What I was doing at the Panera Family Reunion

By ayr March 13, 2017

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I’m on an airplane flying back to Boston from Nashville Tennessee.

Ron Shaich, the CEO of Panera, has become important to Clover. Immediately after I quit my job I dug deep into my alumni networks. High School, MIT, HBS, McKinsey. I found every person who worked in Foodservice and reached out to them to request a meeting. I reached out to over 100 people. Kept track of it in a spreadsheet.

Ron was very generous. I was nobody to him. But if I remember he took more than an hour listening to me and my questions. I knew nothing about restaurants back then. To this day I always say yes when young entrepreneurs want to meet. It’s because of Ron’s example.

Nashville.

I was there surrounded by 4,000 Panera employees. 4,000 Panera employees, the Tatte leadership team, (Panera bought them recently), and me (Panera has not bought Clover). It was so huge. There were speeches, events, a vendor show that was sort of like an internal trade show. I didn’t know what to expect when Ron invited me.

And honestly I find myself a bit overwhelmed. I keep saying I want to build something huge. And when I say that I’m mostly thinking about the kind of impact I want to have in the world. Big big impact. Not something small.

But what we are at Clover, it’s so so small compared to what I just observed. So I guess it’s sort of overwhelming and maybe humbling.

There was a lot of business stuff, a concert, meals. Panera is at the top of their game. Their stock is on fire. There were moments that were incredibly inspiring. A regional leader received an award and brought his whole team up to the stage because he wanted to talk about how great they were. He took the time to introduce each of them. It was really touching and inspiring.

Ron gave a big speech that was the climax of the event. 4,000 people. And that’s just the leadership in their company. Amazing. Humbling.

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