Tag Archives: Customers

Photo by Dylan Collette on Unsplash.

The rickety bus hits an unexpected bump – Dealing with a startup’s first, major problem

There is an analogy that I tend to use to describe to people what it’s like to build startups. For those who haven’t been involved in early-stage businesses, I explain the experience by comparing it to an uncharted adventure.
 
I start by telling the story of how when you start a company, it’s like you just got dropped into a dense jungle, and you don’t know how to get out.
 
In the analogy, you first need to hack your way through, and all you have is a machete. You get others to join along — building out the team — and tend to bring in people who will swing a machete as hard as you will. You all are working toward a common goal, and, even if you don’t have a sense of what’s exactly next, you develop trust, camaraderie, and each person finds their ideal role. Eventually, you find a path and you follow it, hoping that it will lead to a road.  
 
You also need to plan for what may be next. Along the way, you’ve hopefully added some people on the team who can wield a machete and also know how to drive.
 
When you clear the jungle and hit the dirt road, that’s when things get really interesting.
 
The business is now at a new stage, and everything is going to get a lot more complicated; you can’t shoot from the hip as much as you once did. You need structure. You need systems. You need security. You need process.
 
Getting back to the analogy, at this point, you need to learn how to drive a rickety bus you just found. You’ve just realized that the object now is to take that bus and drive it down the dirt road. The road is bumpy and has many rough patches, but it can also be fun and thrilling. You just hope and pray that bus can make it to a major road without falling apart. 
 
And then it happens: You go from a dirt road to one that is paved. There are still a ton of potholes, so you aren’t driving smoothly yet. At this new phase, there is lots of traffic, tons of bad drivers, and, at times, what I’ll call of “squirrels in the road” (i.e., the unforeseen disasters) that can jump out at you at any moment. Because you are beyond the dirt road, you can go faster. You start to stress test the bus, see how fast it can go.
 
At this phase in the company’s growth, you still really need all the things you built into the business when you were on the “dirt road” —systems, processes, security, structure. And if you didn’t actually fix the bus while it was on the dirt road, things start to shake and quake as you start really putting the pedal to the metal. 
 
This is where we are now with ButcherBox.
 

Let me explain to you how one small change can cascade into a massive problem for a young company. 

On Black Friday and Cyber Monday, we did a major promotion. Actually, it was the largest promotion we had ever done.
 
The way it worked is that we offered a “steak sampler” of six steaks to anyone who signed up for a subscription. If you are already a member, you could purchase the steak sampler for a low price. We anticipated a lot of orders, so we had prepped our distribution facilities and had made sure we cut and stored enough steaks for 40% more people than our wildest predictions.
 
By Thanksgiving night, we knew we had a winner as new signups kept rolling in and current subscribers added the six steak offering to their monthly order. It was exciting and exhilarating.
 
But in all our excitement, we didn’t realize that we had made a critical error that was not picked up by our normally stringent oversight. You see, we clicked the wrong button when setting up the order and fulfillment process, and a major problem was about to hit.
 
We had inadvertently hit a button that doubled the order for everyone who signed up to get the steak sampler. This meant that every order was getting twice as many steaks, 12 steaks instead of six.
 
By the time we figured out something was wrong, half of the orders had already gone out. Unfortunately, the steaks that should have been going out with the second half of the orders had been sent out with the first. In no time at all, we had a huge problem: We had no steaks to send for orders, no inventory, and no idea of when we would get more steaks. 
 
As we approach New Years Day, we are still digging ourselves from this mistake. We are hustling crazier than ever; it is almost as if we are back in the jungle with our machetes — we’ve got a lot more team members working to clear the way, and, worst of all, we’ve  let down some in our great community of ButcherBox members.
 
There are hundreds of customers who have yet to receive a box — we’ve subsequently sent refunds for their purchases. Due to this small error, the company has also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to refunds and extra product sent.
 
Worst, we’ve made a very bad brand impression on hundreds of customers. (I don’t think we can ever fully express our regrets for not meeting their expectations.)
 
The transmission dropped out of the rickety bus as we’ve approached the on-ramp to a new highway because we forgot to check a bolt or two. We’re working feverously to get the bus improved and back on the road we’ve been on and beyond. 
 
Here is where we go from here:
 
- We need to stay humble, and we fix what’s broken. We work as a team to figure out where our issues are, and we focus on them to fix them. 
 
- We operationalize checks and balances across the company so that we can catch a mistake like this in the future. 
 
- We embrace the issues and problems because we know they will make us better, smarter, and faster.
 
At this moment, we are already turning things around. Luckily, we still have the passionate machete-wielders, experienced drivers, and, as we’ve discovered, a few people who know how to fix a transmission.
Grunge watercolour painting of cows grazing in a field with rura

The stories we tell: Foundational motivations can evolve with a company

A little more than two years ago, we started ButcherBox in the offices of a friend’s Cambridge creative agency. We have grown exponentially since then — we now have more than 25 employees in Harvard Square and elsewhere across the country. Proudly, we still haven’t had to take any money from venture capitalists or other institutional investors.

From the beginning, ButcherBox has been a project of passion. I will get into that more a bit below, but basically, two forces — family and health — led the groundwork for what has become the company that our amazingly loyal customers have grown to know and love.

Initially, it was a health problem my wife developed that drove me to learn more about the potential benefits of more humanely-raised meats — grass-fed beef, heritage-breed pork, free-range chicken. A few years back, she developed a thyroid issue. One of the suggestions to improve her health was to look into adding cleaner foods to our diets. Over and over again, we kept discovering grass-fed beef popping up on lists of foods it was suggested we add to our diets. We did more research on the topic and soon started eating grass-fed beef.

The other major influence that led to ButcherBox’s founding was the birth of my children. Knowing we wanted them to eat healthier from the start, I set out to find ways get quality, humanely-raised meat in a way that was affordable for a family. This led to my first involvement in a cow share and eventually to the realization that a lot of people wanted grass-fed beef and similar meats but didn’t have access to them.

These experiences are why ButcherBox exists today.

To be clear, the reasons my co-founder, Mike Filbey, and I founded ButcherBox haven’t changed. This fundamental part of our story remains solid. It is, after all, our foundation.

However, as we have grown, I have been thinking more deeply about the story that is ButcherBox, and, strangely, I have discovered that it was quite inevitable — more than I had realized — that I’d spearhead an endeavor promoting healthy, humanely-raised meat.

First, and I don’t know how better to explain this, but I have been surrounded by cattle — smiling, grazing in fields, peaceful — my entire life.

On a recent visit to my mother’s house, something struck me that I had never thought about before. You see, my mother’s home is — and has been for as far back as I can remember — decorated, floor to ceiling, with cows. There are cows on kitchen decorations, pictures of cows, and more.

I believe our home has been this way since my mother immigrated —  with my three siblings and me — from Uraguay to the United States when I was a mere six-months-old. Uruguay is one of the grass-fed beef capitals of the world, and, quite possibly, this is the inspiration for my mother’s decorative leanings. My father still lives in Uruguay, and that country has always called to me.

In some way, this has subconsciously impacted a lot of my choices. Believe it or not, I have a large painting of a cow displayed in my bedroom. It has been there since well before ButcherBox was a thing.

While the overall influence of cow-laden aesthetical decisions of my family may not be as personal as the two reasons mentioned above, I can’t deny that being surrounded by calming cattle art didn’t somehow serve as a bias towards being an advocate for more humane cattle industry practices.

This idea that there is a better way, for consumers and cattle, is also something that I have been thinking about for a lot longer than I realized.

Trying to find healthier meats for my wife and children was, without a doubt, the main catalyst for the birth of ButcherBox. But it has also been part of my business ethos, whether I realized it or not, that there is something fundamentally incorrect with how specific industries treat their products, and then how this impacts consumers relationship with those products and industries. This too is part of the founding story of ButcherBox.

Recently, I was looking over a slide deck from when I pitched my former company, CustomMade, to investors. One of the slides quickly caught my eye. I had completely forgotten about the slide, but it featured two cows. One was a cow on a feedlot; the other was a cow grazing in an open field.

