"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

...For he to-day that sheds his blood with me/ Shall be my brother" Henry V., William Shakespeare

When you gather together all the decisions I've had to make in the dreaming, creation, and realization of this business, there has only been one that has really weighed on me. 

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that is because, generally, I have allowed my personal ethical, moral and flavour preferences to guide me. Decisions are pretty easy when you have the hubris to believe in your own good sense and taste. But the decision I am going to share with you today (and yes, gather your opinions on) wasn't so easily negotiated.

I can argue my future customers over to my choices regarding animal husbandry, because the defenses are so logical. It's rather harder to argue them over to my sense of humour

So I set about trying to get a carry-bag designed. I thought it went well with my mission to offer a sustainable option to market purchasers (and hey! It doesn't hurt my advertising dreams neither). I thought I would get it to say something HILARIOUS, because who doesn't love a bag that tickles the silly bones? And that's where I hit a snag. My first instinct was to plaster "Get my meat in your mouth - and like it!" all over them and be done with it. 

... yeah. And then a load of people rather vehemently objected. And I realized that I would never pick the right phrase on my instincts alone. SO: I put it to you, dear readers. Please pick a bag style and sentence from the options listed below. And help a lady out. Everyone who helps out with the decision (as long as it is not a hung jury! That ain't no help!) will get a bag when they are finished. They'll have the ultimate sentence on one side, and my logo, designed by the amazing H.D., on the other. Incidentally, the bags themselves are completely fabulous. Super heavy-duty, hand woven and printed by a really cool co-operative that gives economically disadvantaged women the skills and equipment to help support their families. Tres cool. So here we go. 

 

Once more into the breach! 

(Remember that this is primarily for a British audience... and they aren't always as ribald as you North Americans...)

 

OPTION #1 - 

We know where our meat comes from... Do you?

 

OPTION #2 - 

Do you know where your meat comes from?

 

OPTION #3 - 

I know where my meat comes from... Do you?

 

OPTION #4 - 

I know where my meat comes from./We know where our meat comes from. 

 

Alright - and now the design.

It'll always be black lettering on natural canvas. BUT, it could also be: 

- All natural bag and handles

- Natural bag with Black handles

- Black handles and black reinforcing

- Black handles and black gussets (the bag has gussets that allow it to sit square  - please note, the reinforcing, if made a different colour, does not continue onto the gussets) 

 

And now, some pictures to help you visualize. My apologies that I don't have mock-ups of all the options.

 

 

Choice of Handles

Choice of Handles;Sentence Side
NOW VOTE! Which sentence, and which style of handles? 

Please leave your email address if you would like a bag afterwards, I'll need that to get your postal address. 

 Fine Print: Limited to the first 50 comments; Limited to one bag per person. 


"Always Do Things Right...

This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." - Mark Twain

**************

I want to share a dilemma with you today. I'm not sure if this is of immediately obvious concern to anyone who hasn't tried to start their own shebang, but maybe it is... I'm so deep down into this whole process that it was often difficult to remember what life looked before!

In a nutshell, the dilemma is: How do I get what I consider to be of adequate quality, while satisfying legal requirements and keeping inside my budget?

The 'what' in the sentence above refers to a great may things - from equipment (New of everything! Best brands! Top of the line!) to systems (Checklists for all! Accept no mistakes!Throw out everything that doesn't taste like a 10!)

There have been many places where this dilemma has taken the limelight - but perhaps first and foremost was during the time I described in my last post... when I was getting into Floortown (with a slight layover in Drainageburg). 

I sketched out a little picture for myself during that period... And here it is in all its doodle-glory. 

IMG_4206_2

Perhaps stupidly, I have a line below which I will not go, quality-wise, even if it meets standards and fits the budget - but just how high can I go before I fall out of spec with one or the other of the other conditions?!

As if I couldn't get the grasp of it when I made my first doodle - I made another. I guess I thought it might be easier to understand as a Venn diagram? Sheesh. 

IMG_4208_2

Anyway.

