Boudin Bakery: A Lesson In Transparency And Social Business


We were strolling along the piers at the Wharf in San Francisco (it is a scenic view, I can tell). Suddenly, I saw a huge group of people, scrambling and squeezing in front of a 30-foot window. I looked up and saw the Boudin Bakery sign.

On the other side of a 30-foot window, a woman was baking sourdough bread at the same time as she was communicating with people through a headset. I thought for myself. Wow! “This is when a social business runs smack into reality.” Because, I think, a social business is not necessarily a business that use social media tools to amplify their story. Does it make sense for you? For me, this is such a perfect example, when Boudin Bakery puts bakers in front a huge observation window. They let you and me see their team of experts crafting batches of bread by hand. You don’t need to be in the sourdough bakery business to execute a social business movement like this. Where can you replace brick and mortar with a transparent window?

A Social Company Culture In Action

What have Boudin Bakery really done here? We can see how they took down a huge part of the bakery wall, replaced it with a 30-foot window, and put headphones on “social” people. But before that execution, they have probably dropped the illusion of being in control. When a business moves in a transparent direction like this, they show how much they believe in their craft, their employees, and that they care about you and me. This is a social company culture in action. Later at Starbucks, this led to an interesting discussion with my friend Johan Lange (I hope to do an interview him here soon). He made an interesting point when he said:

-”I wonder how the leaders of Boudin Bakery reasoned? It would have been an awesome experience to talk to them.”

I can just agree with Johan. Or, what do you think?

Boudin Bakery Video

I found this video, it might give you a glimpse about our experience.

Listening Both Offline and Online

Look at what happened when I tweeted Johan Lange about my blogging ideas. Boudin Bakery replied, which is a great example that they are paying attention beyond the huge window, so to speak, both offline and online.

Boudin Bakery A Lesson In Social Business And Transparency

Transparency And How You Must Adapt

I often have discussions with people regarding the risks with blogging and social media. One thing, that so many brilliant minds still seem to miss, is that it is not their choice whether they should blog or tweet. Because people are already blogging and tweeting about you. Are you (Yes I’m looking at you) still paralyzed, because you are afraid that someone in your team should mess it up on your blog? What would happen, if the baker, farthest away from the window, took a chance and poked a finger in his nose? With all the cameras on the other side of the window, we could have watched it on YouTube seconds later. It would have been Yelp reviews all over the place. Despite the risks Boudin Bakery still chooses to stay transparent and communicate.

Not exactly rocket science to forecast where I will buy my next sourdough bread in San Francisco.

What are your excuses for not being a more transparent business? (And stop poking your nose, I can see you).

At the end of the day, you must accept the risks and adapt.


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