The father of an autistic son, Randy Lewis knew firsthand the struggles disabled people face each day. Most people with physical or mental disabilities are turned away from employment. If they manage to obtain a position, they are paid less than their peers. He saw how his son, Austin, was overlooked and decided to make a difference. Lewis, the Senior Vice President of Supply Chain & Logistics at Walgreens, did just that. He pioneered a model that created an effective and inclusive workforce.
Lewis set out to disprove the misconception that people with disabilities cannot perform well at work. He asserts that Walgreens “didn’t lower the bar when it came to performance, but we did have to open the door wider to include those who are routinely overlooked. The results exceeded our wildest expectations.” The opportunity began when a new distribution center was built, more automated than ever before. Due to the efficiency of automation, Lewis could start the process of hiring more disabled workers. Now, ten percent of their employees also live with a disability.
“Once you see a person with a disability as you, not them, other things fade away.”
In 2013, Lewis retired from Walgreens after 16 dedicated years. Inspired by Austin, in 2014 Lewis authored his memoir, No Greatness without Goodness: How a Father’s Love Changed a Company and Sparked a Movement. Bob Wright believes Lewis is a “real trailblazer” and Temple Gandin praised his book, stating it is a “must-read for everyone in business school.” In his book, Lewis explains how he always remained focus on being a business, not a charity. Walgreens held, and continues to hold, high expectations for their workers with disabilities. All workers must meet the same standards, and their model works. In fact, his program has been implemented in companies such as Procter & Gamble, Lowe’s, UPS, and more.
Lewis is a Peace Corps volunteer, Fortune 50 senior executive, Arthur Murray dance instructor, and, above all, an advocate for others. His mission to make a difference has altered countless lives. In a world where those with disabilities are ignored or underemployed, Randy Lewis is their voice.