Essentially - there is a magic, holy grail (yup - that's the cup pictured in the center!) where my personal quality standards compromise to meet both legal and budgetary requirements. And yet, as I am basically crazy - and anyone who is trying to start a business has no business being otherwise - I STILL cannot accept middle of the road. I simply must be better than average (the word 'best' is a frequent visitor to my lips), so I inevitably spent more money than most trying to get to Floortown (and will again to eventually to retire in Cureroomopolis with summers by Lake Gonnarunsosmoothly). 

These are dangerous places to visit or stay in with a disposition like mine - because I can easily get talked into spending much more than my budget can handle under the unassailable logic of "It'll cost more to fix/re-do/maintain if I cheap out on this now!" also known as the Savings-in-The-Long-Run argument.  

Reasonable logic, but the Dilemma then argues that if I agree to too many of those, I will find myself skimping on items that I need right now. Or...even.. worse... (the true horror for any new entrepreneur)... I could completely run out of liquid cash. Imagine those last few days before payday where you're trying to make ends meet and you're completely strapped? Now imagine that in order for payday to actually arrive, you need to keep spending money... That's the horror of running out of cash as a business owner. 

I wish that I could say that I have come up with a satisfactory conclusion. 

I will say that my tendency to let myself be swayed only by quality has been on the decline... Basically, as a function of obscenely high-priced purchases at the beginning of this journey ("Sure! £700,000.00* for drains sounds about right. Where do I sign?"), I am now scrounging around in the bins of my neighbourhood for anything I can jury-rig, DIY, into a functioning piece of equipment... But always falling above my personal limits of course! 

IMG_4486

Next up - The Hilarious Acronym All Cooks Promote... Anyone who knows what I am talking about gets three points. Anyone who doesn't will have to tune in next time!

 

*Prices changed to protect my wallet. 

 


"Vision is the art of seeing...

...What is Invisible to Others." - Jonathan Swift

Hmmm.. Long week. Surprisingly fulfilling though!

In order to sneak away for that amazing Zinger-filled weekend - I've had to work a couple of 6 day weeks. I really didn't want to use the PTO I have saved up because I'll need as much of it as possible for the wedding in August so, in typical foodservice fashion, I just gave up having a weekend for a few weeks. 

In some ways, it really suits me actually, because (you may have noticed!) I'm a bit of a workaholic and a bit of can't-let-go-er, so I loved being in the loop more than usual. On the other hand, I'm exhausted, stress-dreaming and not as far along on my business plan as I'd like to be. 

That said, I did manage to cobble together a workable VISION. Huzzah!

I may have been a Doubting Thomas initially about the point of writing down a very, very specific picture of what your business - or life? - will be like at a fixed point in the future, but holla, I've changed my tune. 

I am so ridiculously envious of the future I've painted, I practically want to kill future Addie so I can take her place in it! In much less violent terms, I would do practically anything to achieve the image I've painted. And I thought that I was inspired after hearing Ari the Guru go at us? Wow. I don't think I've ever felt so driven before... and as I pretty much define 'driven', that's saying something. 

Although she's a real beaut, I'm pretty sure that this vision could still bear some tweaking, so feel free to pick at it. According to my sources, the key to an effective vision is that it be 1. Inspiring 2. Strategically Sound 3. Documented  and 4. Communicated. I think I've pretty much nailed numero one, three and four. But #2 is a doozie, so have at it. 

I picked one single day in my life, six years from now - six years because 2020 sounds a lot better than 2019! - Ideally, I think that I'd like to also write a vision for my overall year/life etc. for that time period as well. Specify exactly what I am doing with my time - what work, what travel, etc. but I think I might put that off until after my plan is finished... 

 

**********

CROWN &QUEUE VISION FOR 2020 - 3RD DRAFT

I’m 36 years old, Jamin and I are still very happy – he’s finally received that pay hike that he’s deserved since we’ve met and after a 2nd surgery, he’s finally no longer in daily pain. We’re still in our Canada Water two bedroom, but with a 2 year old Meatball and thoughts about another one – we’ve been thinking about moving on soon.

