You Can Learn a Lot from John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods
By Joe Jarvis - March 05, 2018

Have you seen the media freaking out over Amazon buying Whole Foods?

The photos you may have seen of empty Whole Foods shelves were taken during this past season’s hurricanes when customers bought up supplies at a fast pace in case of emergency. It had nothing to do with the Amazon deal.

It is all fake news according to Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.

The truth is that Amazon and Whole Foods are very much in love. That’s the image Mackey chose to portray this past weekend during his two talks at Liberty Con in Washington DC. Mackey gave an interview at a dinner on Saturday night and the keynote speech on Sunday morning.

During the interview, he described the magic he felt when the Amazon and Whole Foods teams met for the first time to discuss their “marriage.” In any partnership, Mackey says each side should benefit, and that is what is happening.

“You know when you fall in love you have what I call ‘the conversation.’ You stay up all night and talk; and it’s like oh my god, it’s amazing, she’s the one. That’s how we experienced Amazon the first time we met them. We were finishing each others’ sentences before the first meeting was over.”

Customers need not worry about Amazon changing the culture of Whole Foods. Mackey says the best thing Whole Foods will get from Amazon is the customer centric attitude and cheaper prices. And Whole Foods might just insert a little wholesome natural vibe into Amazon’s business.

Mackey spoke about exciting things to come for the merger but said he couldn’t reveal those at this time. “You know how they say I could tell you but I’d have to kill you? Well, this is I could tell you, but Amazon would kill me.”

After the dinner, I asked John why he thought the media was casting the Whole Foods buyout as a controversy. He thinks it is the same old desire to create drama. Just a regular business transaction is not as exciting as a big scary company taking over a natural food store.

But he doesn’t think that is the same reason Amazon is so often cast as a bad guy in the media. That, he thinks, has more to do with Jeff Bezos being the richest man on Earth and possibly in history. That puts a target on his back.

And that might also explain why Trump bloviates about Amazon as well. Mackey criticized Trump for the recently announced tariffs on imported steel and aluminum. Mackey said this doesn’t make sense from an economics perspective.

But that is something he wouldn’t have understood before starting his business.

A Bunch of Hippies Selling Vegetable

At his talk on Sunday morning, Mackey shared his backstory about the beginning of Whole Foods. A young man in the 70’s, Mackey was the typical hippie. He dropped out of college to hitchhike across the country with a friend. Then he lived in co-op houses with other hippies, where he came up with the idea of starting a natural foods store.

And that is when his socialist hippie friends started calling him Darth Vader. How selfish of him to earn a profit while providing people with clean healthy food!

Yet he had to pay rent, source the vegetables, keep the lights on, and deal with everything else required to run a business. He didn’t even have a proper living space, choosing instead to convert the attic office into a bedroom every night. He says he probably broke health codes by using the industrial dishwasher to shower.

And he still wasn’t making much money. The first store was all natural to the point where Mackey couldn’t even exclusively shop there. They didn’t sell sugar, alcohol, or many processed foods.

When he merged with another natural food store, they started selling liquor, and some foods with sugar. That is what customers wanted, and what needed to happen in order to turn a profit.

But Mackey doesn’t think profits are the purpose of a company. Although a company cannot exist without profits, it is also true people cannot exist without breathing. But it does not follow that breathing is the purpose of existence. It is just something necessary to continue living.

Businesses ultimately only exist if they are serving the customer.

You have to go where the market is. That is how Whole Foods became the stomping ground of yuppies in California during the 80’s.

One early prospective investor declined to invest because he said Whole Foods just seemed like hippies selling food to other hippies, and that would never be a large enough market. He missed out.

Mackey came to the libertarian philosophy through serving others. Everyone benefits. Everyone gets richer.

And if you listen to Mackey, you shouldn’t be worried about big companies like Amazon taking over fan favorites like Whole Foods. Whole Foods only grew through mergers and partnerships in the first place. They acquired single owner health food stores in order to expand.

In voluntary relationships, every party can gain. It is not a zero-sum game, they can create more wealth together.

No one was coerced into buying or selling Whole Foods. Customers don’t have to shop there, workers don’t have to work there, and activist shareholders never had to buy or hold their stock.

Of course, as a business owner, Mackey is no stranger to others trying to insert themselves unwanted where they don’t belong. He was surpised when the merger was approved by the US government so quickly. It is unfortunate that the government has this power at all.

