Love as a Delicious Strategy

EPISODE 8

Food is a universal connector of people. Food is at the center of every occasion. Sharing food is akin to sharing a piece of our identity, culture, and affection. When you sit and eat together, and when you eat the same food as others - you grow closer. So how is food connected to business? And what role does Love play in it all? Let's discuss.

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Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Jeff Ma
Director

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Maggie McClurkin
Producer

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Frank Danna
Director

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Chris Pitre
Vice President

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Jeff Ma
Hello and welcome to love as a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. We're here to talk about business that we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma. I'm a director at soft way, an agency based out of Houston, Texas, that specializes in digital transformation, culture, and branding. Each episode here we dive into another element of business or strategy and test our theory of love against it. Today, we have a really interesting and different topic we'd like to cover we're going to talk about food. And food is a universal connector of people, right food is at the center of every occasion. sharing food is akin to sharing a piece of our identity, culture and affection. You know, when you sit and eat together and when you eat the same food as others. You grow closer There have been literal studies that have shown that this is a like a statistical fact that when they studied it when people eat the same food, they reach agreements faster have more affinity for one another, they view each other in a more favorable lights. And so we want to kind of dive into that and see how is food connected to business? And what role does love play in all of this as well? Of course. So let's dig into a big ol heaping bowl of discussion.

Frank Danna
Oh, okay.

Jeff Ma
Please wait till you're introduced, sir. Thank you. Okay. I'm really excited to bring on a new face and voice to the podcast today. A beloved project manager at soft way, good friend and the producer of this show. Miss Maggie McClurkin Maggie, welcome. Hi, thank you. And Maggie happens to be the one who also like creates the blind icebreaker questions that I love to have that I, she sends them I don't open them until the show starts. And so that's a huge huge value add that she's that if you guys appreciate those those openings where I put everyone on the spot, you know, that's that's all her and so, Maggie, I speak a question for you today. What? What is something you're great at cooking?

Unknown Speaker
I think goodness, I told you to give me this question.

Unknown Speaker
Um, let's see, I haven't thought about this before. Just kidding. Um, so I would say my very first job in high school was at a Mexican restaurant, and I was the tableside guacamole girl. So I'm really good at making guacamole, especially if I have a cart and you tip me,

Frank Danna
Chris, can we talk about how that's kind of been like the dream for software? Can we talk about

Unknown Speaker
that? I really want to break in and just say Maggie like the idea that I've had for the longest time it's the have a rolling cart of tableside gwoc for employee. Appreciate days where we just have you know, topo, Chico and guacamole rolls around and you just have your fill. And it's just a small way to say I love you at work.

Frank Danna
Well, I'm telling you he's done that he said that for years like this is not a new thing. This is all vision and you

Unknown Speaker
are now completing it.

Unknown Speaker
Yep, so this is great.

Jeff Ma
If this is your first time tuning in, let me introduce the other voices you're all already. Let's go ahead and go with Chris. Chris. peachy, our VP at software. Welcome Chris again here. Thank you. I have a question for you. What is something that always find its way into your grocery cart?

Unknown Speaker
That is a great question.

Unknown Speaker
So there's like the healthy stuff and then there's like the not so healthy things. So I'll give you the the guilty pleasure. Starburst is finding its way in my car and it's like I try and avoid it and then it's right there. I check out Mike It's, you know, I'm working progress. I will say that, um, so, hang in there. I'm hanging in there. You know?

Jeff Ma
I don't think anybody I don't think anybody wanted the healthy answer to that question. I'm pretty sure that was how it was meant to be answered. Thank you. Well done. Honesty.

Unknown Speaker
I'm working and

Jeff Ma
last but not least, we have Mr. Frank Danna, Director of software Frank. Hey, Jeff, welcome. If you're ready for this one. No, I just read it's great.

Frank Danna
Oh my gosh,

Jeff Ma
if you could eat. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life. What would it be?

Frank Danna
Wow. That is a very intense question.

Unknown Speaker
So much high stakes man. There's the highest stakes

Frank Danna
stakes on a very tall table. So let me let me say this. I really love there's a type of salsa that I could eat forever and I think I will end up eating forever. It's Mrs. Wren froze mango habanero sauce. I could eat that every day for the rest of my life. It's fantastic.

