So this is a little something that we haven’t done in a while over here at the Brains on Fire Blog. The “You don’t Need Us Awards” celebrate the brands and businesses that are doing such an great job already connecting with their customers and advocates that, well, they they don’t need us.
I’m happy to say that Penzey’s Spices is one of those brands. Penzey’s is an purveyor of fine herbs and spices that is based out of the U.S. My mom is a bit of a gourmet, and I grew up with their catalog always within reach in and around the kitchen area of our house. She still uses them exclusively to purchase all of her spices and spice mixes from. There is bound to be someone that asks about them at any given dinner party, and you can count on Mom to create one or two new customers for Penzey’s that night.
With that said, here are the reasons that they don’t need us.
1. They have a fantastic product:
They are the place that you can look that obscure spice that Julia Child requires for that duck recipe that she wrote in the 70’s. Not only will they have it, they’ll have four varieties of it. On top of that, each spice jar or bag will have serving suggestions printed right on it. I know, this isn’t a new idea or anything, but it definiteely keeps you from having that obscure herb sitting in your spice rack for two years because that Julia recipe was too much of a pain to make again. Having a great product is the foundation, nothing else would really matter that much if that weren’t the case, right?
2. They care about their customers, and have customers that have grown to care about them:
Look at what they say on their job openings page on their website:
“We are currently looking for people who believe that cooking is kindness, and that kindness can change the world”
I think that spells it out plain as day. One of the things that I’ve always been enamored with about Penzey’s is that they always put their customer on a pedestal. I don’t think of a high end spice dealer being really that down to earth, but they pay attention to the fact that their customers aren’t all like Thomas Keller. Their catalogs always feature real people, making real recipes with their products. They focus on making it easy to use the obscure ingredients, and celebrate the adventure of cooking something new.
3. They extend the idea of cooking is kindness thoughout everything they do.
Here’s an example. Every box of herbs and spices that they send out also includes a little extra something. Whether it is packaged with Turkish Bay leaves, or Cinnamon sticks, there’s always something other that what you ordered that gets you excited about cooking. It’s funny, I never knew that there was a difference between Turkish Bay Leaves and Regular Bay Leaves until I recieved them randomly in a box of spices. Now I ONLY use Turkish Bay Leaves, not because I’m a snob, but becasue Penzey’s was right in the fact that they ARE better. Not to mention the fact that if my mom saw regular bay leaves in our kitchen, you’d better believe I wouldn’t hear the end of it. Love you Mom.
Any companies or products that you can’t stop talking about and want the world to know? Sounds like they don’t need us. Let us know about them in the comments.
I feel fortunate to have grown up in a beautiful place. When I was younger, my family and I would take the train from the suburbs and head north to the hustle and bustle of downtown Chicago. I was surrounded by beauty. Even in the dead of winter, the snow gently fell on hundred-year-old buildings, historic landmarks, and bridges over icy water.
The city was, and still is, beautiful.
At first it seemed trivial, just another silly way to boast why you, or your city, is better than another. In some cases that might be true. Florence, Italy came from a place of arrogant opulence. So much money spent on all this stuff. This stuff, I learned, does not need to be cocky. It needs to be beautiful.
Now look around you. Where are you sitting, or standing, or scurrying? Do you reside in a beautiful space? Do you create a place for yourself, your team, your family to enjoy? Or are you dreading the clutter, dust, and endless post-it notes scattered about your space? That flickering overhead light sure doesn’t help.
Be good to yourself. Beautification is important, not pompous. It’s exciting, inviting, and worthwhile.
Today, I live in a truly beautiful city (and it’s not Chicago). Half the time I talk about where I live, I’m describing the scenery, the vibrance, the energy… the beauty. I paint the picture. Wherever you spend your time… whether it’s in front of your computer, in the bathroom, or in your comfy bed, make it beautiful. There is enough grey in our world, don’t let it seep into your space.
I regularly get lost down a proverbial rabbit hole on the Internet. I start Googling a restaurant’s hours of operation and end up watching 40 dogs-running-in-their-sleep videos YouTube (meet Bizkit here), then ordering new glasses. Sometimes these ‘trips’ are expensive and sometimes they are incredibly valuable.
Today was the latter.
This TED Talk dates back to 2010 and you may have already seen it, but it’s one I’ve never come across before and is now my favorite.
The featured speaker Brené Brown is a researcher of human connection. What a fascinating thing to consider from a scientific perspective. Her whole video is included and you should watch every charming minute, but I just wanted to share what leaped out of it for me.
Her research path (not without blood, sweat and tears) led to this concept about human connection:
Vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle of worthiness, but it also appears to be the birthplace of joy, creativity, belonging and love.
