Last year about this time, a customer and friend, Renee from Uptown Endodontics in New Orleans, introduced me to a new word that has become one of my favorites when I think about Anna’s Gourmet Goodies and our business, ‘lagniappe’ (pronounced lan-yap). It’s Cajun and means, ‘a little something extra’. When we filled one of her large orders last year for their clients, we sent her the same basket to try. No charge – just a little something extra. She thanked us for the lagniappe.
We actually love to do this with clients throughout the year. We sometimes send out thank you gifts to our clients in August, at a time when most folks least expect them. And we’ve been known to ‘accidentally drop’ a few extra packs of cookies in someone’s order. It is such a great feeling to do something nice for someone when they are not expecting it.
One of my favorite restaurants in Raleigh is The Duck and the Dumpling. Chef David Mao has been a long time customer of ours and if you have the chance to dine there you might just find lagniappe in the form of his delicious carrot ginger soup, or some other culinary surprise before or after your meal.
When I step back a few feet and look at our business, that’s really what Anna’s Gourmet Goodies is all about – doing something nice for someone when they are not expecting it. It’s an attitude with which we approach our business and our life. Some of our most successful clients in the automobile, insurance, mortgage, financial services and other industries have embraced this philosophy and made it a part of their business. One of our customers that sends cookies to their employees as birthday gifts and has them delivered to the office on Saturday mornings, recently surveyed their staff about what they liked most about the company and you guessed it, our cookies ranked up there in the top five. Small gesture – big impact.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, especially in light of all the negativity of the elections and the economic implosion that dominates virtually every major media outlet. It seems that all we hear about is ‘cutting back’. There is no doubt in my mind that we are in this mess because of greed and excess at all levels of government, business and individual lifestyles, and a little trimming is in order. The focus on ‘what’s in it for me?’ as opposed to ‘what can I do for someone else?’ has definitely tipped the scales to the former.
However, could lagniappe be a solution to some of the economic and societal challenges we face? Maybe. I guess it depends, like most anything, on how it is used. From my perspective lagniappe doesn’t mean thinking that if I just put this extra package of cookies in a box, that I immediately expect something in return. It’s not about spending big bucks to impress or bribe people. It’s about doing something nice that brings a smile to someone’s face, to make them feel good – just because. If this sounds a little sappy, stop and think about the last time someone did a little something extra for you and how it made you feel about them and/or the company. Talk about making your business stand out in a crowd – it’s really a ‘no-brainer’.
When I see people and companies trying to ‘dig their way out’ of a hole, I’m wondering if the real solution is to stop digging and focus on what you can do to help someone else. In return, you’ll find it easier to take a step up and climb out, when someone inevitably reaches out their hand in turn, to help you.
We’re about to enter the season of the year when Anna’s Gourmet Goodies will be busy sending gifts for companies and individuals. I’ve been getting questions from people who pay too much attention to the news, about our business and whether we see everyone cutting back. While we have had a few companies decide to forgo what they consider to be the ‘extras’, I’m also finding just as many new folks that understand the value of lagniappe, calling us with their holiday gift orders. I am certain that at the end of this storm these individuals and companies will be standing on top of the sand dune, rather than being buried with those who focused totally on ‘hunkering down’ to wait it out.
I know Renee will understand that while I truly appreciate their business, I am hopefully not in the market any time soon for any endodontic (aka root canal) work. But if I were, it might just be worth a trip down to The Big Easy. I’m absolutely confident that in addition to superior service and a comfortable procedure, there would be lagniappe just for being a patient. And of course, I’d bring along a pocket full of cookies.