Capitalism, For GOOD

When a shopkeeper solves a problem more customers arrive.

Then, even more people are rewarded. That’s the purpose.

A team’s culture is easy to talk about during wins. You find out what it really is during losses. The deepest roots survive the toughest storms and keep growing below the problems on the surface. A different way to come out of a severe challenge stronger, is an ability to pivot and solve even more problems than before.

Let me share with you two remarkable and completely opposite shops I visited this past month. Some shopkeepers stand the test of time for extraordinary reasons, while others will redefine the time spent shopping. One earned even more trust, with more boots on the ground and heavy lifting last month. The other has some big brains in the cloud, that you clicked and swiped through. Both gave us a peek at their hearts, and the biggest simple secret in all of business now – kindness is underrated.

Older business and capitlaism for good by krueger and catalano in houston, texas.

See if you can guess what type of business started in 1905 with $60 on the first floor of this house, before becoming the most impressive state of the art operation that I visited this month. Here are your hints:

Preparing a pandemic and influenza plan since 2005. Refined it after H1N1 in 2009. Continued to revise it ever since.

Communicated with its network on the ground in China in January and started running simulations a few weeks later.

Step one was already in place at the beginning of February.

Emergency Operations Center ready to go March 4 in a new 1.6 million square foot facility. All leaders were brought together to collaborate daily.

A Director of Emergency Preparedness is a full-time year-round position.

The corporate offices were asked if they wanted to volunteer for shift work. 800 volunteered immediately.

A bookkeeper of 21 years was among all-hands on deck, working the register for the first time.

An hourly raise was given to all employees on March 16.

Some plants ran 24/7 at full capacity. The heaviest delivery days to stores during the holidays, was now more than 200 times greater.

A Chief Medical Officer oversees a full medical board to have all the resources for its employees, so they can stay busy serving customers.

All of those facts came from a grocery store, H.E.B.

(Credit: Texas Monthly)

This most impressive business started as Mrs. C.C. Butt’s Staple and Fancy Grocery, a one-room store on the ground floor of her family home in Kerrville, Texas.

HEB in the early years by krueger and catalano in houston, texas.

In 1919, the son Howard Edward Butt took over the business. After installing air conditioning in 1942, the stores name was changed to H.E.B.

I was talking with a new friend in San Antonio, Janet Levaux, who gave me one more smile that also must be shared. At least I can blame a few tears on my fully stocked kitchen, including onions, thanks to H.E.B.

A speech therapist was still bravely going to work at a nursing home in a small town outside San Antonio. She placed a curbside order for groceries, while she and her husband were both working. When she received a call from H.E.B. about substitutions, she explained she did not want to come in the store to protect the grocery workers, and because she was surrounded by high risk patients.

She was told to wait one more day for a new shipment overnight. She got a call at 7 a.m. the next day and was told her items were personally set aside. When she arrived, a different person greeted her and said, “I know exactly who you are.” He went inside to get her groceries, while she sat in her car in a rainstorm.

HEB thank you card by krueger and catalano in houston, texas.

At the busiest time for the company, and scariest time for its employees in its 115-year history, all the workers in the store that day personally signed a thank you card for this special customer. Then, the manager paid for her groceries.

Different Kind of Shop

A most impressive online shopkeeper that I learned from this month (while we all bought stuff from some of its customers) was busy helping even more people. Many, many more. And, their impact transcends business. I could not let this month pass without writing down a few more notes about a business culture changing the world, for good.

Originally, Tobi Lutke just wanted to sell a few snowboards. He never sold that many. But, he stayed busy trying to improve the few customers’ experience and realized he could build a better e-commerce platform than any he was trying to use. In a billions dollar pivot, he built a better digital sandbox for other shops to grab tools from. His company, Shopify, now helps other businesses sell all their stuff, not snowboards.

The company’s culture is not just coding for all the solutions, but evangelizing for entrepreneurs’ dreams coming true. It is unlike anything I have ever seen, so I wanted to give you a glimpse of what a mission can look like, especially during challenging times.

The Chief Technology Officer, Jean-Michel Lemieux, shared this chart in early April with many businesses completely shut down. He noted “As we help thousands of businesses to move online, our platform is now handling Black Friday level traffic every day!”

Shopify global traffic graph by krueger and catalano in houston, texas.

It was amazing to watch and exchange notes about businesses figuring out a way to thrive. And, not just young ones. My favorite story might have been 151-year old Heinz setting up an online delivery ordering system for the first time in company history, with tremendous success…for ketchup.

Here’s where it gets better than business though, and when you know you have found a culture with a bigger purpose.

A tweet regarding shopify merchants by krueger and catalano in houston. texas.

Notice the date of this tweet, when the Founder and CEO of Shopify is telling his customers to contact him directly about how they can better help. On that day, Shopify stock was getting crushed, down 41% from its high. He only cared about customers and he didn’t send them to any manager or support staff underneath him – he wanted to help, personally.

Then, he led more big HIRES during the month. He donated millions. All, while he and his team were solving problems around the clock and added customers busy WORKING. He posted solutions for anybody, even if not a customer, and invited open-source input to help improve delivery and pickup for shopkeepers anywhere.

Tobi had time for one more big pivot this month. He and his wife completely changed the direction of their well-established foundation’s efforts and giving.

Tweet regarding thistledown foundation by krueger and catalano in houston, texas.

I happened to be re-reading Andrew Carnegie’s timeless book this month, “The Gospel of Wealth,” my favorite on how capitalism’s success is best shared with more. In a nutshell, success unshared is failure.

The wildest successes should be cheered for, unapologetically. That is why I wanted to share these two amazing examples of capitalism for GOOD.