Something's Fishy

romney screen grab - 60 min

In Seattle, long hard work days start early at the Pike Place Fish Market. But those fishmongers don't seem to mind slinging slimy, smelly salmon 12 hours a day in an outdoor market that's cold as a mackerel. Somehow, they always seem to be in a good mood, reports CBS News Sunday Morning Correspondent Bill Geist.

At the Pike Place Fish Market, when somebody buys a fish, duck! Fish fly and orders echo through the market.

Tourists line up to catch this seafood spectacular, often finding themselves part of the show. And John Yokoyama is the ringmaster of what used to be a quiet, small, shrimpy little fish shop.

What happened?

"I think it started 10 years ago when we took a stand that we were going to become world famous," says John. "We took a stand that we were gonna become world famous..."

No ad campaign or anything. He just said it, and it was so. His guppy-sized sales took on big tuna proportions, and his staff grew from six to a school of 21. If you find that a little hard to believe, what follows sounds like an absolute fish story.

The corporate world has latched onto the Pike Place Fish Market's "concepts" and "philosophy," and uses the market to inspire and motivate employees. Slinging salmon has been elevated to fish philosophy, and John Yokoyama has become a business sage.

Fish philosophy has four simple tenets:

  1. Play. Have a little fun at work.
  2. Make their day. Engage customers. Make them part of the fun.
  3. Be there. Yokoyama explains that it "means to be there with you right now, to actually pay attention to you to make sure you take care of that person in front of you."
  4. Choose your attitude. Before you go to work in the morning, pick out an attitude, just like you choose your underwear. The workers at Pike Place Fish Market say they choose good attitudes because John Yokoyama treats them like family, holding regular get-togethers, paying them well, sharing in profits from the tapes and seminars, and giving them benefits.
The four fish principles have spawned a corporate training industry, featuring a book of fish philosophy, a business bestseller with 250,000 copies in print.

There are more and more new fish tapes (now in 12 languages) and workbooks and guides and Pete the Perch stuffed animals (more than 100,000 sold).

There are fish camps, like the one in Orlando, Fla., where campers pay $500 each for a day, and lively fish seminars run by John and his crew for businesses from travel agencies to insurance companies to hospitals.

Followers from around the world who have seen the tapes make pilgrimages to the market, the mecca of fish philosophy. One recent visitor was a jeweler from Detroit, who said his business has been good "since we're one of the jewelry stores that has fun. I've had a lot of customers say most jewelry stores are like mortuaries, like a funeral home."

So the fish phiosophy works for diamond rings, too?

"Even for diamond rings," the jeweler confirms, "and it's less stinky."

The little fish market that could has scaled the heights. With things going so swimmingly, what next?

"Our new vision is world peace," says John. "And we feel that if we can communicate like this at Pike Place Fish and be in relationships like we are at Pike Place Ffish and we love each other like we do, then world peace is a possibility."

World peace? That's a whale of an ambitious goal for a little fish market in Seattle. But, John says, the fish spirit is highly contagious -- and people all over the world are catching it.

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