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Business & Entrepreneurship

New Book Shares Business Lessons Learned From Market Basket Dispute

July 17, 2015

Photo of Market Basket book cover

One year after the unprecedented protest that gained national attention and nearly shut down a $4 billion supermarket chain, a Drexel University professor has co-authored a book about what happened at Market Basket, and why it is important for managers, employees and consumers. When the super CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, was fired in June of 2014, the supermarket chain’s 25,000 employees, dozens of suppliers, and close to 2 million customers took to the streets to reinstate him. The battle pitted these stakeholders against some board members who planned to sell the company

Publisher’s Weekly, in a starred review, calls the book “inspiring and drama-filled.” With its firsthand accounts from the streets and executive suites, We Are Market Basket: the Story of the Unlikely Movement to Save a Beloved Company” is as engaging as it is instructive.

“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Daniel Korschun, an associate professor of Marketing at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business and a fellow of both the Center for Corporate Reputation Management and the Center for Corporate Governance. “Although the protest and the company are unique, this story teaches us that consumers, employees and members of the community have much more influence on the direction of companies than they often appreciate.”

For weeks, employees took to the tactics of civil disobedience: Some refusing to work, others picketing, and still others asking customers to shop elsewhere. Eventually, they won. Demoulas raised $1.5 billion to purchase shares from the side of the family that had him fired. He is once again CEO.

Korschun and co-author Grant Welker of The Lowell Sun examine why Market Basket and its leader provoked such ferocious loyalty. They look at how a company spread across three states still maintained a culture that embraced everyone—from cashier to customer—as family and discuss whether or not a company can become an industry leader by prioritizing stakeholders over shareholders.

After explaining the history of the company and how two cousins Arthur S. Demoulas and Arthur T. Demoulas came to govern Market Basket, the authors identified four key pillars in the corporate culture of company. These pillars—service to the community, a sense of family, empowerment and originality—enabled the protests to take shape and ultimately succeed. 

The authors describe key moments of the protest through the eyes of those who participated in it. They interviewed more than 50 stakeholders, including the Governor of New Hampshire, vendors, customers and company executives.

A year after the protests, the company has not only survived, it is thriving. “The strong performance over the past year lends support to the idea that responsible leadership is a path to success for many companies,” said Korschun. “By staying true to its values, the company has managed to continue expanding, even in the cut-throat supermarket business.” 

Korchun’s primary research interest is corporate social responsibility and corporate reputation management. His work examines the relationships that stakeholders form with the company and other stakeholders. He believes that managers can foster strong and enduring relationships with (and among) stakeholders by defining the corporate identity so that it encourages individuals to “subscribe” to the organization.

The author of numerous articles and book chapters, Korschun has received grants and recognition from the Oxford Center for Corporate Reputation (2013) and the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (2013). His article in MIT/Sloan Management Review was an Emerald Citation of Excellence winner for being one of the top 50 most impactful articles across all business disciplines. 

Media Contact:

Niki Gianakaris