On the way to work the other day I stopped to pick up donuts for the office. As I eyed the array of yummy selections, I decided two dozen – not one – would be necessary to get a proper sampling of the sugary discs.

The cashier and donut box-filler asked me how many of which ones I wanted.  I decided to walk on the wild side and said, “You can pick ‘em as long as there is at least one chocolate iced chocolate cake one.” (They are my favorite.) As she began filling the box, the shop owner appeared and began to watch her. My box-filler pointed at a large bear claw and, clearly enjoying herself, smiled and nodded at me and said “These look good, right? You want two?”

Yes, I do.

She then moved to the filled donuts and suggested a Bavarian crème-filled one, a lemon cream-filled one and a heavy looking glazed twist.  Just as she and I were about to continue agreeing about a powdered and sprinkled one, the owner leaned in and said “Put some of these plain glazed ones in there and some of these plain cake ones.” He reached over and grabbed two smallish plain cake donuts and plopped them in the box and then pointed at the plain glazed ones.

She and I both hesitated. We had been on a creative roll that had nothing to do with the cost or profit margin per donut, but about how many of the best we could pick and stay within our 24 count limit. There were only three spots remaining in our second box and she quickly succumbed and filled them with more plain glazed without consulting me. With her boss at her shoulder, she rang me up and I paid and took my boxes.

When I got in my car I sat there a second and replayed the scene in my head. We had been having so much fun until ‘management’ inserted its bottom-line focused self and corrected our course. We had not broken any rules; the sign said assorted dozen. I had paid the premium so that a bear claw and twist could be included. Why did I and the owner have a different opinion on what could be included?

The short five minute drive to my office gave me time to apply the skimpy donut shop owner analogy to our company. I had been having a great experience but it turned a bit sour mid-stream. I made a quick mental list of questions to ask our team: Is our pricing fair? Can you delight a client without risking that management think you are giving away the store? What is our bear claw? What is our plain donut?

The owner’s reaction and impact on the mood made me think about not going back to the store, but I decided his intentions were not bad and that his chocolate iced chocolate cake donuts were too good to fire him. Do we risk losing clients without knowing it or with what we think are good decisions?

I am going to do this exercise and then share the results. We will have a team meeting and I’ll bring the donuts.


– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO