John Lewis’: 69,000 Partners share £125million

Picture 2 Three bits of news on the John Lewis retail group reminded me of what an amazing business this is, thanks to its ownership structure. The company is owned by the 69,000 people who work there. Not the board directors. All 69,000 people, from check-out people to shelf-stackers to fork-lift drivers. You can watch a video about the Partnership here.

The first bit of news was the company's latest set of annual results. This is a company with the upmarket grocery chain, Waitrose, and the John Lewis department stores. And recession-hit 2008/09 was a blood-bath for many retailers, esp. upscale ones Well, John Lewis weathered the storm, with sales up £204.7m, 3%, to £6.97bn.

And those 69,000 partners shared a £125million bonus, equal to 13% of salary, or 7 weeks extra pay. Not some token gesture here. This is a serious bonus. And one worth working for when times are hard, and putting in a bit of extra effort.

Picture 3 The second bit of a new was an interview with Patrick Lewis, great-nephew of the Founder, and son of former Chairman Peter Lewis, and a tip for the top job at some stage. This guy's new job is Partners' Counsellor. He is the voice of the 69,000 partners at board level. What a symbol of how important the company take the partnership model. Its also great to see that Patrick has worked his way up the business from the bottom, starting on the till in the china and glass department and doing eight different jobs and locations
in as many years. No parachute into a comfy executive chair for him.

The final bit of news was the "We'll call you" feature in Marketing Magazine, where they phone a call centre to see how good the service is. The week is was on Waitrose, and the "mystery caller" was enquiring about Waitrose's sustainable fishing policy. No easy one to answer. Well, Waitrose got the first ever 9/10 score I have seen. The call-centre person answered with passion and real knowledge, even referring to the fish buyer by name (Jeremy) and telling stories of how the tuna is caught (with a fishing rod in the Maldives).

And there you have it. Three pieces of news that are three parts of the jigsaw that is John Lewis:

Engaged and aligned employees => great service => good results

Why aren't all service businesses run this way?