Mackey even stayed strong through a year and half of union protests outside his store, when the unions tried to coerce Whole Foods into unionizing its workers. But the Whole Food workers didn’t even want to unionize! They were fine the way they were and frankly didn’t want to pay union dues. Mackey and his workers won, despite the union leader’s thuggish promise that he would get what he wanted.

One other piece of wisdom John Mackey shared is especially important for anyone who wants to be successful.

On her deathbed, Mackey’s mother was disappointed in him. He had so much potential, she said, and he had become a simple grocer! She tried to make him promise that he would go back to college, and make something of his life.

Mackey would not make that promise. It didn’t feel right to him, and it was his life to live. That was the only way he was going to reach his full potential.

So in an attempt to appease his mother, he told her didn’t have to go back to school. He would be so successful that someday he would be awarded an honorary degree, he said.

Mackey received an Honorary Doctorate of commercial sciences from Bently in 2008 when he delivered their commencement address.

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  • Alan777

    The reason “Trump bloviates about Amazon” is more likely because Jeff Bezos owns the Washington “Compost” which is one of the biggest purveyors of fake news (lies) about Trump. Bezos rescued it from going bankrupt as its readership was severely declining due to its biased reporting.

    • Don Duncan

      Trump bloviates because it works on the average voter. Truth is the first causality in politics. In politics, facts don’t matter to the voters. They are obsessed with being protected and led. That leads to willful blindness. It is political immaturity. If and when they grow up politically and reject rulers, then they will see the pompous con artists behind the smile.

      • Alan777

        Maybe true for many, but he does also because he knows that millions like me despise the bloviating media talking heads and the establishment politicians. His ability to upset the status quo and disrupt the sickening PC culture is exactly what I want to see.
        I don’t like to see him promoting “bipartisan” cooperation with democrats and RINOs to bring forth even worst policies and bigger government.

        • Don Duncan

          Trump is not anti-establishment. His statements are part of the dog-and-pony show. He is a master of misdirection and verbal manipulation, just as Hitler was. Two of his latest statements, not critized by the MSM who are “supposed” to be against him, are: “I kept promises I didn’t even make” and “We’ll just take the guns, then we will can consider due process”. These blatant contradictions are ignored instead of being exposed as the ravings of a tyrant.

          Advocating less govt. is “still” advocating govt. It is not a step in the direction of no govt., e.g, working to get a better master is accepting a master/slave relationship.

  • Nikola Bijeliti

    Can anyone deny that flooding every White country in the world (and ONLY White countries) with tens of millions of non-Whites and forcing their assimilation into the White community is an act of genocide?
    Black countries will remain Black, and Asian countries will remain Asian.
    White countries are the ONLY countries to be affected by this.
    But, rather than genocide, the word that anti-Whites use to describe this program is “diversity.”
    Diversity means chasing down White flight.
    Anti-racist is a codeword for anti-White.

    • commietakeover

      I don’t see how this relates to this story specifically,…but yes this is correct. People need to see that there is a difference between being a legitimate “White Supremasist” and preventing your race and culture from a very real genocide. People have lost sight of the actual definition of the term “supremasist”, thanks to the commie leftist media. If you’re trying to protect your race from genocide, you’re a “racist”. SMH

      • LawrenceNeal

        ‘Genocide’ involves the killing and ending of a genetic people. CULTURES evolve and merge. The current ‘White American’ culture itself is a disparate amalgam of different sub-cultures of politics, religion, music, food, and a thousand other facets. Many of our words, customs and science have been absorbed from other peoples and cultures.

    • LawrenceNeal

      Read ‘The Destruction of Black Civilization’ by Chancellor Williams. Africa has been under assault by ‘Asians’ (probably mid Easterners) and Whites for 6,500 years. The history of Africa that hasn’t been taught in schools is a real eye opener. As well, the term, ‘White’ didn’t exist a few hundred years ago. It was coined to separate indentured servants from slaves so as to prevent their unity against oppression. The history of mankind is migrations, leading to mergers and assimilations. ‘When people meet, people mate’. There are no ‘pure’ races. All current races, with the exception of some South of Sahara peoples, are mixtures of previous groups. Even with the South of Sahara peoples, there have been mixings of different groups or tribes. “Nothing is stable, everything changes’.

  • There is no mention of Amazon “rescuing” Whole Foods after customers abandoned WF because WF lied about the contents of their “natural” foods and got caught.

    That was recent news. Have people forgotten already? Is Mackey as “libertarian” as his foods are “natural”? They both full of GMO.