Many times the leadership at the top of a company has a trickle-down effect to its employees. In the case of the returning CEO of Market Basket, Arthur T. Demoulas, it was more of a waterfall.
Artie T. as he is known is a rare breed, especially when it comes to bosses. He treats his employees with compassion and respect, and knows all 25,000 employees by name! He makes it a point to form personal connections with his employees and customers, and treats his staff like they are family, even attending funerals of worker’s family members.
Not only did he foster his relationship with his employees through the support of their personal lives, he encouraged his employees to fulfill their greatest potentials in their careers as well. An avid believer in hard work pays off, he promotes from within and in fact, according to an article by LA Times, “many of Market Basket’s top managers in the corporate office started out bagging groceries in the store as teenagers.”
Under the principles of this CEO, full-time workers start at $12 per hour and many employees earn upwards of $40,000 in salary by sticking with the company. Esquire reports, under Artie T. Market Basket paid its employees “yearly bonuses that often equal up to several months’ worth of salary” and invested “the equivalent of 15 percent of every paycheck into a retirement plan.”
His devotion not only extends to his staff, but his customers are equal in receiving such treatment. When the prices of food significantly rose across the country in early 2014, Arthur T. cut prices on nearly all goods by 4%. His argument? His customers could use the money more than his fellow shareholders – Anatomy of the Market Basket Meltdown by the Boston Globe. Even with this discount Market Basket still manages to bring in $4.6 billion in annual revenue.
Arthur T. Demoulas was ousted in June after his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas gained control of the board. The two sides of the family have been fighting over the company for years, but the other Arthur – Arthur S., who was the majority shareholder, gained supreme control when members of the board who wanted a bigger share of profits said they felt ignored by Arthur T, and ousted him.
Once control was gained by Arthur S. Demoulas, Market Basket was abandoned by employees, customers, and even vendors. Despite the increased cost (both due to travel and food prices) of not shopping at Market Basket, customers began shopping elsewhere to demonstrate their loyalty to Arthur T. For several weeks, employees sacrificed their paychecks and even risked permanently losing their jobs to form a massive worker strike in hopes to rid of the newly appointed CEO – Arthur S. Demoulas and bring back their beloved boss. Such a rare occurrence for employees to risk their economic stability for a previous boss, but Artie T. is no average man. Even vendors had such a strong loyalty to Arthur T. and upon him being ousted, several vendors cut ties with Market Basket. According to an article featured on Boston Globe, “…Extra Virgin Foods of Watertown, said it ended its relationship with the company to support other managers who were fired along with Demoulas. Extra Virgin Foods sells $2 million in Greek foods to Market Basket each year, said owner Paul Hatziiliades. ‘They’re about 60 percent of our annual business. But I’m just not going to deal with those people.’” Another Market Basket supplier said “…there was a very clear distinction [in] my mind of what the right thing to do was,” said Michael Fairbrother who runs the Moonlight Meadery. With Market Basket being his largest account he gave up over $9,000 within just three weeks of cutting ties to the grocery chain store, all in support of bringing back Arthur T.
After six weeks the protests finally came to an end on August 27, 2014 with a deal in which Demoulas and his partners will buy the remaining 50.5% stake in the company which is owned by his cousin.
His compassion for people has paid off in monumental ways and through his triumph as returning to the role of CEO of Market Basket, this story has given the rest of us a warmth in our hearts and a sense of hope. It has taught us two things: there are power in numbers, and when a dedicated group of individuals come together for a common cause, their goals can be achieved. This story also teaches us that when we treat people as people, and not a means through which to achieve certain objectives, those people will work harder and stand by us even at our lowest of lows.