Jeff Ma
You realize the question was the only food you could eat for the rest of your lives so you're just gonna miss the Red Cross.

Frank Danna
This is run frozen mango habanero salsa.

Unknown Speaker
Alright, so the Oh, that answer would have been scrambled eggs for me. Yeah, really delicious fluffy scrambled eggs. lightly salted, cooked in butter. Every single mill gets your protein in.

Jeff Ma
So So listen, this is what I worried about. for this episode. We're gonna

Frank Danna
treat Dory Chris taught me how to make the best scrambled eggs ever when we were in India. And my kids love it so much. Because he taught me that like the right way to make soft scrambled eggs and and it's awesome. It's real. It's real.

Jeff Ma
So let's let me reel this in real quick. Clearly, there's a passion for food here. We just cannot stop even talking about it much less eating it so let's let's open it up and Maggie like to ask you can you just start it off like what role what role does food play as thoughtfully at least at least from your perspective.

Unknown Speaker
So, um, I have been at Safeway a little over a year. And one of the very first things I was told about software was that food was part of the culture. And I was, you know, I didn't take it very seriously. Like, that's not, I don't know, it didn't sound real, I guess. But I've definitely grown to believe that that is true. But what something that really stood out to me about soft ways is the food Yes, but also just the gathering of people around food. My very first week, it's always so super awkward, especially around lunchtime when you don't know who you're going to sit with. If you're going to talk to I my job right before this. I don't think I had lunch with a single person the whole year that I worked there. So I was just nervous like the first week in my very first day. My team set up a lunch like welcoming me which was just nice, wouldn't have to worry about who you're gonna eat lunch with. But not only that, like, I think For the next week or even two weeks, someone or some team that I was affiliated with, either invited me to lunch asked if I wanted to eat with them while we were working or just kind of figured out how we were going to eat together, which was just nice. Like, it didn't have to be anything like fancy and they didn't have to pay for it. That wasn't the point. It's more so like, someone's looking out for me. They know it's awkward. And when you're new and you don't know who you're going to sit with it, you feel like a kid again in the in the cafeteria. And it was just nice. I never had to worry about that. It's off way like someone always was like, Hey, you just come join us. And ever since then I don't think I've ever eaten a meal alone. That's off way. So

Jeff Ma
awesome. Frank, what's your take?

Frank Danna
So, you know, I want to talk a little bit about when we're talking about food, right, but also want to talk about drinks, which is still kind of part of that category, I'm guessing. And a lot of people here at Sophos we were very excited. When we moved into our new offices about this time last year, actually, and we had an espresso maker, like an espresso machine, and I fell in love with it, because I was like, you know, I can make coffee and make coffee for anybody who wants it. So I just stand there and be like, Jim, I want coffee. I'll make it for you. And they're like, Why? What do you know? And we would buy random coffee from, you know, big bulk stores, big box stores, all that coffee's burned. And there was a moment in time where I visited a coffee shop here in Houston. And I was talking to one of the owners and I just told him about an experience that we had coming back from Brazil, having some of the best coffee I've ever had in my entire life. And I asked him a question. I was like, hey, do you guys can you guys like roast us some coffee? And he said, Well, we can do you one better. How about we roast a custom blend of coffee for your company? And I thought, let's do that. And what was interesting is, you know, these, these co owners of the small coffee shop they actually got to know Our team they came in. I don't know if you guys remember this, but they came in on Halloween when we were doing our Halloween event and I was dressed up in the was it was the guys named Jeff. I can't remember any questions that guy

Jeff Ma
your own costume.

Frank Danna
Somebody, David s pumpkins, Tom Hanks and you questions. So I'm walking them around our office introducing them to people. And they're getting to know our culture and our vibe, and they actually roasted a unique blend of coffee for software. This may sound crazy, but they used Hawaiian Kona Nicaraguan Brazilian beans. And they saw the diverse nature of our culture. And they formatted that into a cup of coffee. And they called it the soft way blend. And so every month before we were social distancing, we would order four to five kilos of coffee. And that is the coffee we would make in our office and it was our own blend for our own team. And we even took it to the next level. And ordered a bunch of bags of coffee for our clients. So our clients were able to experience a little bit of soft way, and, and taste, essentially the diversity in our team through the diversity in our coffee. And it was a very cool thing up to the point where I'd go into their coffee shop. And I'd have baristas say, you know, three people came in yesterday and asked for the software blend and we said, we don't make that here. It's just for software, you have to go to them. So if you ever come to our office, where if I ever get a chance to meet you in person, we'll make you coffee, and make sure that coffee is part of the conversation because it's a great way to engage and connect. And we were already spending money on it. Anyway. We're already buying coffee beans for our company, why not take it a step further and actually make it something that's deeply embedded into who we are and the culture of our team?