 

It’s delivery day. I wake up 7 am with Jamin – he’s started waking up early along with me so we can all have breakfast together as a family. The Meatball is up too, and giggly, but s/he’s so well-behaved, s/he still helps set the table. We eat, and at 7:30, Jamin kisses me goodbye and the Meatball and I clean up, pack up, and head out. The Meatball only goes to daycare 3 days out of the week, so s/he can socialize, but today s/he’s with me. I used to work six days a week when we first began operating, but in the last year I have forced myself to have a proper weekend with my family. Now I don't do more than just check-in on Saturdays and only work half Sundays.

We walk to the Arches in Bermondsey, playing games along the way, and I wave to my neighboring wholesalers at the Spa Terminus. Several of them have children too, and we split the duties of watching them. Sometimes we all pitch in for a babysitter if production gets away from us. Today it’s the Soap Maker’s turn – they’re going to make soap together – and then they’ll hit me up later for lunch. I leave the Meatball and let myself into my mid-size Arch (when I negotiated with the Landlord, I worried that I was taking a space much too large, but I'm amazed everyday at how we fill the space, and how lucky I am that we have enough!). 

 

The Sales Manager is there already, double-checking the orders for the day, managing the website, social media and making calls. S/he’ll already have reviewed the phone-in orders, mail-orders and standing orders, and organized a clipboard of orders by due date and hung them on the wall for us. We try to offer as personal and as enthusiastic a shopping experience as possible. The Sales Manager usually spends half the day visiting customers and making sales calls.

The CFO will arrive after me, at 8:30am.  S/he does double duty as our accountant and financial officer as well as our buyer. Although we often work together to organize the buying and non-pork inventories, I've been trying to set back and allow him/her more autonomy.

 

I noticed that the Sales Manager has done me the favour of checking all the temps already so I head straight into my processing cooler and start shifting things around to make space for today’s delivery. I finish up in time to hear the bell ring at 8:45. As I head out, I pass J.O.A.T[1] on his/her way into the processed cooler and the curing room to take inventory. S/he’ll have been here first thing in the morning to pick up today’s orders and deliver them in our refridgerated van and has probably just returned.

 

I open the garage door to let Mr.Pig in with my twice-weekly whole carcass delivery. I check them in (The CFO keeps my non-pork deliveries on alternate days to allow me time to receive/check-in and process in the same day) and toss the confirmed invoices on the double desk the CFO and the Sales Manager share.

I hang the carcasses and start prepping my knives. I get 5-7 whole pigs in each week, which I occasional supplement with commodity shoulders, so I can produce enough to meet specific demand for certain recipes. Even so, I only work with suppliers who are as commited to extraordinary quality and impeccable animal husbandry as I am. I know the entire life history of all the animals I work with; I am commited to helping these animals lead good lives and committed to honouring their memory by taking as much care and respect with their bodies as possible.  Because everyone in my supply chain (and right on to my customers) is so excited to be a part of keeping these classic traditions - butchery, charcuterie and handmade artisinal foodstuffs -  alive, at every step we try to support and encourage each other. Even if this means sometimes being forgiving about accounts receivables. 

 

My hanging carcass rack is on rollers, so I pull it up to my butchering table and proceed to break the bodies up into halves and primals. I keep the Arch very cold to allow me the space to work, but still, I don’t waste time to avoid the meat getting too warm. JOAT comes out with a completed inventory of the processed cooler, and time-lines on the cure room. S/he grabs up the upcoming order clip as s/he heads towards my workspace. Because I produce all my own products, and almost all of them require at least 3 weeks lead time, I have to be very careful about maintaining my pars. I also offer customers the option of customized or specialty meats, but these need to be requested a month in advance. For these reasons, I ask that my customers give me at least two week’s notice before they change their order. JOAT and I talk through where our levels are and what the priorities should be. We discuss which items ought to be highlighted at the Saturday market and s/he points out a specialty order due next month that I ought to make today or tomorrow. As we wrap up, I’m finishing my first pig – it takes me about an hour a pig, and this delivery of 3 carcasses means I’m wrapping up just as noon hits.

