On the Shoulders of Giants

Remembering Jack Bogle and Herb Kelleher

How do you carry on the legacy of a great individual? A start is by remembering what they taught. Another is to put those teachings into practice.

Earlier this year, the world lost two great individuals: John “Jack” Bogle and Herb Kelleher. Jack was the founder and longtime CEO of the Vanguard Group, bringing to market the very first index fund available to individual investors in 1976, the Vanguard 500, and grew The Vanguard Group into one of the world’s largest investment management companies. Herb Kelleher was the founder and longtime CEO of Southwest Airlines, who is recognized for revolutionizing low-cost air travel in the U.S.

Each one engaged Conscious Capitalism in his own way. Herb endorsed the book Conscious Capitalism with this: “Conscious Capitalism is a welcome explication and endorsement of the virtues of free-enterprise capitalism—properly comprehended, there is no more beneficial economic system—and a simultaneously pragmatic and inspirational extolment of higher purpose and humanism in business. I hail and revere the tenets of Conscious Capitalism!” Jack spoke at the 2017 Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference, with the full video available here.

The way they did this was thinking beyond the common understandings of how business “should” be done. Herb may have put it best when he said, “The business of business is people.” Or, as Jack said at the Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference: “The purpose of business is providing a public good that goes beyond oneself.”

That means taking care of employees. In his talk at the Conscious Capitalism Annual Conference, Jack explained the value of passing along savings to customers by having employees as shareholders. It may not make the founder, like Jack, as wealthy as others who structure the company differently, but as he put it: “What the hell is the matter with taking care of the people who built the business with you?” When it came to his employees, Herb’s philosophy was simple: “I just treated them like human beings.”

That means providing opportunities to customers that were previously not available. Both are known as democratizers. Jack is known for democratizing stocks and bonds, making them more accessible for more people. Kelleher is known for democratizing the skies, making air travel more accessible for more people. 

Jack and Herb made big business out of making industries more accessible to more people, both for those they served and those who served alongside them. They practiced and preached the power of business to make people’s lives better.   

They were giants not only in their industries, but also in capitalism, more broadly. Let us remember what they taught. Let us keep them alive by standing on their shoulders.