“I’ve had so many opportunities to be able to give
people a little bit of God’s love just by being present.”
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Jean Bartell Barber is the Vice-Chairman of Bartell Drugs, the largest pharmacy chain in the greater Seattle area. Through her work, she transforms Jesus’s Golden Rule from philosophical principle into practical action that serves employees, customers, business partners, and her community alike.
What are the challenges and benefits of running a family business?
There are many challenges with running a family business, primarily related to competing in today’s environment where policies reward large national chains and regulations make doing business increasing difficult. And we have to plan for family succession, not just management succession. However, the benefits have far surpass those challenges. To name a couple, our employees love the fact that the family is active and that the family consists of owners who care. Also, running a family company gives our entire family a great way to serve so many of our neighbors here in the Northwest as well as our 1700 employees.
How do you invest in the people around you at work?
I always seek to treat everyone the same and take an equal interest in them, regardless of where they’re at on the corporate ladder. The door is always open for a conversation. One example of this is that payroll clerks are required to get an executives signature for their check. Despite my position in the company, they are very comfortable just stepping into my office for the check or a conversation.
How do you define success at work?
Anyone can pass on assets, assets are not the important part. You need to pass on values to all your employees in such a way that it’s absolutely clear to your customers what your values are without the need for a sign.
What is an example of the Golden Rule at work?
We have lot of long-term relationships with outside vendors, and once a year, we host a Vendor Breakfast where we give out awards to vendors for their service to the company. We’ve had grown men cry at this breakfast. People get acknowledged in front of hundreds of people. And this kind of acknowledgement is the reason why we’ve had such positive relations with vendors over the years.
How do you instill a culture that carries out your values?
Establish your mission, vision, and values up front and speak to them, again and again. Values are what tie you together. Every employee should be able to give a clear answer, “what are Bartell Drug’s values?” As the company has gotten bigger and bigger, it’s become harder and harder to communicate these values which makes it all the more imperative that we’re active about teaching them.