“Capitalism is awesome!” — John Mackey, co-CEO, Whole Foods Market
This week I was a guest of John Mackey, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, to attend the 10th anniversary of the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit in Austin, Texas. It was an incredible opportunity to listen to some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country who have adopted a “stakeholder” philosophy of improving the lives of workers, executives, suppliers, customers and investors.
Top CEOs included:
Jostein Solheim, CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, the socially active ice cream company based in Vermont. He said that taking stands on issues (his company supported “Occupy Wall Street” several years ago) has not hurt the company’s bottom line. In fact, Ben & Jerry’s has higher profit margins than any of its competitors.
Dan T. Cathy, chairman and CEO of Chick-fil-A, defended his Christian approach to business, following Jesus’s example of “going the extra mile.” He said that his company’s mission statement is “to glorify God through service to mankind.” Being closed on Sunday is good for his employees, he said, and it hasn’t hurt business. He said that profit margins for the chicken restaurant are 25% higher than for his nearest competitor who is open seven days a week. He expressed disappointment that the United States is “stripping everything divine and moving toward a secular society.”
Denise Morrison, president & CEO of Campbell Soup Company, is the first woman president of the company. She discussed how she is trying to revamp a company that is more than 100 years old. In comparing it to its chief competitor, General Mills, the stock prices of both companies have moved together, but General Mills has returned almost double its price in the past 10 years.
John Mackey gave a new talk in defense of capitalism, noting that it has been the chief cause of ending poverty in the world. “We must defend free-enterprise capitalism — this is the system that has made us rich, including the poor.” He showed the index of economic freedom put out by the Heritage Foundation and noted that the United States has been in decline since 2001. Now, he said, “every English-speaking country is ahead of the U.S. in terms of economic freedom, even the U.K.”
Afterwards, I asked Mackey about the presidential elections. We’ve had a lot of firsts — the first black president and soon the first woman president. What did he think of the first pure businessman running for the highest office of the land? Not much. According to John Mackey, Trump is not an advocate of conscious capitalism. Rather, he is a “crony” capitalist and, sadly, not a good representative of business.
John points out that conscious-capitalism firms have far outperformed the stock market averages over the long run. Click here to read further about it.
I also had an interview with Tom Gardner, co-founder and current CEO of the highly successful Motley Fool investment advisory service. They have 300 employees, and the company has been rated #1 in employee satisfaction. Their investment strategy also has handily outperformed the markets. I’ll say more next week.
In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week on the surprising strength of the U.S. dollar. This article, and many other past Investor CAFE columns, can be found on StockInvestor.com. I invite you to follow it on Facebook and Twitter.
I am happy to announce that Mike Turner has joined the Eagle Financial Publications family. Mike and I sat down for a short discussion about investing that you can listen to by clicking here now.
In this interview, you will get to know Mike better and learn a few other things, such as:
Listen to Mike’s insights on the markets by clicking here now.
O Post-Election Speech! Wisconsin Forum & Dinner, Milwaukee Athletic Club, Nov. 10: I’m returning to the Wisconsin Forum to give my first talk after the November elections on “How the Election Results Will Affect the Economy, the Markets and YOU!” Don’t miss it. Past speakers have included Congressman Ron Paul, Dinesh D’Souza, John Fund, Grover Norquist, Charles Murray and George Gilder. The last time I spoke there was on December 7, 1994. My talk will be held at the Milwaukee Athletic Club, 758 N. Broadway, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Thursday, Nov. 10 (one day after the anniversary of the Berlin Wall falling in 1989). Cocktails are at 5:30 pm, dinner is at 6:30 pm, and the speech and Q&A take place at 7:30 pm. Details are available at http://www.wisconsinforum.org/
O New Orleans Investment Conference, Oct. 26-29, Hilton Hotel: Important Update: the room block is closing this week! I’ve been speaking at the New Orleans conference since the late 1970s, and I consider it the “granddaddy of investment conferences.” If you haven’t been to New Orleans, it’s a great city with five-star restaurants, beautiful music (jazz) and fun things to do. At the conference, I’ll be moderating the economy panel with Peter Schiff, Stephen Moore and Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst for the Lindsey Group. Other speakers include Dennis Gartman, Charles Krauthammer, Marc Faber, James Grant, P. J. O’Rourke, Doug Casey, Adrian Day, Pamela and Mary Ann Aden, Brien Lundin, Robert Prechter and Rick Rule. To sign up at a discount, call 1-800-648-8411, and be sure to mention you are a subscriber to Forecasts & Strategies, or click this link.
You Blew It! Strangulating the Economy
At the Conscious Capitalism CEO Summit in Austin, Texas, I asked a question to Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor, after he addressed the audience. He asked the audience of CEOs, “What is holding you back from achieving success?”
I raised my hand and said, “We business people have no problem with regulation, but we are not happy with strangulation. Over the past 15 years, we’ve seen the introduction of new taxes, Sarbanes-Oxley, ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank and higher minimum wage laws.”
Then I referred to Canada’s sharp reduction in the corporate income tax to 12%, and asked Secretary Perez when we are going to see that kind of corporate tax reform. He said his door was open to dialogue with the business community, and he would like to see corporate tax reform.
In a luncheon breakout session with Obama’s labor secretary, I pointed out two inconvenient facts about the economy: 1. Since Dodd-Frank became law in 2010, not a single community bank has been created; 2. More businesses are failing than businesses are being created. Secretary Perez said he was unaware of both these stories.
Meanwhile, gridlock continues in Congress. I doubt if we will see any progress in the next administration.