Posted by: Mike Willoughby | October 26, 2009



In 1967, Aretha Franklin popularized an Otis Redding song titled, Respect.  You probably remember the chorus in which Aretha spells out R-E-S-P-E-C-T.  Aretha won two Grammys in 1968 for her rendition of the song which struck a chord with millions of women on its way to becoming a number one hit.  Regardless of Redding’s or Franklin’s original intent, the plea for respect at the heart of the song strikes a chord with everyone.  We all seek respect and recognition from those around us.  Aretha says, “find out what it means to me” and as I considered that statement it occurred to me that respect means a great deal to each of us. The desire for respect and recognition comes from a source deep within us – that desire originates within our soul!

I believe we all have a sense of our inherent value that springs from the fact that God created each of us in His image.  I believe the sense in which I have been created in God’s image refers to my eternal soul which forms the essence of my being.  My soul has inherent value regardless of how others may esteem me because I have been made in essence by God and I am loved unconditionally by Him.  In fact, we are each loved by God so much that He sent His one and only Son to earth to save us.  The question is: What will I do to recognize and respect the inherent value of the souls around me?  In my last post, I wrote about the agapé love we are to have for each other and I described how this type of love drives us to seek the best interest of those around us including our workmates.  I also told you I would introduce you to a special company that practices agapé love in the workplace in a very profound and effective way.  The name of the company is United Supermarkets, LLC.  United operates the United, MarketStreet and Amigos brand stores.

Dan Sanders, the Chief Executive Officer of United wrote a book in 2008 describing the United Supermarkets model for success.  The book is titled, Built to Serve: How to Drive the Bottom Line with People-First Practices and it described the people-first philosophy that makes United distinctive.  The United philosophy is centered on the notion that we are all here to serve one another (agapé love) and a good business model is one that is built on servant-hood.  Dan writes:

“We at United Supermarkets believe that servant-hood is about helping others realize their potential by focusing not on their weaknesses but on their strengths. Those who choose to lead, regardless of their position in an organization, have a responsibility to help people prepare to make the most of the opportunities afforded them.”

I know the business philosophies that Dan writes about in Built to Serve are not just words on a page or lofty platitudes on posters in a break room.  The associates at United believe and live this servant-hood agapé love philosophy.  If you want proof, go shop at a United or Marketstreet store. 

Our local Marketstreet is my family’s favorite grocery store.  We shop there for the quality and the great service.  However, in spite of the great service, high quality products, clean attractive stores and genuinely helpful friendly people, I have been most impressed by the Marketstreet folks that help me to my car with my grocery bags.  I noticed that several of my parking lot escorts were folks with special needs.  I have since found out that United makes a special effort to employ folks with special needs and put them to work in areas of the business where their abilities will lead to success for these individuals and the store.  Most of these happy, friendly and very capable employees have been shunned by other businesses that did not have an organizational model that could see past the weaknesses of these people to appreciate their strengths.  This is not charity, this is good business!  My experience with the Marketstreet associates especially my parking lot escorts prompted me to pick up Dan’s book from the end cap and explore what makes this unusual company tick.  Guess what?  It’s agapé love that makes United work!  They are looking after the best interests of the folks in the community beginning with the associates that work in the stores.  They have each others’ backs!

We all seek respect and esteem from those around us.  Let’s pay attention to this lesson from Dan Sanders and the folks at United.  The people you work with every day have been created by God in His image and they are loved by God individually just like you.  They have inherent value and specific strengths and talents given to them by God.  They are worthy of respect and esteem regardless of how society and has tended to value them.  Aretha was right about respect and what it means to you and me.  This week let’s have each others’ backs at work by showing respect for each other as fellow children of God.  I think that would make our Father proud.

Next Monday, let’s spend a little more time looking at United’s model for treating people right in the workplace.  Until then,

Meet me at the intersection!



  1. Good stuff…look forward to lesson 2 from the United/Dan Sanders model…

  2. So very encouraging to hear about United’s employment of those with special needs. Makes me smile! Thanks, Mike.

  3. That’s really cool that United operates that way. I had no idea.

    Be encouraged that you’re pouring good things into those who take the time to read your posts (using great songs like that helps too).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: