I Know A Great Culture When I See It In Action

November 19, 2019 | blog | By Mike Sullivan
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I’ve never worked for Krispy Kreme donuts and I don’t know a single person who works there. But I’ve got a pretty good feeling I’d like their management and culture.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is Ralph Waldo Emerson’s gem, “Your actions speak so loud I cannot hear what you are saying.” Last week, Krispy Kreme’s actions spoke volumes about who they are, and said even more about who they have the potential to be.

If you missed the story, it centers around an entrepreneurial college student named Jayson Gonzalez. Earlier this year on a tournament trip with the youth soccer team he coaches, Jayson stumbled across a Krispy Kreme. Being the thoughtful guy he is, Jayson posted on Facebook to see if anyone wanted him to bring some Krispy Kremes back to Minnesota. More than 300 people replied.

Like any good accounting student, Gonzalez started running the numbers in his head and was struck with an idea as bright as a “Hot Donuts” sign.

What happened next was textbook entrepreneurship. On various days, Gonzalez would post on Facebook that he was making a run for Krispy Kremes and would gather orders. The day before pickup, he would call the manager of the closest Krispy Kreme — which happened to be in Clive, Iowa — to prep his order. Then, at 2 am, Gonzalez would leave for the EIGHT HOUR roundtrip to the Clive Krispy Kreme where he would purchase 100 boxes of glazed Krispy Kreme donuts that he would then deliver to his customers in multiple Target parking lots all the way home. Jayson would buy the donuts for $7.99 and sell them for $17 to $20 – with the goal of paying his way through school at Metropolitan State University.

It was a fantastic story. Right up until the time Krispy Kreme heard about it and told Jayson to shut it down.

We don’t always get it right the first time.

If you’re a business leader long enough, you’re going to have pivotal moments where you make solid decisions for all the right reasons that are still wrong. It didn’t take Krispy Kreme long to realize they had made one of those decisions. I mentioned before that I was sure I’d like Krispy Kreme’s management and culture, and that’s because it takes great vulnerability and leadership to admit when you’re wrong.

Krispy Kreme could have made the call and moved on. But they didn’t. They took a second to regroup, reconsider, and do the right thing. In fact, not since the Starbucks CEO personally flew to Philadelphia to apologize to two black men who were falsely arrested in their store have I seen such a fantastic response to something that could have been incredibly negative.

When Krispy Kreme first heard about Jayson Gonzalez, their immediate inclination was to shut him down, frankly, for all the right reasons. He wasn’t associated with Krispy Kreme other than as a consumer. They had no quality control over the product he was delivering and any number of things could have been wrong with a random guy buying 100 boxes of their donuts and reselling them in Target parking lots across 250 miles. Their kneejerk reaction would have been fully justified and the final word.

But it wasn’t. In large part due to Jayson Gonzalez’s emotionally mature response.

While myriad 21-year-olds would have told Krispy Kreme to go screw themselves, or badmouthed them on social media, Jayson Gonzalez did the exact opposite.

He talked of his love for the brand. He praised the company, said he understood their position, and hoped they could work out some kind of resolution. As Krispy Kreme found out more about Jayson’s situation (in part because of the emotional backlash from people who heard the story), they reconsidered their position and decided to change course and help the young entrepreneur instead.

In a Facebook update, Jayson relayed that he and Krispy Kreme had come to an agreement, and that he will continue making his donut runs with Krispy Kreme’s blessing as an independent operator. He started a GoFundMe page so he could upgrade to a larger car that would carry more donuts. Everyone seemed happy. But Krispy Kreme wasn’t finished. Not by a longshot.

This was their tweet on November 4:

krispy kreme tweet nov 4 2019

As agencies, as companies, as brands, we don’t always get things right the first time. But what makes us great or not is our willingness to admit we were wrong and chart a new course even when it’s hard.

In our upcoming book “Voice of the Underdog,” we examine the seven foundational elements that make for transcendent cultures: safety, vulnerability, purpose, belonging, creativity, connection, and North Star leadership. Krispy Kreme displayed each of these in the case of Jayson Gonzalez and, in doing so, showed the world there’s a lot more to love about their company than melt-in-your-mouth glazed donuts and hot cups of coffee.

MIKE SULLIVAN is President of LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

For more about LOOMIS, or to discuss how we can help your company succeed, CLICK HERE

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency

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