Case | HBS Case Collection | June 2005 (Revised April 2008)

Whole Foods Market, Inc.

by John R. Wells and Travis Haglock


Can a short-sleeved, sandal-wearing, college dropout create a company manifesting love, joy, and happiness? Chainsaw John Mackey did. This CEO took a five-month sabbatical to hike the Appalachian Trail. More credentials: Sales-per-square foot of $690 and rising. Hiring by means of teams and a vote requiring a two-thirds majority. A single store in Austin, Texas in 1980; 144 stores in 2004. A seven-year streak near the top of Fortune's list of best companies to work for in America. Team-based hiring with a two-thirds majority required. Incentives based on the bottom line. Morale surveys. No salary higher than eight times the average salary. So how did John Mackey come to be christened Chainsaw John Mackey?

Keywords: Management Style; Motivation and Incentives; Food; Management Practices and Processes; Groups and Teams; Success; Leadership Style; Management Teams; Business Growth and Maturation; Emerging Markets; Retail Industry; Food and Beverage Industry; Consumer Products Industry;


Wells, John R., and Travis Haglock. "Whole Foods Market, Inc." Harvard Business School Case 705-476, June 2005. (Revised April 2008.)