What founders/CEOs can learn from a Japanese restaurant

When the maître d’ pours a glass of sweet, crisp French white wine to go with the next offering, I ask him why he wears so many hats in a restaurant that could afford to take on more staff. “If I just manage this place but don’t serve dishes, then what’s the point?” he says. “I want to see exactly how each customer responds to what we put before them.”

Fish & Wine kokk

When a company grows over a certain size its founders/CEOs tend to focus on the big – be if fundraising, partnerships, strategy – and let others in their company deal with the customers. Someone with more experience than me can comment if there ever is a point where a company is too big and it’s OK if CEO learns about customers via levels of filters but I doubt that.

I remember when Niklas Zennström would every now and then read the tickets that Skype customers would send to our customer support. Skype must have been a 250 person company by time but he felt it important to stay in tune with what the customers are saying.

The Made Better In Japan describes people and companies where attention to detail is taken to extremes but that quote really rang with me – if you run a business you have to personally pay attention to what your customers think about what you do.

After we discuss the details of the dishes, I ask him about what the maître d’ told me. “I bought this restaurant myself just a few months ago from the group that owned it since it opened,” he says. “I did that for one reason: to cook how I want in a way that connects me to each customer. I refused to make this place any bigger. I need to personally taste every single dish that leaves my kitchen.”

Can you build a Facebook with this approach? Probably not. Can you build an excellent product with fans for customers? Hell yes.

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