Simple Gesture, Big Impact

Because of rain delays and extra innings, last night’s Angels vs. Red Sox game took over seven and a half hours to play. After a few hours of rain delays the majority of fans left the game. It looked desolate in the stands. Not many people are willing to stick around until after 2 AM on a weekday in the cold rain.

But some did. What did the Red Sox do for these crazy dedicated fans? They announced over the PA system that fans could go sit anywhere they wished. Many people who could never afford seats behind home plate or on the green monster were able to see a Major League Baseball game from an amazing viewpoint. Their ownership team also served free hot chocolate and coffee to fans. The pictures have been making their way around the internet today thanks to a TwitPic by Linda Pizzuti Henry, owner John Henry’s wife.

Red Sox ownership serves free coffee and hot chocolate during rain delayed game vs Angels

John Henry is worth an estimated $1.1 billion. He could have stayed in his luxury suite and had his staff give away the free drinks. But he didn’t. He got out there and said “thank you” to his very best customers by serving them himself. Imagine being a lifelong Red Sox fan and season ticket holder (which, by the way, cost over $2k for the cheapest single seat) who has toughed out this game because of how much you love your team. You stay the entire game at all 81 home games, no matter what. This is your life. And then in between innings you get up to get a drink and not only is it free, it’s being served to you by one of the owners. That might not mean all that much to you and I, but I assure you to that person it’s a night they’ll never forget and a story that they’ll tell for years to come.

He also set an example for his employees. In a big organization with lots of layers it’s easy for there to be an attitude of “I’m too good for that” where each level doesn’t think they should ever have to do the work of those below them. But if the owner is willing to serve hot chocolate on a freezing cold night, no one is too good for any job. If something needs to get done to help a customer or a fellow employee, then do it, irrespective of your title or seniority.

As we’ve grown, Mike, Greg, and I have become increasingly removed from many of the day to day functions of our business. As we continue to add staff, that will undoubtedly continue. No matter how big we get or how removed we get, we really see the value in making sure that we get involved in the day to day stuff on a semi-regular basis. That we go in early to help on a busy day. That we do a menial task here and there to free up our employees to do something more important. Not only does it create a hard working, teamwork-driven, egalitarian culture, it also keeps us in tuned to what it’s like to work in our warehouse on a daily basis.

Case in point. A few weeks back we were super busy and we went in on a Sunday to get a head start packing orders, just my partners and I. During that time we did things like pull and pack orders in the warehouse that we hadn’t done in a while, and in doing so we started to think through how they could be done faster or more accurately, or how they could be done simpler so they were easier to learn for future employees. There’s no way to replicate that. We’ve already implemented a few of those ideas, with our warehouse manager Charlie’s input of course, and there is more to come. By doing this we also guard against trivializing the work that gets done out there. To do those jobs well, it’s hard work and it’s tiring work, and sometimes you need to get out there and do it to be able to appropriately relate back to your employees.

5 comments on Simple Gesture, Big Impact

  1. Dale says:

    Love it! Reminds me of a conductor I had in the orchestra… said if there was one person in the crowd, we played for that one person. It’s actually a great opportunity to make a lifelong fan.

    I’m heading out to Boston this summer to watch them play the Brewers… Might look you up if I drive through your neck of the woods!

  2. Tim says:

    Very cool story, a lesson so many forget including myself several years ago. I went through a short period in my life of being “too good” for basic tasks. As life often works I was changed forever by a near death experience, funny how something like that opens your eyes. Not only did I grow to enjoy the simple tasks I also relished the opportunity to relive what had allowed me to elevate my position. It’s like a comfort food or warm blanket on a cold day, at least it was for me.

    Added bonuses were a better understanding of the entire organization, what’s working, what’s not and who’s really making a difference. I’ve also found that it’s much easier to lead by example then from a throne, employees would always relate better with me than my business partners because I was in the trenches with them. Sure it’s nice to wear nice clothes and bark orders, but at the end of the day my business was about offering great service and making money, to meet that end I found keeping it real was by far the best option.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      I went through a short period in my life of being “too good” for basic tasks.

      I definitely did too. It was towards the end of college and in to the corporate world. Some of it was me for sure, but also some of it was the academic and professional atmosphere that I was in. Instead of getting your hands dirty, it was almost encouraged by those teaching/training me that that work was for someone else.

      At Schick we were in a somewhat unique situation in that the manufacturing plant was attached to the offices. You literally step across a line and it goes from nice carpeted offices to a concrete plant. You’d be shocked at how many of the people who worked in the offices (marketing, engineering, etc) wouldn’t even say hello to the people working in manufacturing if they passed in the halls. Over time I learned that if I asked someone in manufacturing to collect data for me or run an experiment, I was far better off actually going down there and working with them to do it, both to ensure it got done correctly and to build that sense of working in the trenches with them. I wasn’t asking them to do something I wouldn’t do myself.

      I’ve also found that it’s much easier to lead by example then from a throne

      Well put.

  3. […] to make sure that we’re still involved in the day-to-day operations semi-regularly because we see value in that. And of course there will be plenty of days where it’s so busy that we have to go in to help […]

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