The two ways people treat their vulnerability relate to whether or not they have a sense of worthiness. Those who believe they deserve to belong…well, they do. Our fear that we do not deserve connection is the one thing that keeps us from making connections. What a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Those without the sense of worthiness referred to their vulnerability as ‘excruciating’ and worked hard to suppress it through food, alcohol and the like.
The dilemma in trying to suppress feelings of vulnerability is that you can’t selectively numb emotions. With quieting your fears and shame, you lose your joy and gratitude. You lose your purpose.
On the other hand, she calls those who have the sense of worthiness the ‘wholehearted’ (I just love that!). They embrace their vulnerability as a beautiful and necessary attribute. They are courageous.
Courage is defined by its good ole Latin origin (in so many words): telling the story of who you are with your whole heart.
So what do we do with this besides emphatically nod our heads?
Have the courage to be your imperfect authentic self…as a brand, as a community and as a human being. You will find human connection there.
Photo from my friend Libby Williams
I’ve been struggling a bit lately.
Having just come off a long stretch of helping craft and co-author a book called The Passion Conversation, I have that sort of post angst that comes from hitting a huge milestone and finishing a fun project. It was remarkable to be able to think so intently about something I care so deeply about.
Writing for this new book actually caused me to stop and really think about my own passions, my own calling. Am I really following my passions? Oh, I have plenty that I’m passionate about.
Seeking happiness and bringing it to myself and others. Simplifying life. Living peacefully.
Somehow over the years I have learned that those pursuits make me happiest.
But sometimes I still wonder. Am I really following my passions? Is there more?
My kids are college and shortly after college age. If you have kids that age (and therefore know a bunch of kids that age) you know they get told often to follow their passions. At graduation time that’s often the advice some very wise and wonderful people hand out freely and with certainty. I’ve most likely given that same advice myself a time or two.
But what if you don’t have a passion? Yet…
I heard this NPR interview on the way in to work last week and I sat in my car in the sunshine and listened to the entire thing.:
It’s worth a listen. But it honestly left me wondering what I would tell the young man in the story (Max) who felt he didn’t have a passion to follow. My lack of a real good answer bugged me all morning. Especially in light of the book we just wrote.
Cordell and I started talking about Max and his question.
Here’s the gist of what Cordell shared with me:
I’ve met many recent college graduates who have no idea what they want to do. We’ve screwed them up by telling them to follow their passion. Passion is like love. Love is not a feeling. Love comes from doing. We have to apologize to these bright young minds and encourage them to just do something. Passion is what you discover about yourself along the way. It’s not something you just magically have. It comes from experiences. People don’t share passions. They share experiences. Stories are about something that happened to you. The passion conversations do not come from your heart first. They come from a collision with life.
Maybe that yearning for more that puzzles me at times is what keeps me excited and embracing life and all it’s many changes. Maybe they’re even more passions I have yet to unearth. That knowledge is pretty damn wonderful and magical.
And for businesses that insight is magical too.
Passion conversations, not product conversations, come from your collision with life and the stories and experiences you share with those you serve.
What do you think?
On three separate occasions, I “spoke” with four different people from Crate&Barrel. Five if you include the supervisor. I’m in wedding registry mode. It’s been interesting. But this is not a rant, I promise. It’s a reminder that people are awesome.
First impression: if you call the customer service number and there is a wait, they offer to call you back. They recognize your time is valuable. How considerate.
Anthony, my first C&B friend, was incredibly kind. He even called me back, twice, after he spoke with his IT team. “We have been dealing with issues online, but there’s a solve. We will try this first.”
Unfortunately, the issue arose again. The issue: can’t log into my account.
So I went the IM chat route. Immediate response from Laura. She reset my password and asked me to wait 15 minutes.
Back to Sherri via IM, who looked back through the call/chat log, and noted my issue would be best served by the registry team. She gave me the phone number and I called.
One minute later, JoReen answers. She, as well as everyone else I’ve communicated with, apologies for all the issues I’m experiencing. But together, we’re fixing this. New security features, questions, passwords, blah blah blah… she didn’t care about telling me the details. She was focused on a happy camper at Crate&Barrel.
Of note: I have not purchased ANYTHING here. I’m registering for gifts I hope other people will purchase for me. I’m not a customer. I’m a prospect. But they made me feel like family.
After the kind words, pleasant conversations, and effort to rectify my IT issues, I just had to chat with the supervisor. Marty graciously accepted my compliments, and he told me that each team member would receive a certificate for going the extra mile. My praise will be a part of each team member’s annual performance reviews. I am so happy because of these people. Whenever I have the chance, I will talk about, shop at and praise C&B. The people behind the brand are the reason for that.
Have our expectations been managed to anticipate shitty customer service? Should be we as surprised and delighted by awesome experiences like this? The least we can do is embrace them. The best thing we can do is take note and follow their awesome lead.