Jeff Ma
Yeah, there's that there's that element of, of wanting to nerd out over food and then share it with others. Exactly.

Frank Danna
If you're over a cup of coffee, it's a great thing. And Chris, you know, is not a coffee drinker. But tea is something we can talk about.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah. Tea? Actually, no, no, I think food does play a really important role at softly and I think it really has shaped the way that we relate to each other. I like to tell people that the easiest way to include someone is through food. Like, it doesn't matter what the difference is, and cultures and backgrounds like that's like the easiest way to build that inclusivity and it's also really, really appreciated as you have learned.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I What stands out to me every time we talk about food is like our annual Thanksgiving, potlucks, oh, which is which is like work. Like if you've worked with us, you've probably been invited because it's not just this closed door thing. It's like us every client, every friend, family member, and it is there's no theme to it. It's literally bring what you love and some of the best meals My life or just in in our office after work hours on Thanksgiving Sophos

Unknown Speaker
Sophos Greatest Hits is what I call it right

Jeff Ma
so good so talk about diversity and and stuff like that that's so represented in there as well.

Unknown Speaker
But I will tell you guys that you have to curate your potluck because bring anything like it has to be thought through it can't be something that you're testing out on us has to be something that you've had tasted cook before whatever if the battery

Jeff Ma
here if you don't the backstory here is that we we pride ourselves in the potluck so much that we got to the point where Chris will go around the office the weeks leading up to it with a clipboard and and and loom over eight people I noticed you put one, macaroni and cheese like how much are we talking right now? Are you going to bring enough for everybody? I just want to make sure because it's pretty important. It would be like Chris, please.

Unknown Speaker
If we're gonna do this, we're gonna do it. Right. Yeah, we're gonna do it. We're gonna go right.

Unknown Speaker
Last year at the potluck, I brought a store bought pie because I ran out of time. And I got so shamed by so many people. I didn't tell many people that it was me but people saw it on the spread. And we're like, who brought this? Oh, no disgrace now. That's so rude.

Unknown Speaker
Thank you for expressing your, your shame. And you're saying, I'll do better. It's your first year now you get a patent. Yeah, it was the first time. So.

Jeff Ma
So this, this is a business podcast. We are having a lot of fun already. But I do want to have this really serious kind of conversation about why does any of this matter to business right? We're all about business outcomes and impacts that's in the title of what we try to want to do here so so Chris, can you leave us off? What what what is the time to business? Why can this possibly matter?

Unknown Speaker
Well, actually data shows that having meals together does benefit organizations because it is a unifying agent, teams can work together or together longer. Teams can actually use food to overcome issues and conflict. And you see that not just in business, but even throughout history, whether that's a warrior nation all the way to the real housewives who need to go to a restaurant to talk things through, right? Food is at the table, or food is really the common agent that bonds and unites people and helps, you know, build bridges when there is that difference or conflict. And so I know that we've seen it's off way, just the idea of bringing a food bringing food into a meeting, whether that's just internally or even with the client, and we create an experience around it. It's not just sandwiches, right? There's thought put into the food and what's coming in. It actually makes a huge difference in just the environment and the energy and the thinking and the outcomes right and it sounds fluffy, but it's When when someone receives a meal that they weren't anticipating, and it's better than a sandwich, right? It's just like somebody thought of me. Right? And it created unlocks the conversations that lead to better outcomes, right? It gets people into a place of comfort and you know,

Unknown Speaker
where they

Unknown Speaker
they actually get to understand cultures that are different from their own through the food if you are thoughtful about that food.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I mean, we talk about cultures, we just even just basic inclusivity like, regardless of diversity, like it always stands out to me how, how well we know the dietary restrictions of everyone in our, in our happiness, like it's just as well known. It's like not written anywhere. It's not documented, but everyone knows, like, if you're gonna get Chris something, don't put this ledger on it. Right. You know, you know who's speaking you know, who's vegetarian, you know, who's Hello, who's gluten free, all this stuff, and it's just, it's just living It's a little thing, but it always stands out to me as like a thing that matters. Because when we work together, we just know each other that much better.

