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Richard Larsen: Examples of Corporate Altruism and Magnanimity

October 19th, 2009 by Halli

By Richard Larsen

The administration and Congress are actively engaged in a class-envy war on the private sector, the free-market system, and corporations. Part of the process is to villainize corporations to make them objects of our disapprobation.

In this context, it’s advisable to remember that America has been built economically by companies led by men and women of vision and principle. Not only do they provide jobs to over 150 million Americans in the workforce, but they provide health insurance, retirement plans, and a host of other benefits to employees who bring their skills to the table day after day for their employer.

There are also companies who go beyond good business practices, following a higher law in contributing to communities and caring for their own. One such example is Texas Roadhouse.

Three weeks ago Texas Roadhouse opened another of their outstanding restaurants in Logan, Utah. New restaurant openings are not uncommon, but this one is. All of the profits generated by this one venue will be used to fund the company’s charity, Andy’s Outreach. Andy is the name of the company’s armadillo mascot, and the charity so named is established to help Texas Roadhouse employees and their families during times of need. As the company puts it, “Andy’s Outreach Fund is the Texas Roadhouse way of raising money to help our family members (any employee) who might be struggling while carrying on the incredible, legendary culture of our one-of-a-kind place to work.”

The origins of the program are found in tragedy for one of their “family members.” Company CEO G.J. Hart was attending a seminar at the company headquarters in Louisville a few years ago where he met a veteran dishwasher named James Bryan. Bryan was a deaf man and was the father to five children. A few weeks later, Hart learned that Bryan had died from a heart attack, and he mobilized his resources and organized an effort to pay for his funeral and help his surviving family members. They succeeded in doing much more than that, as the organizing group eventually put all five children through college.

In just the few years that Texas Roadhouse has been in Pocatello, Andy’s Outreach has assisted over half-a-dozen local employees. Most recently, three have been helped with medical expenses, including one who is out of work for six months due to a car accident. Dave Alexander, the Managing Partner for the Pocatello restaurant says employees can contribute to the fund as well, and that Pocatello has the highest percentage of employee contributions of any in the chain.

To further illustrate how important Andy’s Outreach is to the 320 Managing Partners in the company, they contributed the necessary funds to build the Logan restaurant.

Another superb example is provided by Sears. By law, companies who have reservist employees who are called to active duty are required to hold their jobs open until their tour of duty is complete. With over 500 reservist employees called to active duty over the past few years, Sears did much more than what the law required. They not only held the reservists jobs for them, but the company paid the difference in salaries and maintained all benefits including medical insurance and bonus programs for their reservist employees. They extended these benefits for up to 60 months.

When I first learned of this policy a few years ago I was impressed at their commitment to their employees and their families and the support of our troops, and resolved that I owed them my loyalty. I’ve had to replace three major appliances during that time, and intentionally used Sears products to replace them for that very reason.

I’ve also been gratified to learn that IDACORP, the parent company of Idaho Power did the same for their reservist employees.

Corporations are nothing more than people coalesced around specific products and services to serve other people. Although there may be exceptions, it is disingenuous to ascribe nefarious motives to corporations carte blanche and the private sector in general. And many, many companies, like Texas Roadhouse, Sears, and IDACORP see the bigger picture and deserve our respect and admiration, not our scorn.

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