 

Meanwhile, JOAT starts assembling boxes and pulling meats to fill all the orders due tomorrow. Orders left overnight can be picked up directly from us by courier anytime from 11am till 5pm, while ‘next-day’ deliveries go out starting at 6am, six days a week. JOAT usually wraps up the deliveries by 9-10am, returns to the Arch, packs up the following day’s deliveries and then goes home.

 

My butchering timing is good as, having just finished putting all the bits back into the processing cooler, the whole tribe of children (as well as the Soap Maker) troop over for lunch.

 

The Meatball loves to be in the kitchen and heads straight over to remind me it is time to start cooking. Together we head into the processed cooler and pick out a few fresh sausages (I sell these at the Saturday market because the turn around on producing them is so quick). I also have stock of vegetables and cheeses that come from other Spa producers – we always try to support one another! The Soap maker needs some time to get her production in order, so s/he leaves after promising to come back and grab some leftovers later. The Beekeeper turns up at that moment (s/he’s got the afternoon shift).

 

Some of the older kids and the Beekeeper set the table while the Meatball and I cook. Fresh rolls for the sausages from one of the bakers, grilled veggies, a salad (the Meatball is great at making dressings) and a plate of cheese. Unpasteurized milk from one of the cheesemakers is the final touch. JOAT, the CFO and the Sales Manager (who’s just returned from a sales call) join us for lunch as well. Everyone who works for me is always well-fed, which, in my opinion isn't even a 'perk' as it should just be a given. Because we practice OBM/OBF, JOAT and the Sales Manager know that we are all working together to create a sustainable business, and although their wages may not be as high as other jobs, Crown&Queue works hard to give them a satisfying, comfortable and happy place to work. I only pay myself £600/wk, just a decent living wage really, and my employees make nearly as much, and they know it. Actually, this year, we are on track to post a profit for the second year in a row. It seems unbelievable, but after all costs and expenses, Crown&Queue will bring in £65,000 of pure profit this year. Parts of this, obviously, will go towards paying my shareholders who invested in me via Seedrs. But the rest I will roll back into the business as well as give my three employees thank-you bonuses this year. I recognize the fact that all three choose to work for me, and I respect that choice by being as accommodating, and respectful of my team as I can be. Each one of my team members has exceptional and unique qualities that they bring to the table. Although, like all families, we can argue, generally, Crown &Queue is a rollicking and happy home.

 

The Meatball and I play a rousing game of tag before s/he goes down for a nap. I keep a space for this in my arch (when s/he was younger, I kept the crib there and had the Meatball by all day long). The group tumbles off to learn how to tend bees and make honey. The Sales Manager cleans the dishes and resets the kitchen.

 

My team heads back to work. JOAT finishes up all the orders due for delivery tomorrow, sweeps and mops out both of the coolers and leaves at 1:30pm. I have 100 different restaurants and shops that I supply, not including The Cheese Shop, and a healthy website-driven mail order program of about 50 orders a week (about £1,000). Due to varying needs, we receive orders from about half of brick-and-mortars each week and a typical order is for about 30-40 pieces each (~£100 ea). The Cheese Shop is still probably my largest single account as they supply all three of their shops with my meats and have a £2,000 to £3,000 order each week. Thankfully, they organize their own deliveries from around the corner, which does take some of the pressure of my small team. Just about all of the restaurants and shops I serve have menus/inventories devoted to showcasing the best of local production. My meats really fit into a special niche not just because they are made in London, but also because the recipes feature English Heritage Pork Breeds and only English-grown (or traditionally English) spices and seasonings. As such, we don't focus on any export or mail-order outside of the UK. 

 

Every single one of my customers acknowledges the exceptionally high-quality of meat and service they receive from Crown&Queue. We are the highest and best ranked of the handful of people producing cured meat in London and still the only wholesale option. The flavour profiles we create are unique in England and, indeed the world, and I am committed to standing behind each and every one. If any of my customers has the slightest qualm about one of their purchases, I will do everything I can to make it right. Both JOAT, the CFO and the Sales Manager, indeed anyone who works with me – I hire extra people for markets and around Christmas – buys into our mission of an authentic, caring provision of service. Even though we've grown our business by at least 10% each year since our inception, we still treat every customer as though we need them. I believe, and my team buys into the idea, that this attitude is key to consistantly and constantly providing great service. We’ve been recognized several times by the industry (British Food Awards) and the media (Cuture, Saveur, The Times) as a spectacular model of food service, food quality and out-of-the-box products.