Frank Danna
Agreed. And I think I think when you're talking about getting to know people better, it's it's really empathy, right? So having more empathy for each other, and consideration for each other's preferences is such a big deal, because it shows that you care. And for me, it's all about curiosity. Like one of the incredible opportunities is we've seen that curious teams lead to innovation and innovative products. And to keep people more curious. One of the best ways to do it is if you're seeing somebody eating a type of food that you've never seen before, our culture has it where you ask the question, what is that? I've never tried that. And one of my favorite stories has to do with Muhammad, our CEO, yeah, he used to when we weren't social distancing, share his food almost every day. So we'd walk in and purposefully for speed, not for speed, but he would be like This portion of my meal, and it was also delicious and the flavors and the profiles in the Ratatouille moment where he eats the strawberry and the cheese and like stuff happens. That that is what happens when you actually try foods that you've never tried before.

Unknown Speaker
And I just want to give a shout out to his wife, Yulia who prepares you Liam our biggest fan and French he knows me. Hey, Yulia. She listens to this. So I just want to make sure she knows that we appreciate the meals that she sends, we should share.

Jeff Ma
She should array everybody. Everybody has tasted her food.

Frank Danna
Yet everyone is eating your food. It's off way and it's fantastic. So what I'm saying here, though, is that is that curious minds are important. And when people are that into trying new foods, it also creates opportunity for innovation and curiosity within projects and conversations and building better teams. Yep.

Unknown Speaker
Maggie, you have a take?

Unknown Speaker
Yes. So I'm a project manager and at software. We will Like to kind of define project managers as really more servant leaders, like a lot of people here are defined to be servant leaders. But our role is really to serve our team. And whatever that looks like there's really nothing defined. Sometimes that looks like, you know, typical project management, things like project plans and scheduling and removing blocks and impediments for people. But a lot of times, it looks like making sure your team is fed. And that happens. I went through a period when we were just really busy. My team was just slammed and we had back to back meetings every day for over a period of couple months. And so part of my job was, Hey, I got food for this meeting, we're going to eat at this time, this is what we're having. I already know your order. And it was just nice. Like, not only did they not have to worry about it, but they were typically more productive if I fed them and they didn't have to worry about it. So that was a direct business outcome for our team. I would say

Unknown Speaker
I think I got, I was gonna say the other thing that I know that I do and others do is, whenever there's people from the US going to India, we purposefully pack our suitcases full of American treats and things that we can sort of bring to the office. Whether that's beaver nuggets from buches if you've never had those, please go and get those for Skittles to honey roasted pecans, chick fil a sauce. Yeah, chick fil a sauce. We get requests now. But it's, it's always something where we even when we travel to visit our global global employees, we try and think about what they can taste from our hometown. And I remember one time I wanted to do a special meeting with the HR team. So I brought pancake mix and syrup from the US because I don't know if y'all have what I want you guys to taste. So we had a special special meeting where we had a breakfast meeting. And I cook pancakes and scrambled eggs, as Frank mentioned, and let them eat an American breakfast, right. And it was such a cool experience. We were supposed to talk about stuff we actually didn't talk. But we were still productive. Because when we did meet, everybody was full. And you know, remember that experience, but it was a great bonding. It was just a great bonding experience, and it cost little of nothing.

Frank Danna
And we did that.

Unknown Speaker
I just really speed breakfast, like there's no better motivator to get your team to come into an early meeting.

Frank Danna
Good breakfast.

Jeff Ma
Tactical tactical things coming out here.

Frank Danna
Agreed. And remember that one time where we brought smores and introduced our Indian leadership team wars and made orders. That was Yeah,

Unknown Speaker
it was just because So the thing is, is we have to make sure that when you go to India, there's such there's a large amount of vegetarians and different dietary restrictions. So we went on and Amazon and ordered vegetarian marshmallows and hello marshmallows. Yep. And like brought those in through our bags with the graham crackers and the chocolate like so everything was from the US and cute, including the skewers and brought that to an off site event that we did and it was everyone's first time having us more. Which was amazing to see and watch their eyes light up when they tasted the first one.

