In every region, there are major supermarkets that compete for our grocery dollars. For as long as my husband can remember, there has always been a Demoulas nearby. True locals still call it that, even though the name is now Market Basket.
If you are not from New England, you may not have heard the name Market Basket or Demoulas. At least until recently.
I’m still new here, even after 11 years. I’m used to living in places where everyone is transient. Where you shop where it’s convenient, not with any sense of loyalty. If I drive by a particular grocery store and realize I need something, that’s the one I use.
My husband – and many other locals – goes out of his way to shop at a particular store. And that store is Market Basket.
As I drive around town, it is likely I will pass at least one MB storefront. Now former employees stand outside on corners, asking that Artie T, their beloved CEO, be reinstated. Drivers honk and wave, yelling support from their cars. They also show support with the empty parking lots. Consumers will not return until the CEO does.
New England is a very interesting place. I’ve never seen anything like it. Here, there’s an expression “you have to know a guy.” To get anything done, you ask someone you know who they use. It’s all about relationships and trust. You don’t just go anywhere. You go with who you know.
I had never heard of Artie T before the MB fiasco hit the major news outlets. But I can tell you he is all that a CEO should aspire to be. He ran a business successfully for decades…and he has every last one of his employees willing to walk out rather than work for someone else. That is loyalty. That is leadership.
Before my current job, I never met the CEO’s of my companies. They were so far removed from my day to day life that it didn’t seem to matter. Now, I’ve met two and have respected them both. One of them impacted me enough that I still try to live by a lesson he shared with me over a decade ago.
And that’s the lesson of Artie T. He made a point of visiting all of his stores regularly. Of remembering the names of his employees and taking an interest in them. He impacted them directly – made them a part of the Demoulas family.
It was not until I engaged directly with a CEO that I realized what an impact one of them could have on me. Imagine if one took the time to meet with each and every employee…regularly? To remember names and birthdays? To personally call to ask about ill family members?
You do not have to imagine it. Look at what is happening at Market Basket.
As respected as my CEO may be, or CEO’s of other companies, would tens of thousands of employees be willing to walk out to get him back if he was fired? Would our customers think to stop doing business with us until he was reinstated? For any other business, would they care who’s running it, or only whether they can get a good product or service for a fair price?
I think it’s more likely that all of us – employees and customers – would think “that’s the way of things” and wonder how his replacement pans out.
Before now, it never would have occurred to me…either to be that inspired, or that it was possible to be that inspiring. To have the potential of being a leader whose employees would rather risk losing their livelihoods than work for someone else. Whose customers would be willing to spend more money elsewhere until my return.
I have no doubt there is more to Artie T than customers and employees know, and that “more” may include imperfections that may not be that inspiring. However, I do know one thing. Artie T has revealed to the world, or at least New England, a new bar for all leaders.
Pay attention – because we’re also seeing the price of not being that kind of leader.
Have you been following the Market Basket story in the news? What are your thoughts on the departure of customers and employees? I’d love if you would share your thoughts in the comments and keep the conversation going.