The Costco Mission Statement and How It Impacts Company Culture

Costco's Vision and Values Were Driven by Its Two Founders

Costco Wholesale Honolulu
Costco Wholesale Honolulu.

As far as wholesale warehouse shopping experiences go, there's something distinct about culture of Costco that makes it stand apart from the rest. The retailer says they have a culture that is based on an ethical mission derived from clear vision and values, and they have described those values in a mission statement that they share with their employees.

The Costco Mission Statement and Motto

Costco says their mission "is to continually provide our members with quality goods and services at the lowest possible prices. To achieve our mission we will conduct our business with the following Code of Ethics in mind:

  • Obey the law.
  • Take care of our members.
  • Take care of our employees.
  • Respect our vendors.

"If we do these four things throughout our organization, then we will realize our ultimate goal, which is to reward our shareholders."

Co-Founder Jeffrey Brotman's Background

Outside of the state of Washington, Jeffrey Brotman might be the less famous co-founder of Costco, but that doesn't mean he was the less influential co-founder. When looking at Brotman's life experience, it's easy to see how much influence he had on the Costco Code of Ethics, which is a key part of its corporate mission, vision, and values.

Jeffery Brotman was born in 1942 to Bernie and Pearl Brotman in Tacoma, Wash. He was raised Jewish and his personal values were influenced by his Rabbi and his parents. His father worked as a retailer himself.

Even though he had attended law school specifically to avoid following in his father’s retailing footsteps, Brotman ended up opening a chain of men’s clothing stores with his brother, Michael. He was an investor in other retail businesses, like Starbucks and Garden Botanica, but it wasn’t until he founded Costco with James Sinegal that he was able to implement his vision and values.

Co-Founder Jim Sinegal's Background

Sinegal was born in 1936 to a Catholic family. He wanted to become a doctor, but his low grades in school prevented him from being able to get into medical school.

Sinegal worked his way through college as a bagger at the FedMart retail chain. Just a few years after starting at the store as a mattress unpacker at FedMart, Sinegal became the store manager, and eventually rose to the position of vice president.

Sol Price, the founder of Fed-Mart, decided in 1979 that he wanted to start a new venture and took Sinegal with him. Together the two started Price Club and, during the process, Sinegal learned about the startup of the retail business that would become Costco.

The Importance of Retail Education

Price Club is credited as being the first retail big box warehouse concept store, which became the natural springboard for the Costco chain. Sinegal learned much from his mentor, Sol Price, but in an interview with the New York Times, Price admitted that he learned from Sinegal as well. 

"Jim has done a very good job in balancing the interests of the shareholders the employees, the customers and the managers,” said Price. “Most companies tilt too much one way or the other.”

Sinegal did eventually part ways with Price and the Price Club. By the time Sinegal and Brotman founded Costco, Sinegal already had 29 years of hands-on experience in all aspects of retailing. 

All of this led to the creation of the Costco values and vision that still exist today.

Costco Changed Retailing

In the case of Costco Wholesale Warehouse, two founders turned out to be better than one. Using counter-intuitive retailing strategies, Costco has become a wildly popular retail phenomenon around the world that has been referred to as "the Costco Craze." The retail industry innovations that are credited to Costco include the addition of fresh food, eye-care clinics, pharmacies, and gas stations to the retail warehouse customer experience.