. But it takes a two-thirds vote of the team, after what is usually a 30-day trial period, for the candidate to become a full-time employee. This hiring referendum affects the behavior of everyone involved in the process: the job candidate, the team, the store team leader.
According to Gary Hamel, putting so much authority in the hands of associates requires that top management trusts them to do the right thing for the business. Conversely, team members will stay motivated over the long term only If they trust top management to let them share in the bounty of their own productivity. Whole Foods builds that trust in a variety of ways. Moreover, the folks at Whole Foods have worked to build a company that feels more like a community than a hierarchy.
It’s one of the most popular aphorisms in business: what gets measured gets done. Whole Foods takes that simple proposition to remarkable extremes — and then shares what it measures with everyone in the company. John Mackey calls it a “no-secrets” management philosophy. “In most companies,” he says, “management controls information and therefore controls people. By sharing information, we stay aligned to the vision of shared fate.”