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.
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.