Forty seven (ii)

“How can I put it?” he continued. “Food is life. Food is health. It’s family. It’s social. It’s cultural. It’s creative. And it’s business. It’s everything you describe in your aspirations for Attenzi.”

Now we understood. Genius. I knew immediately that this should play a central role in the new direction for the business, and then Dom double-confirmed the matter for me.

“Do you recall our conversation about Wikipedia Eli, about how communities need a common set of values, held dearly, in order to come together to do great stuff?”

“I do, and I see where you’re coming from, or in fact going to,” I replied.

It seemed so obvious that it was suddenly shocking to consider the pervasive way we all thought about Attenzi up to that point. We generally thought in terms of what it does – the design and manufacture and servicing of kitchen equipment. We had, in that customer-centric way, considered that we gave our customers great kitchen equipment that should delight in terms of quality, usability and value. But we didn’t really think in terms of what it actually does for them – helping them cook great food and everything that this means to them. I’d talked about being in service to others in concluding the away day but the penny clearly hadn’t dropped entirely.

You’ll recall when I first introduced you to Vincenzo that I’d come to think of him as a management guru.

It turns out social business isn’t so new. Great restaurateurs have been doing it for centuries. OK, not quite as we’ve defined it here – not the heavy focus on information and communication technologies and science and scale and agility and openness and data acquisition and knowledge management – but playing to the communication norms of their times and situation, in their authenticity being plain to see and their quality being evident to taste; in reality unavoidably being perception.

They know their suppliers and their regular customers in a way that other businesses have lost with scale. Their restaurants are both workplace and home from home.

The first three of the influence flows (between the organization and stakeholders) are real-time and palpable: empty plates, or not; happy diners or not; good tips or not; repeat custom or not; great teamwork or not; loyal staff or not; a profitable night, or not.

The fourth, fifth and sixth influence flows (between competitors and stakeholders) are apparent too: through daily word of mouth; through eating at their establishments; by looking through windows; by monitoring reviews.

Above all – although it does sound kind of odd to write it down and, if I’m honest, perhaps a bit, well, soft – it’s all very human.

I called Dom and Jigya a taxi at 1am. They were the last to leave. As I prepared for bed I realized I didn’t know much about the company’s founder, Attilio Enzo. I’d heard reports of boundless energy and enthusiasm. He’d come close to losing the business at one point. His photo hangs in reception. And he’d passed away in 1990 a few days before his 70th birthday and a month after the company launched its first product range for the home kitchen. That was all I knew.

I wondered if he’d ‘got’ some of this stuff, and whether business had just knocked it out of the business, if you know what I mean.

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