I was on the phone last night with a colleague at until about 3am talking about philosphies and principals that have shaped the Exemplar that exists today and that will continue to guide our future. She was exmplaining that her reasoning for joining Exemplar was, in part, because of the way I have "poured my heart and soul" into the business of building a better law firm than exists today. I also learned that another colleague was asked in an interview last week what the best thing about Exemplar was, to which she responded "Our People." I am reminded of the book "Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time," where the story of Starbucks is told from the beginning. I often reflect on the role and significance of passion in business. Before Starbucks, the coffee market was fully commoditized and there was no premium market for the beverage. The story of Starbucks is one of passionate businesspeople who poured their heart and soul into building a premium business in an commoditized industry that was suffering from intense competition, low margins, and a failure to competitively differentiate. As an interesting aside, I hosted a couple of European engineers at my home last week and after tasting coffee in America (not Starbuck, but Dunkin) they commented that "the reason American coffee is so terrible is because it is not made with any passion." Are you beginning to connect the dots? The legal industry is a maturing market that is facing more competition than ever, is perceived my many as a commodity, and suffers from a failure to competitively differentiate in the areas that made the great companies like Starbucks the success it is today (service, quality, and consistency across the organization). It is the passion for the product that keeps Starbucks customers (including myself) coming back again and again to pay premium prices for the Starbucks "experience."
I recall a critic arguing that people only care about price. If that were true, I probably would eat Sbarros "cardboard tasting" pizza. I was told by a famous author and dear friend of mine that "It is possible to make pizza so cheap that nobody wants to eat it." I cannot agree more. I went to a true Italian restaurant and watched a lifelong chef make a pizza from scratch. . . his playful and happy demeanor as he flipped and spun the dough in the air. . . his attention to every fine detail . . . his determination to make that round lump of generic ingredients into a masterpiece. . . I will tell you from the bottom of my hear that when I ate that very pizza I could taste the smile on his face, the passion for his product, and the heart and soul that turned mere dough into a masterpiece. When I go to Starbucks I "experience" the passion in the product, and it is because of these truths, so telling about life and the role of passion in business, that I am driven to pour my heart and soul into Exemplar. With passion I have never felt more fulfilled and driven to create an Exemplar Experience that will keep customers coming back for more. I look forward to having our customers fill in the blanks on the warning label in our engagement letter: "Warning, the passion in this legal product may cause . . . ."!