December 09, 2014 / ARE YOU FOR REAL?
December 09, 2014
Before Pirch, purchasing a cooking range, a fridge, a bathtub, toilet or sink with all of the fixtures was a painfully uninspiring shopping experience. Retailers like Sears, Best Buy and Home Depot sell these products, but provide no real context for them and certainly no reason to celebrate the purchase. Pirch was born because founder Jim Stuart wanted to buy a new range so he could teach his children to cook, and in the pursuit he found the buying experience to be extremely frustrating. He thought there had to be a better way. The reason for buying a new cooking range was to spend time with his children, and that human need became the inspiration behind the company’s mission, bringing “moments of joy” to customers’ lives.
While their mission might sound a little soft to some, the entire organization is structured to deliver on it. Pirch entered the home appliance space with a clear goal, to offer consumers a radically different experience when purchasing kitchen, bathroom and home appliances—from consideration to installation. Moments of joy have been carefully designed across the experience for both employees and customers. Pirch believes that appliances are not inanimate objects, but are key elements in a home that memories are built around delivering moments of joy.
At the end of April I was invited by their Ambassador of Joy to spend a week at Pirch’s meticulously designed headquarters in La Jolla, California. As their inaugural “Adventurer in Residence” I was offered their special brand of hospitality and in return I provided a talk on innovation my first day there and shared my personal story with the Pirch team. They promised to feed me breakfast and lunch each day, like they do for their own team, served by their resident chef. After a tour of their beautiful headquarters which includes a library, a gym with fitness instructor, a beautiful patio and an espresso bar, I was greatly inspired—what a great place to be cultural voyeur.
After my Monday lunchtime talk I decided to sit at the espresso bar, which also serves as their reception, and observe. Within moments people drifted over and sat next to me, meaningful conversations started naturally. And it was the same for the rest of my week, moments of interest, learning and joy created by chance conversations with people about their jobs, lives, Pirch and the world at large. It was invigorating and I found myself believing in their mission. I left Pirch at the end of that week full of appreciation because, frankly, I experienced a little joy from everyone I spent time with from the CEO to their barista receptionist—both of whom exuded passion for their mission.
Pirch’s breathtaking showrooms embody their contextual merchandising philosophy that showcases appliance collections, their white glove installation, collaboration with the design community and approach to creative curation and content. And, their company’s commitment to design, quality of the guest experience and unique approach to Yelp is all supported by their Academy of Joy—a people-based learning center that’s committed to on-boarding new team members in a way that is completely immersive and inspiring, while exploring how to unlock the Joy in each employee so they can unlock the joy for their customers. Pirch is a different kind of company because it puts the happiness and satisfaction of its own people first. And they all share the same understanding that they’re not there to sell appliances, but to deliver moments of Joy in their guests’ lives. After a week immersed in their company culture I was reminded that a company can do its part to make the world a better place through serving people.
Working closely with leaders on brand repositioning and organizational and cultural change, there are a number of key Uncommon Sense tips I was reminded of during my time with the Pirch team:
For Joy to live on the inside, it must start at the top.
Pirch’s CEO, Jeffery Sears, has a passionate love for his brand, like a father has for his children. He values his people above all else and cares about every guest’s experience, personally responding to any negative Yelp reviews. He is deeply relational and cares about the mission Pirch is on. The powerful and confident heartbeat of Pirch’s culture thuds from Jeffery. If you sit in your executive suite barking out orders and looking at spreadsheets with no deeper connection with your people and your customers, you’re a dinosaur from a bygone age. Leading with a vision, leading by example, inspiring by teaching and setting clear expectations for your employees are leadership skills that move people and drive top line performance.
For Joy to live on the outside, it must start on the inside.
How can you expect the people who serve your customers to be excited about their jobs, passionate and proud of the company they work for if you haven’t invested the time to immerse them in your brand’s reason for existence and the role they play in the equation? Your employees must feel special and cared for to reciprocate and deliver care and attention to your customers. Your people are your greatest asset and your sustainable point of difference—invest in them the same way you invest in R&D—they are the voice, the hands and the heart of your brand.
If you don’t love yourself, how can anyone else love you?
Love your brand, because if you don’t how can you expect anyone else to? Leaders who manage rationally without a connection to the heart leave a lot on the table. People get up each day and go to work for a purpose, not just a paycheck. Those who lead with their hearts and their heads engage the people in their organization on a much deeper level by connecting to their reason for being. CEO’s who demonstrate a passionate belief in the purpose and mission of their companies unlock the hearts, the imaginations and the hands of their employees. Brands are like people, and those that know themselves and have a clear purpose are the confident ones people build a love for.