 

The Sales Manager tells me we’re on track to hit our forecast of sales, new orders, and production this week as s/he heads to fill in those lines on our whiteboard. Our huddle is tomorrow. Generally this is the last thing s/he does before s/he leaves at 2pm. The CFO filled out our costs, accounts receivables/payables lines a little later and usually leaves at 3pm - s/he only works 6.5 hour days, but works six days a week.  5 office days and one market day, that way s/he still has a solid sense of what how our products look, feel and taste. The Meatball wakes up from her nap and gets a cuddle and a juice box. The CFO offers to escort her to the Beekeeper’s and we both accept.

 

I have the next two hours alone to continue grinding meat, separating it as I go into different weighted piles based on my production needs. I salt and season all of the whole muscle cures, prepare MEP for all of the various sausages I will make tomorrow and by 5pm all of the meat is sorted, either ground or seasoned and hung. Sometimes I have time to make one batch of sausage on a delivery day, but I don’t push it, because I know that the more time I take today to sort myself, the more productive I will be tomorrow. I can usually push through 800-1000 sausages in a day when I’m properly set up. Generally, with two receiving days, this means I produce about 2800 - 3000 sausages a week. Sales currently are around 2000-2500 pc/week, which means I am consistantly building my stock. If sales continue as they are, I will hire myself an assistant during the latter part of this year or the next to help keep production where it ought to be. I'd prefer to bring in a culinary student or the like, someone who is eager to learn sausage-making for its own sake, rather than just as a joe-job, and teach them just as I once learned myself.  

 

I clean the butcher table, sweep, scrub and squeegee the floors. Hit the lights, alarms and locks, and head towards the Beekeeper to pick up my squealing Meatball. We laugh our way back to the condo and start to put together dinner just as Jamin comes home at 6pm. We play together as a family for a while after dinner, and the Meatball goes to bed at 7:30pm. Jamin and I enjoy our adult time together – he’s still my favourite resource for ideas and perspective. Finally, we both head to bed at 10pm and I fall asleep knowing deep down that I am excited to start it all over again tomorrow.



[1] Jack Of All Trades


"The most difficult thing is the decision to act...

The rest is merely tenacity."  - Amelia Earhart

 

FINALLY. Some time to myself. 

 

Although technically of course, not really to myself. I spend most of all my quote-unquote FREE time on either the business or wedding planning*.  So what I am really applauding here is that I have finally had some time to work on those two things, as opposed to devoting my time to my day job, monitoring my family's finances or running errands. 

 

First up then, is a bit of recap-alitis. 

I've just come back from Ann Arbor, Michigan where I had the immense pleasure of attending a seminar led by the exemplary Ari Weinzweig. I was orginially handed the first in his series of business books back when I lived in England and worked for the Cheese Shop. Unfortunately, it was a borrowed copy and had to go back to its owner when I moved back to the US. When it came time to start being serious about putting together Crown&Queue**, I bought myself a new copy and have been working through it steadily.

Reading Ari Weinzweig
Highlighter and Pen at the ready!

Although Ari's books are mostly about can-do than about how-to, I knew somehow that this was the right place to start building my vision. 

 

I shared much of what I was learning on here (as well as on facebook and twitter) and managed to capture the attention of an old friend who also happens to work at Zingerman's. In addition to sending me another one of Ari's books, 'Calvin' invited me to join this year's Cheese Summit.

Basically, every year, the Cheese Shop organizes a private Zingtrain seminar called 'Fun, Flavorful Finance' and invites some cheesy friends and family to learn the Ari-way along with them. It's an overview of Open Book Management, Open Book Finance, Visioning and etcetera. All the elements that I've been studying, and which seem to make Zingerman's so successful, presented by the man himself. 

