On a winter’s day in 2004, I walked into the kitchen of Thomas Keller’s newly built restaurant per se in New York City. From the moment I put on the iconic blue apron, I knew exactly how to act – no one needed to tell me. In the years I spent working for Chef Keller, I experienced a culture so strong that it enabled young cooks like myself to grow. It would take a person like me, green as freshly mowed grass, and the culture to show me the way to succeed, learn new skills, and grow as a young chef. On the other hand, I also saw cooks with dozens of years of experience, some of who had worked in multiple Michelin 3-starred kitchens, quit or get fired after just a few weeks because they just didn’t fit in. The culture acted like an immune system. The body either accepted you or rejected you.
As I’ve built two companies now, I’ve always believed that a company’s success is determined by how strong the culture is – just as our own health is determined by how strong our own immune system can fight off sickness and disease. But building a strong culture is not easy. A company isn’t born with a strong culture as humans are born with an immune system. Companies need to invest in it and consciously cultivate it.
As we’ve grown Pared and tripled its size over the past 18 months, it’s become harder and harder to align individuals to a common goal. In business, we tend to rely on KPIs, OKRs, or some other framework to align our employees to measure our success. We plaster the whiteboards with them, use them in slide decks, or have a big screen TV devoted to these metrics. By putting these goals up in front of the team everyday, we ensure (or at least try very hard) to keep everyone rowing in the right direction.
On the culture side, core values become the framework by which we measure our success. And after 3 years, I’m proud that our team has come together to publish Pared’s core values for the first time. Being a company with a mission to make restaurant life easier means that we wouldn’t just write down a few fluffy words or generic catchphrases. We wanted to ensure our core values resonated with the people that we serve and use language that is heard in professional kitchens everyday:
In the professional kitchen, when asked to do something the only correct response is “Heard.” At Pared, we must always be willing to hop in to help others, get our hands dirty, and go the extra mile for our teammates & our users. We know we have each others backs just as those in the kitchen do.
In the professional kitchen, the word “Behind” can be heard shouted every other second in order to make others aware of someone passing behind your back. There are many sharp things, hot things, and heavy things being carried across a kitchen and shouting these words creates a safe place to work. At Pared, we must be self-aware of our own strengths and weaknesses. We must know what we don’t know, and acknowledge it. We must clearly communicate to our fellow team members in order to create a safe place to work and share our ideas.
In the professional kitchen, “Soigne” (swan-yay) translates to doing something elegantly or with finesse. At Pared, we must always have an ownership mentality and produce high quality work that we are proud of – our teammates and our users depend on it.
The best definition of core values that I’ve read is that core values are “behaviors that we expect from one another.” I can’t think of three better core values for the people that we’ve hired and the people we will continue to hire. These 3 simple words describe us. And while we won’t make anyone wear a blue apron – these core values will constantly remind us on how to act.