We had used this slide as a way to explain what we thought about the marketplace for creatives and craftspeople. For CustomMade, we wanted to highlight how consumers in the digital age wanted to know the story behind what they were purchasing. This shift was occurring in the food industry well before ButcherBox’s founding, and we highlighted the parallels to the craft industry for CustomMade.

As we saw it, more consumers better understood that the state of feedlots was a miserable existence for the products they were purchasing, when it comes down to it, for the pleasurable experience of eating a steak. The happier cattle on the range was more in line with the overall story that makes consumers feel better about the meat they are buying.

Rediscovering the slide again made me realize how the concept product storytelling — specifically, giving customers the products that align with their beliefs — has been a priority in my business life for a long time. It took the old pitch deck to help me make the connection.

Why do I tell these stories?

Businesses — the ones that people can get passionate about — aren’t borne out of thin air. The stories of how they came into existence tell a lot about the people that built them and where they are going.

For ButcherBox, the cornerstones of our mission are health and family. This permeates all we do, from how we hire to how we treat our customers. But there are other key values built into the foundation of the company. One is making others happy, bringing joy in some way. I was reminded of this by returning to my mother’s cow-filled home. The other is that we are on a mission to improve the world. The slide deck from CustomMade brought home this part of our story.

As we grow,  more and more people will contribute to the company and they too will add their own positive influences to the ButcherBox story. That’s the only way to build something that can truly resonate.

CustomersEating

Our Customers’ Company – Selling a product you love and watching new customers become equally passionate

Congratulations! Your order is complete. You will receive an email with tracking confirmation and a second reminder email when your box ships. We ship Monday through Wednesday and our boxes typically arrive on Thursday or Friday. The meat can stay fresh on your doorsteps for up to 12 hours. Please add support@butcherbox.com to your email address book to ensure you receive your tracking info.

I have read the statement above to each and every one of the thousands of people who have signed up for a Butcherbox subscription since I started working with this amazing company last May.

The pure excitement I get reading that simple script is just incredible. It means that another person or another family is going to try our product and realize how simple it is to have healthy, humanely-raised, and delicious meat delivered to their door.

Through this experience, I have spoken with individuals from every state in U.S., even ones that we don’t ship to (yet…) like Hawaii and Alaska. I have also talked with some ButcherBox friends in Canada and Mexico interested in our mission and the possibility of getting grass-fed beef or heritage-breed pork delivered to their homes.

Each person I speak with has a unique story: Different backgrounds, different financial statuses, and an array of other differences that have led to an interest in ButcherBox— and a call with me. And every one of them is, for me, an opportunity to sell a product I know so well — I proudly feed it to my own family — and have come to love.

I have built a very robust referral list from people who not only want to eat better and change the way they feed their families but also can’t stop sharing their fondness for our mission with others. “Frank told me to call you, Michael,” “Ronald told me to call you, Michael;” it’s a constant refrain. And it’s not just because I am a pretty good sales professional; it’s because we have wonderful product supported by a lot of very health-conscious, busy, caring, and hardworking women and men who have fallen in love with ButcherBox. Or, as I prefer to call it, “Our Customers’ Company.”

I have customers that call me after a sale just to let me know how much they love the product. Sometimes, they may have been unhappy with a cut they received that was completely alien to them, but then they tell me once they tried it, they were shocked how good it was.

I get to talk to fantastic seniors who have realized that it’s time to start eating better, younger people that love to hit the gym and want to make sure they are eating the right meat, and families that want to make sure both they and their kids are eating the highest quality meats available.

In the end, putting our product in the hands of more people who have the potential to be enchanted by ButcherBox is incredible. I love picking up the phone with Karen in Texas on the other end and hearing about her three kids she wants to provide healthier food for but can’t find good cuts of meat in her town. Or, there’s Todd from Maryland who has realized that he needs to eat a better diet to improve his weight and overall health. These people and the potentially thousands more that will call are the reason I love this job.

Here at ButcherBox, we all strive to be the very best we can be, but we are also driven by a passion for our mission. For my part, that means opening up with one simple line and excitedly anticipating an opportunity to connect with a new customer…

Hi! My name is Michael from ButcherBox Sales, how can I help you today?

FarmDinner3

Authentic customer experiences: An autumn farm dinner with ButcherBox

On Thursday evening, ButcherBox invited a few of our most loyal and long-standing Boston-area customers to a small farm in Lincoln, Massachusetts, for a special multi-course dinner designed by our in-house chef, Yankel Polak.

With a perfect early-fall sunset as a backdrop, all in attendance were treated to an incredible culinary experience as we paired some of our favorite ButcherBox cuts with beef from Matlock Farms — our host for the night — along with some great wine and New England craft beer and cider.

“We wanted to do an ‘Outstanding in the Field‘-style dinner for our members so we could get some awesome photos, tell our members how much they mean to us, and learn about what they want and need,” said ButcherBox’s co-founder and CEO Mike Salguero.

“It was great to be able to do it at Matlock, a farm that was started in 1635 and has been passed down through 12 generations of farmers,” he added.

The atmosphere was ideal for discussions on what makes ButcherBox so great and how we can improve our customers’ experiences. The glow and heat from the campfires set up near the grazing Belted Galloways — Matlock’s signature breed of cattle from the Galloway district of Scotland — paled in comparison to the warmth felt among the guests and ButcherBox team members.

Some of the suggestions from our customers included requests for more products, such as lamb and fish, and improvements to packaging (something we already have in the works).

“We heard some great comments on the ease of use of our service and the incredible taste of our meat,” said Mike. The food, as expected, was the focus. And, with Chef Yankel at the helm, the entire dining experience was unforgettable.

Chef Yankel at work.
Chef Yankel at work.

As Chef Yankel explained, a lot of thought went into every detail. “The food was sort of a conglomeration of who I am, paired with the needs of the event.”

For our chef, that meant choosing the centerpiece proteins first. In the case of this event, that meant selecting two items that would make use of the Matlock farm beef, while the rest would involve his favorite ButcherBox cuts.

“I began by thinking about pairing these meats with appropriate flavors,” Yankel explained. “Two elements drove ingredient choices: Location and seasonality. The combination of our location, a local farm in the rustic town of Lincoln (which is only 20 minutes outside Boston but feels a world apart) and the early fall, led to my selection of jams and apples, cheeses and sausages, cornbread and hearth roasted onions.”

Chef Yankel got personal with the dishes, too. He says he created the menu from what makes him smile, what reminds him of childhood, and what tastes of nostalgia and comfort.

“The menu drives the event,” he added.

As our guests arrived, mingled, and took in the picturesque farm, they were treated to an array of appetizers that included a “Matlock Meatball” with the farm’s own beef in a smoky-sweet sun-dried tomato sauce. There was also ButcherBox filet mignon paired with orange and nutmeg-dusted shallot jam, crispy onions, and parsley, as well as other small dishes featuring ButcherBox Italian sausage and ButcherBox bacon jam.

Salad waiting for the addition of some Matlock Farm harissa beef merguez.
Salad waiting for the addition of some Matlock Farm harissa beef merguez.

Sitting down at an extra-long farmhouse table under strings of lights and paper lanterns, the dinner party was greeted by a plated salad made up of local lettuces, green vegetables, heirloom tomatoes, and Matlock Farm harissa beef merguez.

After the salad course, Chef Yankel and his amazing staff served up a family-style meal centered on ButcherBox New York strip steaks marinated with coriander, lime, cilantro, and garlic EVOO, as well as ButcherBox boneless and skinless herb-marinated chicken thighs, accompanied by grilled vegetables, grilled corn with chipotle butter and lime, herb and vinegar potato salad, and cornbread with grass-fed butter.

It was as mouth-watering as it sounds. As the summer-like day faded into a crisp autumn evening, our guests and the ButcherBox team shared a few more stories (and some savory maple bacon-infused whoopie pies).

All in attendance were enriched by both Chef Yankel’s culinary creations and the great company. It was truly a one-of-a-kind customer experience. 

“fed-and-fit"