The Value Of Going The Extra Mile
Over the weekend a colleague sent me the fascinating story of how the San Antonio Spurs’ Head Coach Gregg Popovich turned his proclivity for good food and exceptional wine into the ultimate team building tool, which he used to create a basketball dynasty. “Coach Pop’s” stat line speaks for itself. Over the course of 23 years with the Spurs he’s become the NBA’s winningest coach of all-time, has had a winning record every single season, has a winning record against every other NBA team, and has won five championships. Simply put, Gregg Popovich is a winner.
The story in the link of how Popovich uses the ritual of the post-game meal to create a special bond within his team is legendary. However the aspect I want to focus on is the tale of Jeremy Threat, the 29 year old General Manager of a Sacramento restaurant called Spataro, and how his willingness to go the extra mile made him a culinary superstar.
Several years ago Coach Pop made a 40-person reservation at Spataro after a game against the Sacramento Kings. That afternoon Jeremy Threat heard who was coming to his restaurant, and promptly scrambled to learn everything he could about Popovich to figure out what he could do to make the dinner perfect. The result, a custom wine list prepared the day of, with special bottles brought in from a high-end wine cellar, which made it appear as though Spataro’s entire wine list was customized for one Gregg Popovich. Here’s an excerpt from the ESPN article recounting what happened next:
“Explain this,” Popovich barks to Threat, brandishing the wine list. Threat is perplexed.
“How did you do this?” Popovich asks. “This list has some of my favorite wines. Did you guys just have this? You’ve got to explain yourself.”
Threat explains how hours earlier, when he had learned that the Spurs might be coming in, he’d recalled a Wine Spectator magazine feature that had listed many of Pop’s favorite wines. He explains how he’d called a nearby friend who possesses a deep cellar, how his friend had hauled in about 120 bottles worth roughly $50,000 in total, and how Threat had built the list that Pop.
Popovich is incredulous. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Really?” Then he orders 10 bottles. And when they arrive, the coach transforms into a happy sommelier, bounding about the room, pouring for everyone. “You’ve got to try this!” At the end of the night, he buys another 10 bottles — to go.
That one night immortalized Jeremy Threat as a rising star in the wine/foodie space, cemented Spataro which started offering the “Popovich List” to other customers looking to recreate the magic of that evening, and made Coach Pop as happy a customer as one could be.
So what’s the business lesson in all of this? As I see it the value of going the extra mile can make all the difference. Coach Pop and his Spurs do big team dinners 20+ nights a year, and most restaurants just treat them like any other large party. But Jeremy Threat recognized the importance of treating this customer like an individual, and in the process made it a night we’re still talking about to this day.