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When Fish Fly

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When Fish Fly

Lessons for Creating a Vital and Energized Workplace - From the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market


15 min read
10 take-aways
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What's inside?

There’s nothing fishy about developing people as the Fish Market does: with listening, caring and years of commitment.

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Author John Yokoyama, owner of Seattle’s World Famous Pike Place Fish Market, explains how he changed his attitude toward his employees, embraced a new way of treating people, led his employees in a fundamental directional shift and built a widespread reputation. This isn’t a business “cookbook” that tells you step by step what to do. As Yokoyama insists, you can’t just copy someone else’s success. You must be an individual. However, the story of his turnaround and triumph at World Famous Pike Place Fish Market is a good read that illuminates the need for leaders to treat their employees, as he says, as people, not as human resources. Although the Market is getting to be as overexposed as a fish left out in the sun, welcomes this first person exposition from the owner. After numerous published accounts about the Market, the saga of how Yokoyama empowered employees, promoted his business and changed his style comes through best in his own words.


To Change Your Business, Change Yourself First

The first step in changing your business isn’t changing your employees. It is changing yourself, your attitude, your way of thinking and your way of interacting. Do you have preconceived ideas about people or misconceptions that hinder your ability to consider new approaches? Most people do. Do you think your way is “best?” Do you respond negatively to suggestions? If so, beware. You are blocking input and stagnating. If you keep thinking as you’ve always thought, you will be living in the past not the present or the future. Be open to new ideas. Realize that everyone has something to contribute. For you and your firm to make a difference in the world, develop a great big idea. With a mighty idea, you can do fine things.

The World Famous Pike Place Fish Market

John Yokoyama started working for Pike Place Fish in Seattle, Washington, in 1960. At age 25, he used all his savings to purchase the unsuccessful business. He spent the next 20 years running the Pike Place Fish Market, but he says in retrospect that he treated his employees more like objects or collateral than human beings. He made a living, but his business...

About the Authors

John Yokoyama is the owner of the World Famous Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington. Joseph Michelli, Ph.D., is a business and management consultant and the author of Humor, Play and Laughter.

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