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We’ve all heard the saying, “actions speak louder than words.” Publix founder George Jenkins had some pretty profound words, and throughout his life, he put those words into action. Here are well known quotes from Mr. George and the stories behind them.

 “One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my business career is that no man puts together an organization on his own.”

From the very first store, George Jenkins wanted his employees to share in the ownership of the business. Of course, on the heels of the Great Depression, he knew how hard it would be for them to buy shares of stock. So he came up with a way to help them. He gave each employee a $2 a week raise, then held the money to pay for the stock. In 50 weeks, it was paid in full, and everyone in the store was a stockholder. Today, Publix is the largest employee-owned supermarket in the nation.04_JB_MrG Quotes_Registers

“Begin, the rest is easy.”

Mr. George knew that when people came to his office to talk about a problem or ask a question, they might feel intimidated or nervous. And who wouldn’t feel that way when meeting with the head of a company? So he had a small sign made that said, “Begin, the rest is easy.” He put this on the front of his desk so people would see it when they sat in front of him. The sign was meant to say, “Don’t feel intimidated, just begin talking, it’s easy after that.” It was his way of keeping the door of communication open to stay connected with people.

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“We’re not only in the grocery business, we’re in the people business.”

 His greatest joy was to be in the stores talking with customers and associates. When he visited stores, it wasn’t unusual to see him stepping in to help bag groceries or take customers to their cars. Publix associates loved the opportunity to work side-by-side with Mr. George. While customers may have felt honored to have their bags carried out by the founder of the company, Mr. George felt more honored to serve them.

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“We’re gonna try, strive every day to make our service a little better and make our operation a little closer to perfect. I guess nobody’s perfect, but we strive for that goal anyway.”

Throughout his career, he wanted to be ready for opportunities. He read extensively, and he often traveled on “idea-seeking” trips. He was always looking for ways to make the customer experience more of a pleasure. Of course, he also believed that great ideas come from the people within the company. He did more listening than he did talking. That’s a great lesson for anyone who wants to be successful!

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 “The greatest thrill that I get out of the business is watching people develop.”

If you ask a Publix manager today what gives him or her the most satisfaction as a leader, they’ll likely say it’s the opportunity to help people grow successful careers. Mr. George created a company where people would not only have job opportunities, but also career opportunities. Can you imagine how many people have had Publix careers over the years?

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“The only way a man’s life should be judged is on the basis of how much he has contributed to the health and well-being of his fellowman.” 

As much as he is known for his success in the supermarket industry, he is known for his generosity. He set the example for being involved in the community. He gave his time, his talent and his money. He also wanted to create a way to continue helping others long after he was gone, so in 1967 he used his own shares of Publix stock to set up a foundation. Originally named the George W. Jenkins Foundation, today it is Publix Super Markets Charities.

“Some companies are founded on policy. This is wrong. Philosophy, the things you believe in, is more important. Philosophy does not change frequently – and is never compromised.”

Through the words of Mr. George, it’s easy to understand the philosophies on which he founded Publix.  In fact, we refer to his philosophies as lessons. To learn more about his lessons, watch the video series, “Lessons from our Founder.”

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Do you have a favorite Mr. George quote? Please share in the comments below.

 

Jennifer B.

Written by

Jennifer B. has been with Publix since 1980, when she started working part time in high school. She has held positions of Assistant Director of public relations and Director of media relations, but her current role as the Company Historian is the highlight of her career. She loves sharing Publix trivia, telling stories about Mr. George and solving Publix’s history mysteries. In her life outside of Publix, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her husband and catering to the whims of their cat Jackson, who is master of all he surveys.

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