Business in Focus: Pike Place Fish Market

A closer look at companies executing leadership excellence




The city of Seattle, Washington, is home to the world famous Pike Place Fish Market where fresh fish have been hawked for nearly a century.  The open air market is known for its team of fun loving fishmongers who hurl customers’ selections from the ice packed displays at the front to the scales in the back. The story of the market’s success is rooted in the story of its former owner, John YokoyamaIts future lies in the sure hands of four former employees to whom Yokoyama sold the market to in July of 2018. The fish market was not always a place that drew crowds. In fact, 21 years after Yokoyama bought the market in 1965, the business was facing bankruptcy.

That’s when he hired a coach to turn things around.  During the coaching sessions, Yokoyama and his team worked together to envision the future.  One employee suggested that the market strive to become world famous.  That idea sparked the shift from Pike Place Fish Market as a business to a cause – one that Yokoyama and his employees committed themselves to fully.

Reaching world fame, they agreed, would require the living out of five core practices:

  1.  Be present and relate to people as human beings
  2.  Look for ways to make others’ day
  3.  Be of service and take great care of others
  4.  Have the very best quality seafood (the market sells only 100% sustainable seafood)
  5.  Serve not only the customers, but the world

Soon after the team started putting these practices into action, the world took notice. In 1990, Ted Turner‘s Goodwill Games were held in Seattle. News crews trolling for local stories on the city discovered the fish market and filmed its performances with customers. Soon after, the fish market appeared on Good Morning America, and was featured in newspapers and magazine articles throughout the U.S.

In 1998, the market was the subject of a documentary film and accompanying book, FISH! Philosophy. Since then, the core beliefs and practices of Pike Place Fish Market have been used to train teams from businesses such as Enterprise Rent-A-CarSprint Nextel, and Southwest Airlines.

As for selling the world famous market, Yokoyama could have named any price he wanted. Instead, he chose to place the business in the hands of four team members who will ensure the legacy lives on and do their part to make the world a better place – one flying fish at a time.
















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