Dick Spady may not be a national icon, but he was a giant man of vision and values. He co-founded Seattle’s legendary hamburger company–Dick’s Drive In. He believed in people’s inherent quality and dignity. This was reflected in all his work from covering health care for all his employees to his passion for civic engagement.
In the fast foods industry notorious for providing low pay and poor to non-existent benefits, he paid for health care benefits for all his employees–full and part-time. But that’s not all.
If college students worked 20 hours per week, Dick’s covered their tuition costs. If some employees did not go to college, the company covered the costs of child care. Employees could take time for community activities and the company would cover that time. He not only invested in his company and his employees, he invested in the community as well through his employees’ service. This all in addition to his personal civic contributions. There is also a box on the counter at each Dick’s so customer can donate spare change for community organizations.
Dick’s passion was civic engagement–assuring people had a voice in community affairs at all levels. He devoted his non-business life to consensus building and civic engagement. Passions we deeply shared.
When we founded CodeBlueNow! in 2003 to assure the public had a voice in shaping the health care system, Dick and his family donated a new survey tool they created called the Opinionnaire. Unlike most survey tools, among other things, it let people object to a question and abstain from answering a question. We called our Opinionnaire tool the Pulse. We used it to survey views on health care during the 2008 presidential election in both Iowa and Washington state–red and blue states. We verified those findings with professional market research and the findings were the same–that there is common ground on many issues.
We found this considerable common ground when we listened to what the people had to say and re-framed the discussion from the political to the personal.
Dick’s life is a shining example of what can be done, that believing in people matters, that employees are actually a good investment, and that if you want a successful business you must treat your employees with dignity and respect and provide for their well-being. These practices did not drive his business into the ground financially–it flourished.
It is with the deepest sorrow that I share the news of the death of this remarkable man who gave so much to so many. All he asked in return was that we let people have the voice they so amply deserve.
Dick died on January 10th at age 92: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/obituaries/dick-spady-co-founder-and-namesake-of-dicks-drive-in-dies-at-91/
Rest in Peace, Dick. Job well done.