How to Succeed? Make Employees Happy

Two retailing titans say they profit by not caring too much about shareholders

Matthew Mahon for Time

The Container Store's Tindell, left, and Whole Foods' Mackey in Austin, Texas.

Long, long ago--in what they are pretty sure was the 1974-75 school year--John Mackey and Kip Tindell shared a house with three other students near the University of Texas campus in Austin. They played a lot of poker--Tindell always won--but never became particularly close. After that year, they drifted out of touch.

Their lives, though, continued along parallel paths. Both men dropped out after long undergraduate careers ("I crammed a four-year program into about eight years," Tindell jokes). Then, in 1978, both started businesses: Mackey, with his then girlfriend, opened a health-food store in Austin; Tindell, with a guy he had...

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