Splitting the Family-Owned Biz: Who Really Owns Your Profits?


"We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business" details the epic battle between two brothers who inherited a grocery business that transformed into an unprecedented grassroots movement that shook the entire New England community.

we are market basket

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The battle lines were drawn: Arthur T. Demoulas against his brother Arthur S. Demoulas.

It’s customer-focused versus shareholder-focused. It’s price-cutting versus employee bonuses.

Only one could win but a community (and millions of dollars) hung in the balance.

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Most family businesses experience conflicts in their management styles, but the battle for this grocery supermarket chain received the title of “unprecedented.”

We Are Market Basket: The Story of the Unlikely Grassroots Movement That Saved a Beloved Business” captures the epic drama of lawsuits, protests, boycotts, and a grassroots movement that had everyone in the New England (and surrounding areas) sitting at the edge of their seats.

At its core, “We Are Market Basket” is the story of two brothers who inherited a small family business-turned-successful grocery store chain and community cornerstone, Market Basket. Each brother wants the business to grow, but each has different views on what it takes to get there.

For Arthur T. Demoulas, business success begins with customers and employees and ends with shareholders. Under his leadership, Market Basket offered customers low prices, a fully-stocked store, an employee at every checkout counter, and a smile from the employee who bagged your groceries.

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Employees were only promoted from within, received healthy bonuses, and above-the-norm employee support. The emphasis here is on building long-term relationship for continued success.

For Arthur S. Demoulas, business success begins with shareholders and ends with customers and employees.

In his view, profits at the top means continued success for everyone at the bottom. Under his leadership, stockholders received profits that encouraged them to invest in more stores. Stores, to Arthur S., are in business for a reason – to make money. The better they do that, the better they can continue that success.

While the two brothers clash, an unexpected answer to business success pops up – the community.

Once the battle lines are drawn, every stakeholder that formed a part of the Market Basket community must decide how they will react. Do they own Market Basket, too? If so, what should they do?

The answer is revealed in very unexpected ways.

“We Are Market Basket” proves that the answer to “Who owns this business?” is not a dry, academic debate for business textbooks and articles. It’s a question with real-life consequences for everyone in the community. It forces business owners to confront all of the people that make up a business, not just the ones on the organizational chart.

Daniel Korschun (@DanielKorschun) is a marketing professor, researcher and consultant on corporate social responsibility innovation.

The shining value of “We Are Market Basket” is its engagement.

The unprecedented events in “We Are Market Basket” happened recently (Arthur T. was reinstated as CEO in 2014) and the community that developed as a result can easily be found in a Google search.

The book presents a very engaging, page-turning battle which could easily have been the script for a Hollywood blockbuster along with the ability to see that script played out in real life.

The book makes some attempt to extract helpful information from the very specific story of Market Basket in a few areas. While helpful, this could have been extended a little more to give business owners specific recommendations.

Specifically, they could have been recommendations aimed at a business’s responsibility to its stakeholders during a transfer of ownership. What should a business do when people don’t like the owner? How do you maintain morale when ownership changes hands?

Despite that, the book provides an absolutely gripping story to read with lessons that can be taken from it.

“We Are Market Basket” can actually be enjoyed by everyone from the CEO down to the bored person on a long airplane flight. The book does an excellent job of presenting a detailed story in an engaging language with no jargon. Plus, readers will get a better understanding of the grocery store business.

“We Are Market Basket” has some detailed information that will be of benefit to three audiences: business experiencing conflicts between management and owners, grocery store business owners, and uniquely, public relations professionals.

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Charles Franklin Charles Franklin is a Book Reviewer for Small Business Trends. He has a background as a professional reviewer, and is also a content provider and customer relations professional.

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