Calvin suggested that if I could get myself to Ann Arbor (in 5 DAYS TIME!) there could be a spot for me at the seminar - and, to really light the fire under my butt, Calvin told me that he'd happily find accomodation for me and even pick me up from the airport!

I'm not sure when I've ever managed to pull something together on the fly like this so quickly before. 

Got the 'go-ahead' from the co-op, scheduled flights, rented cars, organized my life and basically immediately took off. And it was worth every second of stress and exhaustion and possibly insulting my family. Seriously. And not just because they had masseuses there for quick back-rubs during the breaks. 

I've never felt so inspired, motivated, passionate, and supported in my life. 

Beneath Zingerman's Deli
Even their boxes are inspiring!

 

I actually started writing that vision I've been putting off while at the airport waiting for my flight home!

Since one of the cardinal rules of OBM is to publish, publicize and otherwise shout your vision out to the world at large, I'll be posting my finished vision here in the next few days. 

I'd also like to write a bit about some of the awe-inspiring people I had the pleasure of meeting while I was there, but all that awe would overwhelm this particular post, so you can expect a total download on that in its own post soon too. 

 

Paint me giddy!

 

*Not trying to confuse you exactly  - I'm just being deliberately obsfucating to keep my privacy for the time being. But yeah, they're a big party in August!

**Pretty sure this is my finalized title... Thoughts?!


"The overarching desire to do the right thing well is something we can't train for...

"It's either there or it isn't." - Danny Myer

I had an interesting meeting the other day. I arranged it myself actually, although it didn't exactly go as I had planned. 

I don't want to get too deep into the nitty gritty  - but basically, there is a program I want to develop at the Organic Co-Op. I think it would mend a pretty serious gap between our practices and our mission statement. To develop this project, I needed board approval (we are a co-op, remember!), a hefty dollop of my time, and a bit of effort on the part of my team's members, and the team members of one or two other departments. But those kinds of needs kinda go hand in hand with 'briding a gap'; Not exactly a light undertaking. 

So, the meeting I referred to earlIER was between myself, the managing director and the head of my department, as I tried to get the first part of my recipe. I presented my project, answered all their questions and assuaged all their doubts. Or well... I tried...  Anyways, here's the interesting part: As the meeting wrapped up, and I could tell that the answer was a 'no', the managing director pointed to a poster across the conference room detailing the Organic Co-Op Mission Statement. 

"Look." he said, "This is part of the reason I'm doubtful about your project. This is our mission statement, but the employees here make it hard for us to enact it. Your idea supports our mission, but our employees don't". 

Okay, okay, he didn't say exactly that. It probably wasn't nearly as well-turned, but his implications stand. 

Except for the fact that you probably shouldn't shake the managing director of your company (especially when you're practically low-level compared to him), I wanted to grab his shoulders and viciously rock his body back and forth after he said it. Are you kidding me?! How can you so matter-of-factly say that?! Why is that acceptable?! And how can you accept it so thoroughly that it is actually used as an excuse NOT TO MAKE THINGS BETTER?!

Now that a few days have gone by and I am feeling more calm - I've started analysing where this gap (even larger than the one I had initially proposed filling) had come from. 

I've heard a lot of reasons from my direct supervisor, before. He mostly blames it on 'youth today' and assorted other comments of 'entitlement vs earning' and 'take benefits for granted'*. And although I see the rationale of all of that, I have to disagree. 

I know I've mentioned before that creating the right culture takes creation and implementation right from the get-go. But it also takes involvement. No one likes to be dictated to. I'm deep into Ari's treatise on mission statements (next post!) and he very off-handedly remarked on how, in developing the Zingerman's statement, they involved every single employee, up to and including a teenager who had only been with them for a few weeks. 

That's the element that was/is/continues to be missing here. You read the Organic Co-Op mission statement, and there is nothing there about the team that puts it together! It's all in the third person, not a 'we' to be seen. And according to their statement, the Organic Co-Op doesn't have stakeholders, guests or a community. They have, no joke, "CONSUMERS". 

