Recently, a very short interview in the New York Times caught my attention. The person being interviewed was a small businessman named Bob Moore, the founder of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods. Now Bob’s Red Mill makes a product I buy regularly. For at least a year now, in an effort to improve my cholesterol, I’ve been making hot cereal for breakfast--a concoction of oat bran, oat flakes, ground flax and, for the best taste, a multi-grain cereal blend made by Mr. Moore’s company. You can read the interview (“Still Minding the Mill” (July 16) or simply take in my summary and comment below.
It has a “made-good” story line: After a youth full of hard work and a term of service in the military, Bob Moore found himself inspired by a book about a fellow who inherited a flour mill. At the same time, Mr. Moore’s wife was learning about the virtues of eating whole grains rather than processed foods. Together the Moores decided to buy an old mill in Redding, Calif., and to start a family business that would include their two sons. The business was not without its setbacks. When Mr. Moore was 60, an arsonist burned down Moore’s Flour Mill. Any owner might have quit at that point. But for the sake of his sons and their families, Mr. Moore rebuilt the business. Later, he sold it to his sons and moved to Portland, Ore., where, for the third time, he set up a mill. Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods has flourished.
This year, at 81, Mr. Moore has finally retired. And in a gesture of uncommon gratitude, he has given the Red Mill to his employees through an employee stock ownership plan. “I could have sold it. We get plenty of offers,” he told the interviewer. “But my employees, including the sales staff all over the world, have really made it what it is today.”
Many might refer to Bob Moore as a self-made man. But that would mean overlooking the contribution of his wife, his sons, and his workers, which Mr. Moore has refused to do. Instead, he acknowledges what is true for all: business is a joint enterprise dependent on its workers.
It’s a story to reconsider on Labor Day.