Finding Meaning in the Workplace

John Mackey opened a small health food store in Austin in 1978, which in 1980 merged with another local natural foods store to form the foundation on which Whole Foods Market was born. Mackey has led Whole Foods Market since the beginning through mergers and internal development to create a FORTUNE 500 company.  Whole Foods is now one of the top 12 supermarket companies in America and the world's largest natural foods retail chain.

Mackey says his business philosophy is to act with care and responsibility toward all of the various stakeholder groups of the company and to operate Whole Foods Market with social and environmental responsibility. He was named 2003 Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young.

  • Transcript


John Mackey: I think it’s absolutely essential that the people that work for a company need to feel that they’re part of something bigger, that it’s not just a job.  They want to have self-esteem.  They want to feel like their work is contributing to a sense of their own worth and purpose and also self-actualization.  They want to feel that they’re able to creatively express themselves completely.  And it’s very difficult to do either the self-esteem or the self-actualization if you don’t feel that your company has a purpose that’s contributing to the betterment of society in some way.

One of the most important things we do is we’ve organized our stores and our workforce into teams.  People need to have that sense of that community, and we need to feel that we’re part of a group, that we’re an essential part of it, that we’re contributing to that group, and that our work… that people depend on us, that our work makes a difference--not only to the larger community but it makes a difference to the people that we’re working with, that if we’re not there, then the team suffers. 

And then from that foundation piece, the allowing the teams to be self-managing and allowing people to be creative and their ideas matter, you get the self-esteem of achievement and you begin to get the creativity that is important in self-actualization. 

Directed / Produced by
Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd