The Cake Boss is a US Reality Television Show which follows family owned Carlo’s Bakery in New Jersey, as they create amazing cakes. The cakes are unbelievable – a NASCAR race car cake (pictured to the right) built to scale, a cake that looked exactly like a paintball field and even a dog cake for dogs at a shelter. It would be hard not to love a show that’s all about cake. However, there are also some great business lessons beneath the frosting and fondant.
- Show your ingredients. The Cake Boss shows us the ingredients that go into making great cakes. We see the process from client consultation to delivery and all of the details in between. Knowing what goes into a great cake (or business process) helps clients to understand what you are really doing for them. It can facilitate discussions about timing, value and the complexity of specialized requests.
- Tell your story. Buddy Jr. (The Cake Boss) heads up the design and baking, and frequently talks about learning the business from his now deceased Dad, Buddy Sr. The company history is so much more than words on a brochure or web page; it is a living piece of all that the team does today. Yes, family owned businesses have a unique position but all businesses have a story.
- Share your mistakes. We have seen cakes fall apart, incorrect dimensions and disaster deliveries. So often we are afraid to share what went wrong for fear that it will dampen our credibility. At Carlo’s mistakes are taken in stride, things happen and you fix them. The team learns from their mistakes and it increases our confidence in them because we know that they can bounce back from mishaps and keep the client happy.
- Eat your own cake. Buddy is never ho-hum about his creations. He thinks every cake is “awesome” and his enthusiasm is infectious. The large, extended family also has Buddy and the team bake for every occasion and they put as much love into these cakes as they do for customers. If you won’t eat your own cake, what does that say to your customers?
- Buttercream frosted king of the world. Buddy is transparent about his vision for the business. I love knowing that he is always working to improve and grow his business. Don’t be afraid to share your goals with customers. Your desire to be better lets them know that you are still passionate about your business and invested in its continued success.
You don’t need a reality TV show to give your customers a peek behind the curtain. Invite them in and let them see more of your process and your passion. The rewards could be sweet for both of you.
Do you have any sweet lessons to add to the list? Feel free to share them in the comments.
Karen Swim says
Wendi, lol! You and Deb are definitely on the right track! 🙂 My 14 year old nephew loves the show too. It’s funny I don’t watch any of the cooking shows but I love this show. There are some good life lessons there too and I think it’s cool that you are sharing those teachable moments with your daughter.
Karen Swim says
Hi David! Some may disagree but I think Google has been good in the past about showing ingredients. Their Google Labs allows us to see what they’re working on and even weigh in with opinions and suggestions. I’ll look for more and do a follow-up post, thanks for the idea!
Karen Swim says
Andrew, I like to use the term “strategic transparency.” No business should share everything it would be unwise. So, I agree sharing some mistakes are good but you cannot share everything or you could damage your business.
Andrew Heaton says
I fully agree with all of your points – with one qualification: caution should be exercised in exposing mistakes. Enterprises should be very careful about which mistakes they choose to expose and how they choose to do it. Special care should be taken with regard to the prospect of any legal action which may result or the possibility of exposure of the mistake in question causing humiliation or embarrassment to individual employees. Not to mention the possibility of reputational damage where serious and careless mistakes are made.
Ideally, when any mistake is shown, it should be one of the owner, not one made by staff. And the enterprise must be careful to clearly demonstrate how the mistake was picked up a long time before the product was delivered to the customer and how the firm has a process for detecting mistakes, fixing them and learning from them.
I’m not saying business should not expose mistakes – they should. But it must be done with great care.
Really interesting how you broke down his success. Especially love the part about showing ingredients. What’s the big secret? I wonder if you have examples of companies that show us thier ingredients — the facinating inner-workings of what they do.
Wendi Kelly says
Buttercream frosted king of the world!!! HA!!! That made me laugh. It made me wonder what Deb and I would pronounce ourselves as with such enthusiasm. Although we already named our company after the brightest star in the universe so I guess we are on the right track!
Great post Karen, and I loved the part about him being transparent about his mistakes and owning up to them. This show is my thirteen year old daughter’s favorite show and I think it has some great life lessons as well as business lessons and we have discussed this very thing. So many businesses and people try to act perfect and pretend they get it right on the first try and never fail. That only makes me squirm and feel uncomfortable. I think, if you only gave it one try, how do you know it was your best effort if you didn’t at least explore a few options and throw a few out? Failure breeds success. I love the cake guy! He is a great example!
Karen Swim says
Hi Cath – I agree with you if you won’t eat it there must be something wrong! As I read your comment I thought of those who are “modest” and proclaim they’re not good writers/designers or whatever and I have been guilty of that in the past too, but if you don’t believe in your own work how can you possibly expect clients to respect your knowledge and value? I am great at what I do and I love doing it! 😉
Cath Lawson says
Hi Karen – This is an awesome post, and those cakes look great. My favourite is eat your own cake. If you can’t be enthusiastic about your own product, how can you expect your customers to take you seriously?
I once overheard a sandwich shop, at a business function, telling someone she would never eat there herself. I couldn’t believe it, and I don’t go there anymore. If she won’t eat her own stuff – there has to be a reason why.