Much has been written about Crumbs bake shop’s recent demise. Analysts often cited the apparently waning American appetite for cupcakes (an easy and relatively non-verifiable target–perfect for the echo-chamber prognosticator), or less often they spoke of expanding too quickly or that their costs were too high (they did and they were).
There’s one major factor that hasn’t received as much mention as it should have: culture. If your company is growing, it’s difficult to nurture the culture that helped you succeed in the first place. It takes a lot of effort and is never, ever done hastily. And when you expand as quickly as Crumbs, it’s nearly impossible.
Why does it matter? Some years back my wife and I visited an early Crumbs location in Los Angeles, and loved it. Why? At the time, the cupcakes were decadent and creative, but more importantly, the employees loved it there, were happy we were there, and were enthusiastic and passionate about their product. They made the experience. Eating those cupcakes was more than merely eating a cupcake. It was feeling the love these employees had for what they did and serving the customer some of the most delicious baked goods around.
After the expansion? Not so much. Employees became stereotypical retail workers–passionless–which showed (and tasted). The company failed to nurture their culture, and sales suffered because the customer experience suffered.
So as you grow your business, consider carefully your culture. It’s often touted as an employee attraction and retention factor, but it’s so much more than that. Your employees are the face of your company. They exemplify your culture, and play a significant role in the experience your customers have.
Design that experience deliberately. You can’t have long-term sales without a good customer experience, and can’t have good customer experiences without the right culture.