John Mackey is best known as the college drop-out who (along with his girlfriend) cobbled together $45,000 to start a small health food store called SaferWay in Austin, Texas. Later Mackey joined his store with the Clarksville Natural Grocery and renamed the business, WholeFoods Market.
Soon after opening their doors, WholeFoods Market was destroyed by a flood, leaving Mackey with no savings, no insurance, no inventory, and about $400,000 in losses. As the water receded, the company’s loyal customers arrived to join employees in cleaning up and salvaging what they could of the business. As Mackey tells the story: “They said to us, in effect, ‘Come on, guys; let’s get to work. Let’s clean it up and get this place back on its feet. We’re not going to let this store die. Stop moping and start mopping.’ You can imagine the galvanizing effect this had on us…” Twenty-eight days later, the store reopened.
From those humble, small business beginnings, WholeFoods has grown into a massive grocery store chain worth more than $16 billion.
Mackey is famously outspoken in defense of “free-enterprise or conscious capitalism” and truly believes that great businesses can impact communities in ways that no other organizations can. He has also been vilified for his criticism of unions and nationalized healthcare. Though we think, many of the controversial things he has said will ring true to other entrepreneurs, if not to his customers.
We are inspired by Mackey’s success as a small business owner as well as his commitment to building a company that makes a difference in the lives of all stakeholders, not just stockholders. Here are a few of the things he has said that we think other small business owners will find inspirational:
John Mackey Quotes About Running a Business
“Great companies have great purposes.”
“I believe that most of the greatest companies in the world also have great purposes… Having a deeper, more transcendent purpose is highly energizing for all of the various interdependent stakeholders, including the customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and the larger communities in which the business participates.”
“My philosophy is that life is all about learning and growing, and that life can be a real adventure of learning, growing, compassion, and joyfulness.”
“I never took a single business class. I am convinced now that this gap in my formal education actually worked to my advantage in the business world.”
“Just as people cannot live without eating, so a business cannot live without profits. But most people don’t live to eat, and neither must businesses live just to make profits.”
“…there can be little doubt that a certain amount of corporate philanthropy is simply good business and works for the long-term benefit of the investors.”
“Entrepreneurs are the true heroes in a free-enterprise economy, driving progress in business, society and the world. They solve problems by creatively envisioning different ways the world could and should be.”
“I think one of the most misunderstood things about business in America is that people are either doing things for altruistic reasons or they are greedy and selfish—just after profit. That type of dichotomy portrays a false image of business… The whole idea is to do both.”
“For us, our most important stakeholder is not our stockholders, it is our customers. We’re in business to serve the needs and desires of our core customer base.”
“To learn and grow, one must take chances and be willing to make mistakes.”
“…follow your heart wherever it takes you. Choose love instead of fear. If you do, a wonderful life adventure awaits you! Carpe diem!”
—John Mackey, Author and Founder of WholeFoods Market