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"I Don't Know, We'll See How this Unfolds"

"I Don't Know, We'll See How this Unfolds"

I can't think of a better follow-up to my previous post, "The Power of a Single Phrase." 

On my walk today, I was listening to the podcast "How I Built This." It was a repeat of a 2017 interview with Steve Ells, founder of Chipotle. He talked about his journey to start the company, from his love of food as a child, to his attaining an art history degree, to going to chef school. He recalled his father asking him about his art history degree, "What are you going to do with that?" His reply made me stop in my tracks as this single phrase hit me with indescribable force:

"I don't know. We'll see how it all unfolds."

You’ll see why this hit me as you read on. He went on to describe how the first Chipotle came to be. After completing chef school, he had a general idea of what he wanted to do. He naturally anticipated being a chef at a restaurant but also had an idea about bringing a style of burrito he had discovered in San Francisco to Colorado. As he worked on his burrito concept, profit did not drive the plan (yes, he knew he had to make money). Instead, he focused on being true to his beliefs about food. 

He insisted the brand be transparent, from the presentation of the food, to the ingredients, to how the furniture was designed. For example, he expected the tables' sides to show the plywood underneath the tabletop to represent the transparency of how things were made in the restaurant.. As he explained the progress, he described “letting it all unfold” and the adjustments made along the way. He was frugal in his choices in the event he needed to change along the way. You can listen to the podcast here, it is well worth the time.

This interview impacted me so much because he described how to build a business that reflects how I've approached building Dorothy's Power Foods. Not by any grand design, mind you, but more out of gut-feeling and conviction. When I started planning the company in early 2020, after my health issues forced me to make some dramatic changes, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do. I can’t tell you what was guiding me at the time, but I will tell you where I am now is very different from where I started. I attribute it to just "letting it unfold."

I particularly appreciated his discussion on how frugal he was and how personally involved he felt he had to be. It was essential to focus on the quality and integrity of the food and be as transparent as possible about every aspect, which wasn't something to outsource. He completed his menu and recipes the day before they opened - no extensive testing, no focus groups, no rigidity. He approached the development of the product the way he was trained to cook; you start with basics and taste along the way to get where you need to be. Everything was about the flavor, the sensory impact, the nuance of the ingredients.

Want to hear the truth? I have no idea how Dorothy's Power Foods is going to go. Unlike Steve Ellis, we've had some testers and worked on the recipe. Because the FDA requires it, we've mapped out the entire process and understand the critical control points for food safety. So we have a good foundation in place. But as Sam Morris, founder of Zen Warrior Training, recently posted:

“The sweet spot: Having a good, strong belly laugh over the futility of most human endeavors, while also being an agent for positive change.”

This statement is it. Let things unfold without taking yourself too seriously, but be utterly relentless in following your intention. I honestly don't care if this company ever makes very much money. I do care that anyone who works at Dorothy's Power Foods will make a living wage. I care that we'll strive to be zero waste and use renewable resources. I care that we'll always, always have a positive impact on the communities where we exist. I care that we’ll be able to help some rural senior centers have the facilities and equipment they need. And importantly, that we will be champions of equality, fairness, and opportunity for all.

I don't know; maybe someday I'll have a chance to share this story on some podcast. I hope I will have an opportunity to share a path for companies focused on building social capital and ultimately building trust as the primary outcome, and profit is simply one part of the equation. I believe this so strongly because of what a colleague of mine, Helena Ottoson, once told me. “A society based on trust is a healthy and vibrant one.”

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