Frank Danna
Food runs deep.

Jeff Ma
That was an awkward airport bag check

Unknown Speaker
anyway, either for sports,

Jeff Ma
like work or pleasure, of course. So let's tie it let's tie it together. You know, we always we always end with tying it to love. What does this mean for our listeners? Like what are the takeaways here? What can they tangibly take away from this Frankie wanna kick us off.

Frank Danna
So once you've heard is just a lot of different stories around how food is a huge part of our culture. And food really does help us develop a better culture of love. Because we show each other love by the food that we eat together, and by the food that we make for each other. So bringing it into business is just a natural way to bring love into this particular environment. And And that for me is the most important thing if I can show someone love by being inclusive with the type of food that I'm ordering, by thinking about what their preferences are, or their restrictions are, and making sure that the food that we're eating together is something that's like a unique experience a culinary experience when possible. It really does create a culture of love and support for each other.

Jeff Ma
Yeah, I think I think it is as simple as that I as I posed the question like it's like, crazy deep but I mean food for a lot of people equals love. I know it does for me. And so you know, feeding each other is just synonymous to that, including them that camaraderie it forms that trust. For us, it builds and those are all things you're going to find in high performing teams. If you if you need a shortcut to get your team kicked up in gear, I mean, you know, they often say you need like you need a one on one, take them out to lunch, you know, like, add food to the equation, and all of a sudden, it's just different. And I think that's that's a very simple takeaway of for listeners of where it is, you know, this is not we're not trying to point out that this is this is the silver bullet key strategy that you're missing in your business but but it is worth thinking about. Where does what kind of role does food plan is there any opportunity? Chris or Maggie, anything else that

Unknown Speaker
I just know that I always felt loved when I was in the office late and I knew Chris's snack drawer was available and open to me. So

Unknown Speaker
that like, talked about curation, right? Like, the team around me is curated experiences, right? So if you're going to have food, my thing is if you're gonna do something wrong, do it right. And that includes Like if you're gonna take in calories, like and they're not the best calories, they better be delicious calories. You're great.

Unknown Speaker
He's a great sharer too.

Unknown Speaker
Yeah, yeah, no, I just I like, the thing that I would say around food and love is if you're a leader, or if you are an individual contributor, it doesn't matter. You can always sort of get into someone's heart by just thinking about how you can feed them. And it's just this really small, small gesture that can go a really long way and lasts a lifetime. Right? I just, I think that food is such a simple and easy fix to a lot of the challenges that some businesses face, but it's often overlooked or de prioritized out of budgets because it seems a seen as an expense, more so than a connector or a

Unknown Speaker
tool to get people to come together.

Frank Danna
And you know, actually that reminds me being remote is not an excuse not to eat together. And that may sound weird, but it was One of the things that that one of our team members that organically was set aside time every day to have people join in during lunch, like in that timeframe, where if you need to jump into a Google meat session, someone's going to be there. And you can just awkwardly eat your tomato soup, and they can offer leave their sandwich and you can just kind of engage. But the reality is, there are still ways of connecting those dots, even though we're not next to each other. And that could also mean like surprising someone with food delivery even, and making sure that they that they're well fed. And so there are lots of different ways to think creatively and like Chris mentioned, without breaking the bank, is still a great way to continue to build a culture of love

Unknown Speaker
and what clients do, right. So having that go to clients or business partners or vendors and folks that you just do business with, I know we've had some really great experiences and introduced new foods and restaurants to our clients that they would have never considered otherwise. And always get stories and sort of repeated thank yous because of of those new experiences. So, again, curation matters, right? That's, that is the takeaway here.

Jeff Ma
curate your food experiences internally, people. That's all well, thank you, Chris, for that expertise. And thank you, Maggie and Frank for joining this was it's as simple as that. We obviously have too much to say about this topic, but it's a really fun one. And we hope you guys out there enjoyed it as well. We're posting new episodes every Friday. And you know, we want to hear from you guys software.com slash labs, l ABS if you want to leave us some feedback or start a conversation. And if you liked what you heard today, really, please do consider leaving us a review or rating on Apple podcasts, things like that. It really would mean a lot to us. So with that, you know, we will see you next Friday. And thank you guys

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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