Jeni Britton Bauer, the creative genius, entrepreneur and founder behind Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, will be among the speakers at Thermostat Cultures Live on Nov. 10 in Columbus, Ohio. She’s the author of a James Beard Award-winning cookbook and in 2015 was dubbed one of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business. Here, she talks about culture, fame and why love matters in business.
Q: Why is culture important?
A: I want to build a company I want to work in. And I feel like if I can do that, then other people will want to work here, too. Without question, whoever you are on the inside is expressed on the outside. Customers feel it. They can feel it when they walk into our stores, whether we’re here because we really care or not. It really oozes over the counter. Anywhere you go, you can feel that the people who are helping you feel like an important, valued part of their organization—or they don’t, and it shows. So even just looking at it from a pure business perspective, what you are on the inside is actually what you are on the outside.
Q: It must have been much easier to create culture when you were a one-woman show…
A: Now, we are at a place within our company where we have to be intentional about culture, because if we’re not, it doesn’t happen. We now have to say, “This is what Jeni intended,” because I can’t always be there. And we have to figure out how we can nurture that.
Q: How do you empower your team to do that—to create the culture you wanted when you can’t always be there making every decision?
A: Culture starts from the seed up. Everybody in our company has been chosen to be in our company because we think they can bring something to our company, whether it’s a scoop or the CFO. We want to listen to them. If I’m ever in a sort of echo chamber, I know we’re making mistakes. I need people challenging my perspective.
Q: What kind of values do you hope your culture includes?
A: I do think that everything comes from love. Love is this boring kind of nerdy word. But we talk about our fellowship—that we are on this quest together. I like to joke that a lot of things I know about leadership I got from fantasy and science fiction, but it’s true! It’s this incredible quest you’re on with other people. If we can do it and if we are successful with this, were going to build a company that the world wants to have. It’s this incredible love for people that brings us together every day. It bonds us through thick and thin, no matter what mistakes are made, whatever successes we have.
Q: You have definitely created a culture on your personal social mediums, too. What kind of culture do you hope it’s purporting—or combating?
A: For me first and foremost, I’ve never wanted to be famous. I just want to be who I actually am, and that will never go away. I have to be me, and I have to express myself. I have zero interest in hiding that or sanitizing that for any reason. Even if it means everything goes to shit—but I don’t think that’s going to happen. Generally, I’m a nice person even if I’m opinionated. And not that I have any strategy around social media, because I don’t, but it gives me a creative outlet outside of ice cream. Every time I travel, I never eat alone; I always ask somebody from my social media to come eat with me. It always connects me to people, and I always show up in person. I love the in-person meetings. If it serves anything, it just shows I am regular person. I’ve also got lots of young people who work for me, and they see there is someone who cares about the company and cares about the country.
Q: What excites you about the Thermostat Cultures Live event?
A: I personally have never seen an event like this. Entrepreneurship is building your own world. There’s all sorts of hustle workshops out there, but nothing that reminds you that you are building a community. I love that.
Join Jeni Britton Bauer for this interactive day to connect, learn, grow and thrive. Reserve your seat at www.thermostatcultureslive.com.