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TMFEditorsDesk (< 20)

Notes from Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's Visit to Fool HQ

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July 14, 2009 – Comments (5) | RELATED TICKERS: WFM

A great perk of working at the Fool is the fantastic speakers who pay us a visit...my personal favorite is one of my idols -- Michael Lewis of Moneyball, The Blind Side, and Liar's Poker fame, who stopped by a few weeks ago. You can see a summary here: (http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2009/07/01/lessons-from-the-financial-crisis.aspx)

Anyhoo, John Mackey, the co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Whole Foods swung by today. He spoke and answered some of our questions. I loved his idealism and candor. Here are some interesting points from his talk.

- He talked about conscious capitalism...that corporations can be more than profit-machines. He asserted that, like happiness for individuals, corporatations are better served indirectly striving for profit-maximization. People who focus on happiness tend to be selfish and narcissistic.  They rarely reach their goal of happiness.  Likewise, corporations that focus solely on profit can alienate their customers, employees, and suppliers.  They are better served striving for 4 ideals (three of them Plato's, the last added by Mackey): The Good, The True, The Beautiful, and The Heroic.

- He doesn't buy the traditional stereotype that corporations are evil and non-profits are good. He thinks both have similar success factors and that both can do great good when entrepreneurial spirit is properly harnessed.

- Speaking of which (just in case you're wondering if Whole Foods practices conscious capitalism), Whole Foods has a ton of innovative charity endeavors including a Peace Corps-esque program it allows employees and suppliers to participate in. Another example is a micro-financing program.  Two stats that jumped out about the program were that 99% of the loans go to women and 99% of the loans are paid back.  Am I the only one who's wondering if the 1% of delinquent loans are all men? 

- They joke at Whole Foods HQ that they could make more money in real estate than as a grocer. When a Whole Foods enters an area, real estate prices in the neighborhood shoot up. Aside from sweetheart leases, they haven't figured out a way to monetize the phenomenon. An example in DC is the P Street store (which he was here to visit b/c they won a charity drive contest)...the neighborhood around the store revitalized big time after it came.

- Let's end on a life philosophy note. Mackey doesn't believe in traditional retirement.  He hates the idea of working yourself silly until your 50's or 60's and then doing nothing.  He says he'll stay at Whole Foods until it stops being fun or until they kick him out. 

-Anand Chokkavelu (who owns shares of Whole Foods but doesn't like their prepared foods)

5 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On July 14, 2009 at 7:46 PM, TMFBent (99.81) wrote:

I didn't get to see this. I had a couple of questions. One was about the whole sock puppet thing. The other was: Dude, why do I have to pay $3 for bread crumbs at your store when they're a quarter at Safeway?

 

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#2) On July 14, 2009 at 10:17 PM, TMFRhino (98.24) wrote:

Because Whole Foods only sells the finest free-range, grass-fed croutons (or bread crumbs, if you will).

I also found John Mackey to be an engaging and candid speaker. I think my favorite part was during the Q&A when an audience member asked about China's development and he responded, "See, this is what happens when you're famous or well-known, people ask you questions about things you have no right answering, I mean... come on, I'm a grocer. Now that being said, I do have an opinion on China." It was all pretty funny in delivery. 

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#3) On July 14, 2009 at 10:51 PM, TMFEditorsDesk (< 20) wrote:

Oh yeah, Eric, that one was great one!  I really don't need to know Gwyneth Paltrow's opinion on whether global warming is scientifically proven out or Keanu Reeves' thoughts on anything more complex than "the perfect hair product."

-Anand

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#4) On July 15, 2009 at 11:55 AM, ReadEmAnWeep (57.07) wrote:

You guys should add an option to be alerted when someone comments after you. Similar to facebook, on comments for status and pictures.

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#5) On July 15, 2009 at 11:56 AM, ReadEmAnWeep (57.07) wrote:

There a lot of converstions going on and it is hard to keep track of all of them by just following a post. Then when it slows down and I unfollow I will never hear the end of it.

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