And he wonders why 'his employees' don't support it. 

 

And all respect to Danny Myer (author of Setting the Table, and one of the more renowned food entrepreneurs still in the black), but I only half agree. Obviously, hiring people who can inherently, naturally, propogate your culture/values is important. But I'd also argue that even these people cannot do it wihtout consistant aid and passion on your part. Maybe the ability to do the right thing well can't be taught, but the desire definitely can. I think you teach it by showing the benefits of your values, not just listing them on a pretty poster...

Check out my next post for my mission statement in fieri, and trust me when I say it will most definitely refer to the team effort

 

 

*PS. One of the other reasons the managing director didn't want to follow through on my project was 'it could be seen as another perk. These employees don't appreciate the perks we already give them. I don't want to give them another they can just take for granted too". 


"The Test Of a Vocation...

Is the Love of the Drudgery it Involves" - Logan Pearsall Smith. 

Some people might wonder at the time I am taking to create my vision and mission statement. I recognise that it's easy to believe that these can be thown together in an evening, that I should be on to something else already. I get it. But I suppose I am looking at this like building a house. I've already pointed out that the vision and mission are the foundations. A house, even one built of stone like the one that kept that final piggy safe from the wolf, will blow away unless it is adequately and firmly shored. 

To that end, I am re-reading Ari Weinzweig's book on building a great business. The Lapsed Anarchist's Approach to Building a Great Business, to be more specific. I'm going to draw a line in the sand here and admit that: I don't love Zingerman's approach without reservations. Sorry, don't get me wrong. I do LOVE them...I think they make amazing food, have amaze-balls service, really created something breathtaking with open-book management*, and can without question teach me a thing or two. What I'm coming out of the closet to say is that I'm not actually a fan of the bubble-writing, the down-homey 'zingy-ness' they embody. It's mostly just the vocabulary, because all of the ideas are more than sound, (maybe it's also because I'm more of a hipster than I thought 2014-02-06 14.16.03, I've never managed to shake my waspy ick-reaction to even the slightest hint of hokeyness). But whatever it is, it is. On the other hand, every time I read anything that the Zingerman's founder and owner, Ari, writes, I get goose-pimply with passion and excitement.**

Right now, I'm finishing the chapter on Contrast, Composition and Content.  The basic idea is, in order to build a successful business, you have to start at the bottom (with Content) and work your way back. The suggestion here is that people who begin by figuring out how to make their business stand out, instead of figuring out what their business will do, are going at it wrong.

First, Ari recommends, you come up with your content -  i.e. what are you trying to do, what makes it special and why and for whom are you doing it -  next, you come up with composition - i.e how will you organize yourself to sell your products/services and encourage returns  -  then, and only then, do you start coming up with the brand, marketing and what elements will draw people to experience your content and composition. 

I know you're bursting to hear my answers! *laughs. So I went ahead and decided to keept them for a different post (Hey! Some of them were really hard and deserve a little explanation!) so stay tuned  for the answers next time in... "A Red Letter Day or Drop Us A Lion"...

 

 

*If these items are sailing over your head (or the name Zingerman's is, for that matter), they are well and truly worth a look-up. This deli is probably the single most famous deli that's never had a franchise. At least in my industry! Everyone I know who's anyone in the food service industry knows of Ari and his partner Paul, and most of these are employing some or more the practices these two have pioneered. 

**Note: Ari even writes about how you ought to take his model with a grain of salt. He recognizes that the tongue-in-cheek, punny, high-sprited Zingerman style isn't for everyone, but asserts that his advice is. And I agree. 


"When Furious...

Get Curious." - Paul Saginaw from Zingerman's Deli. 

When you're obessed, it is easy to consistantly find real world examples that feed into your one-track.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about this business and how to go about creating it, and anytime I run into someone doing it right (or doing it wrong!), I try to sock it away in my brain. Recently, it came time for me to renew my car insurance, or as I like to think of it, time to confront the dogs of hell and demand one more year's worth of sanctuary. You can probably imagine the situation was rife with business model examples. 

