Trade Secrets of Samovar Tea Lounge

By Jesse Jacobs

For the first time ever, I will announce to the world the secret sauce, the magic of Samovar. It’s Love.

From the day we are conceived until the day we die, the true pursuit of our lives is Love. Seriously. Do you doubt it? Why is it we do what we do? Dig just a little and you’ll find all roads lead to love. Glory? Money? Recognition? Children? Appreciation? Everything eventually boils down to our need for receiving, and giving, Love.  At Samovar, we’re in business solely to create true, deep, positive human connection (Love). It’s fun, rewarding, and actually good for business.

And at the end of the day, Love really is the business. Tea, food, teaware, snacks, sweets, and treats are all just vehicles for connecting us, first to ourselves, and then to those around us. And when the vehicle works like it should, we develop deeper human connection, and that makes us happier and the world go around much smoother. What else is there?

Of course we don’t just show up for work and walk around oozing emotions and hugging every body. We have systems, processes, and accountability measures to know we are doing our job and accomplishing our ultimate goal (creating positive human connection). Motivated by great thinkers, managers, leaders and visionaries, some inspiring resources I have found invaluable in building Samovar are listed in the “Tools” section of this site.

So the first step in the Samovar Way, is that we have a crystal clear “Why,” ie, we know why we exist: To create positive human connection. Next we define “How” to do what we do. And for that I created an acronym that fit really nicely with the concept of drinking tea: WHY RACE.

The final step is the “What.” That’s the easy part: what we do is sell artisan, top of the line teas and foods from around the world served up in three cozy, hip San Francisco locations and delivered through a sexy e-commerce website. For now let’s focus on the “How” we get the job done, and how we know we are getting the job done.

Why Race?

“W” = “Why.” First off we look at Connection as the key, for customers and for employees. And connection starts deep inside those people. When connection starts deep within a person, inspiration flows, and there begins an endless fountain of energized team members willing to “go the mile,” and fanatical fans eager to spread the word. Inspiration for customers and employees starts with being honest and genuine with them all about why our company exists: that our sole purpose is Love, and that we do it with tea, and that we can’t do it without them. That’s it. When everybody is inspired, the force is unstoppable. They are all connected to our core reason for existing, and totally passionate about joining the cause.  They embrace the Why of Samovar. (For more information on finding your Why, please read Simon Sinek’s Book, Start with Why).

“H” = Hierarchy, or more appropriately “no hierarchy.” We are all human, and therefore all equal beings. Everybody counts, and although we all have different roles, we embrace our unique differences and look to connect with and listen to everyone, without regards to their professional title or status. The CEO and the manager and the dishwasher all lack titles on their business cards. With no hierarchy, team members are enthusiastic to offer feedback and advice, making communication much more active and fluid, and giving every person, and the organization to grow, evolve, and achieve our mission.

“Y” = “You.” You the employee, you the customer, you the vendor, you the farmer. Everybody that Samovar encounters has a need. You have a need. How do we best serve everybody’s needs, including the company’s? We aim to listen, to really understand your needs, and to help everyone get what it is they really need. This is challenging for sure, but, even though we sometimes fall short, we do our best.

“R” = “Relaxation.” Tea is about relaxation. We are better people when we are relaxed. What can we do to relax more, to be softer, more sensitive, more capable of listening to ourselves and to the world around us? If we can relax (and tea helps greatly!) we can make better decisions in life. Just relax.

“A” = “Autonomy.” Autonomy is freedom, and we humans love being free. Sure we’ve got a clearcut job at Samovar, and that’s to create positive human connection through tea. We have a “way” that we brew and serve tea too. But after that, we like to cut loose our team members to be autonomous and make effective decisions without micro-management. We trust that when they really understand the end goal, and are inspired by that goal, that working autonomously is much more fun.

“C” = “Connection.” Tea is the ultimate connector, and Samovar is here to create connection. We are connected to our farmers, our vendors, our customers, and our employees. The more we really understand that we are ALL connected, the better off we (everybody on this planet) will be.

“E” = “Education.” Drinking great tea is fun, and gives us the chance to grow and evolve through learning. We embrace the learning experience and use every chance we can to relay all we know about tea to our in-store customers, employees, friends, family, and website visitors. When we are give the chance to educate, we invariably learn more, and grow. And growing and evolving makes life much fun.

How do we know we are doing our job? In general if we grow our customer base, maintain profitability, and have low staff turnover, we are doing our job. More specifically, we evaluate ourselves by checking in on our Values. If we live our values, the odds are that we are hitting our targets. To make it easier we created a values scorecard that we ask all employees to fill out once a month, so we can see how they and the leadership team and the company as a whole is doing. Click here for a copy of that scorecard.

That’s it, Samovar trade secrets revealed, the Why, the How, and the What. Enjoy!

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