Becoming Trader Joe
How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys
Build an iconic shopping experience that your customers love—and a work environment that your employees love being a part of—using this blueprint from Trader Joe’s visionary founder, Joe Coulombe.
Infuse your organization with a distinct personality and culture that draws customers in a way that simply competing on price cannot.
Joe Coulombe founded what would become Trader Joe’s in the late 1960s and helped shape it into the beloved, quirky food chain it is today. Realizing early on that he could not compete and win by playing the same game his bigger competitors were playing, he decided to build a store for educated people of somewhat modest means. He brought in unusual products from around the world and promoted them in the Fearless Flyer, providing customers with background on how they were sourced and their nutritional value. He also gave the stores a tiki theme to reinforce the exotic trader ship concept with employees wearing Hawaiian shirts.
In this way, Joe laid down a blueprint for other business owners to follow to build their own unique shopping experience that customers love, and a work environment that employees love being a part of.
In Becoming Trader Joe, Joe shares the lessons he learned by challenging the status quo and rethinking the way a business operates. He shows readers of all types:
How moving from a pure analytical approach to a more creative, problem-solving approach can drive innovation.How finding an affluent niche of passionate customers can be a better strategy than competing on price and volume.How questioning all aspects of the way you do business leads to powerful results.How to build a business around your values and identity.
Trader Joe's founder Coulombe details the company's rise from a plucky grocery operation to industry heavyweight with legions of loyal customers in his inspiring and revealing debut. He largely focuses on the often-surprising decisions behind the company's success, covering the company's strategies for buying, advertising, distributing, and day-to-day operations since opening in 1967. Unconventional decisions about minor facets of the business paid big rewards, he demonstrates: in the 1980s, Coulombe used the enterprise's increasingly powerful brand, for example, to popularize the previously little-known pilchard as a low-cost alternative to tuna. Coulombe shares his thoughts on his hiring process (and why he's made it a point to hire people over 55) and his fondness for left-handed employees (they "see the world differently"), and details how he capitalized on such trends as the homogenization of American culture and the emergence of a well-educated, well-traveled consumer demographic. Coulombe also offers an excellent road map for success in life more generally, showing how determination and a willingness to try new things can save the day. Readers interested in the fascinating history behind a beloved brand and entrepreneurs looking for guidance on how to think out of the box need look no further.