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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 12:30 GMT
Best of British business: Lewis

BBC News Online is inviting readers to vote for Britain's greatest business figure. This is the case for John Spedan Lewis.
John Lewis department stores are the mecca of Britain's house-moving classes.

John Spedan Lewis
Every year millions of people go to John Lewis to buy a new washing machine, a piece of curtain fabric, even the odd pot or pan.

It's a great British institution, largely thanks to the vision of one extraordinary man.

That man was John Spedan Lewis, the son of the founder. His radical business philosophy underpins the organisation to this day.

Profits pledge

In 1919 he made good on a pledge to his staff to let them share in the profits of the business. Ten years later, he set up a partnership to enshrine that trust.

John Lewis has a quite extraordinary business purpose - it's to ensure the happiness of those who work for it.

And today, 58,000 partners share in the fortunes of the business.

Spedan Lewis also made another pledge - that John Lewis would never be knowingly undersold.

It is these twin pledges on partnership and price that make John Lewis unique.

Responsible and profitable

The past few months have demonstrated the limitations of the more aggressive sort of capitalism, with the well-publicised collapse of companies like Enron.

John Lewis, though, continues to demonstrate that a business can be both benevolent and successful.

The principles first espoused by Spedan Lewis more than 80 years ago have stood the test of time.

That's why he gets my vote for the greatest Briton in the world of business.


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