This particular renewing I knew was going to be tough (and don't worry, I'll get to the point of this story very shortly) because I had a fender-bender on Christmas Eve and my insurance had to pay for the repairs. So I online-shopped around a little to make sure I was still getting a good deal. As my insurance still hadn't come forward and let me know what my new premium was going to be, I also hit up my current insurance company's website to secure a quote, thinking: "well, hey! It's bound to be something similar, though probably more expensive because I'll get a discount for my loyalty". Imagine my shock when I discovered that as a quote-unquote 'new' customer, I qualified, even with my accident, for a premium lower than I was currently paying, AND, that they expected me to pay almost twice that just to renew without changing anything. 

How ridiculous is that?! To add insult to injury, when I called the company directly to demand the better price for my renewal, the girl I spoke to couldn't help me. She had no recourse for changing the cost or price. Instead, she offered to cancel my current policy so I could reapply, thereby securing the lower premium (for twice the coverage that I had now, mind you). 

I'm sure you can see how this anecdote greased my mental cogs. What kind of business makes the securing of new customers so important, that they will actually throw away anyone who tries to stick with them? How big and invincible must a company think it is, how much must they believe in an infinity of new customers, to choose to make joining them for the first time so much more appealing that staying with them for the long haul?!

I'm not saying that sourcing new markets is foolish or greedy. I don't believe it is... but at the detriment of those already purchasing from you?! Illogical bordering on the moronic. 


"If you can organize your kitchen, you can...

Organize your life." - Louis Parrish, M.D. 

 

Getting my thoughts together in a 'visionary' sense appears to be easy only in concept.*laughs. 

Here's the thing... I've worked for a lot of restaurants* before. Good, bad, mediocre. Well... no. They were all good in the food department. I'm talking about their cultures. I've worked for a lot of restaurants that succeeding in creating a pervasive attitude of helpfulness, passion, and drive. And I've worked for a lot of restos** that, while still turning out delicious and/or stunning concoctions, managed to infect all their employees with hatred, anger and violence. The point is, I have a lot of ideas floating around in the ol' noggin about what I like and what I don't like, but little to no organization of it, and, which is worse, hardly any ideas how to go about create one of the good 'uns while avoiding the pratfalls of the bad 'uns. 

So I decided to make a list. As I typically do in the midst of a crisis. Like cups of tea to my English hubby, a list is to me. They make my insides all warm and my breathing deeply even.  Okay. I know it's weird! We've all got stuff. You probably like to be spanked or something.  Mine's list-making. Get over it. 

Question the one. What attitudes do I like? (If I can get it all down at least,  I can try to make sense of it later). 

I like: 

ø Caring about quality - This means personally investing in keeping things tasting good, fixing things that are wrong without being told explicitly, investing in the belief that our offering is the best/better. 

ø Caring about the customer - Genuinely wanting the customer to have a good time/have good purchases. Going out of your way to make sure that customers feel valued and 'heard'. 

ø Caring about integrity - Offering things in good faith, promoting what is best, not 'what needs to go', recognizing fair worth and value. 

ø Caring about openness - Nobody ever walked through a closed door! Frankness, transparency and the sharing of information, not just with employees, but with any customer who cares to know. 

ø Caring about the team - People choose to work for you and they don't have to. Treating your team graciously, feeling like a family, mutual investment in one another. 

ø Caring about improvement - Stagnant things get run over and go moldy. I think constantly feeling as though you must get better (or, depending on how full your glass is, constantly feeling as though you aren't good enough) is the only way, underlined for emphasis, to be successful. Always, always, looking for the ways you can be nicer, have better quality, know and teach more. This is the central tenet behind which all my other 'cares' stand. I could always have done it better. 

 

Tune in tomorrow for the exciting conclusion in... "The Cliff Hangar or Taken for Granite"...

 

*short-hand for any type of food service establishment. I'm including all the different types I've worked for... but seriously! Food Service establishm... God! Way too long. At least with restaurant, I'm only typing 10 letters, and, if I get really lazy, I can cut it down to 5 with 'resto'. Hah! Take that keyboard!

**See what I mean?