Craftsmanship

Craftsmanship is everything. A way of life. A commitment to the fine details. It’s not sexy; it’s difficult. It requires discipline, iteration, and introspection.
If anything, it’s the most important part of our work.

This is an attempt to answer this week’s Startup Edition question: “How do you build engaging products?

Lately, I’ve fallen in love with restaurants but not for the reason you might imagine. I’ve really come to admire restaurants during their off hours.

To me, this embodies craftsmanship.

The dinner rush is the prestige. It’s the part of the act that I see and that amazes me most. There’s so much more work that goes into a successful dinner rush than most customers ever think about.

At 10am, the chef comes into the restaurant. He walks through the freezers and walk-ins, surveying what’s still in stock and what needs to be ordered. A truck or two might come and bring ingredients for the evening ahead. He begins to prepare for the evening rush.

At 11:30am, the supporting chefs come into the restaurant. They begin to chop vegetables and make a few sauces. When that’s done, they store the veggies and soups in covered containers and put them in the refrigerator. A stew cooks slowly in the oven until the early afternoon.

Hours go by. More prep is done. Tables are cleaned in the front. The waiters are educated on the night’s specials.

When 3pm hits, most of what’s needed for the evening’s service is ready as remaining ingredients and preparations are delivered shortly before customers dine.

The pieces are in place. Ready for moves to be made.

The kitchen staff’s diligent preparation, hours before your first bite, is key to the final experience. Sauce simmering for hours, building its flavor. Fights erupt in the kitchen. Bags form under the eyes of the tired kitchen staff.

That’s craftsmanship. Those are the hidden details that you don’t see, that make the product phenomenal.

And as dinner finishes, you pay your check and go home, the staff has four more hours of work, washing dishes and moving tables. Scrubbing counter tops, cleaning knives, and getting everything ready for tomorrow’s prep.

The romantic, dim yellow glow of the house lights at 1:30 in the morning as the staff drinks a bottle of wine and stories of the day are told. Chairs are pushed in and the staff goes home, to do the same thing tomorrow.

Craftsmanship isn’t glamorized most of the time. It’s the things we have to do in order to do our jobs well. To provide that great experience for our customers. Craftsmanship is an ethos, a pledge, and a commitment. To a better way of doing things. To never settle. To compromising only when it makes sense.

That’s how you build an amazing experience. By preparing correctly and breaking things down thoughtfully. By taking the care to think through how someone will interact with your product.

Even though it’s hard to see, the details are actually the product itself. The details are what makes your customers smile and brings them back for more.

 
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