Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ryan’s theory of corporate advancement through the strategic implementation of snackfood products.

Eventually I’m going to write a book. Actually I have rough ideas for two books – one I’m collaborating on with a friend, and one I plan on writing some years down the road that will be sort of an autobiography / “lessons learned” type book.  This post would likely end up being the basis for a chapter in the book to be written later in my life.  Ryan’s theory of corporate advancement through the strategic implementation of snackfood products. 

It started out as a joke during an internship I worked a few years back. When I started working for this company, they were outgrowing their building and they didn’t really have a good space for me, so I ended up working at a desk shoved in a corner by the entrance to the company’s conference room.  There was a constant stream of foot traffic past my desk. Employees from all levels of the company going in and out of the conference room for whatever meetings were being held that day.

 One day I brought a large plastic barrel of pretzel sticks in to work and placed it on the edge of my desk.  It was the kind that must have weighed 5 pounds and was HUGE so it was a significant feature on the little desk I’d been stuck with.  People going into meetings, especially the 11:00 just-before-lunch meetings couldn’t help but notice the pretzels and start salivating because of their pre-lunch hunger pangs.  The more outgoing strangers in the company would stop by and ask me for a snack. Of course since I was new in the company and didn’t know many people, everyone stopping would be forced to make small talk to avoid feeling like they were just using me for my pretzels. This would give me face time with all the managers above me, and so the inside joke was that after all that elbow rubbing I would quickly climb the ladder all due to my strategic use of snackfood products.

The popularity of the pre-meeting pretzel snack grew rapidly. Eventually I added a ‘donation’ cup.  This did two things, first of all it helped cover the cost of the pretzels – because at the height of pretzel consumption, my company was consuming somewhere between 10-15 lbs a week. Secondly, the ‘donation’ option encouraged people to stop by who felt shy or guilty about just ‘taking’ pretzels.   Through my experiments in snackfood, I quickly came to know and build rapport with more people in the company than I interacted with on a daily basis performing my job function.

Things worked well for me; my internship was quickly extended and finally turned into a full time position.  I made lots of friends in that company, many of whom I’m still close with today, more than two years since I last worked there.  I don’t mean to say that this was ALL because of the pretzels…it helps to be personable and reasonably competent at what you were hired to do :-)  However, there is a real lesson to be learned here. Doing something nice can sometimes come with unexpected positive results.  While I didn’t have any specific goal in mind when I first brought pretzels to work, every time I reflect on that internship, I have to laugh at how they were a catalyist.

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