Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (GS) – Costco Wholesale Corporation (COST) Co-Founder: “Culture Is Not the Most Important Thing — It’s the Only Thing”

Jim: You have to work at it. One of the things that we try to do, we think of ourselves as a small company. I know you say, “Well, you’ve got 175,000 employees. How could you possibly think of yourself as a small company?”

We like to think like a small company. It’s more and more difficult. Every year that goes by makes it more difficult, but we think that if you’re thinking, and if your mentality is such, that you’re more adroit, that you’re nimble, and that you can move quickly.

We want to always try to stay in that position, in that posture — to be very adroit and very nimble, and able to react quickly and stay ahead of the competition. How well we do that will determine how successful we are in the future.

Brendan: One of the things Costco is also known for is their low turnover. Other than financial incentives, what are some non-financial incentives that keep that number low, that your employees really count on?

Jim: We love them.

Brendan: Yeah.

Jim: Listen, these are great people. Many of them have been with us since the early days of our business. They’ve helped bring Costco to where it is today. They’ve developed it. They’ve played a pivotal role in everything that has been established over the last 30 years.

We want to keep them. We want them to stay with it. We want to turn our inventory, but not our people. Part of that is, people are happy with a job for more reasons than money. There’s generally a pride in the organization.

There’s an attitude that there’s security, that somebody does care about them, that we’re offering careers. We’re not offering jobs; we’re offering careers. Anyone who wants to become an officer of our company has that opportunity available to them.

One of the greatest satisfactions that I think, if you ask the many of us who have been here in management, one of the greatest satisfactions is to see young people who started working with us, who maybe were college students and were chasing shopping carts out in the parking lot, who have advanced to the point where they’re senior managers of our company. That’s a great feeling, to see that.

The article Costco Co-Founder: “Culture Is Not the Most Important Thing — It’s the Only Thing” originally appeared on and is written by Brendan Byrnes.

Brendan Byrnes has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Costco Wholesale (NASDAQ:COST). The Motley Fool owns shares of Costco Wholesale. 

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