I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Friday, November 11, 2011

That Cake Show

Recently a cake show premièred on Australian television, chronicling several weeks in the life of a well-known (perhaps Australia's best known) cake company. Some disclaimers: 1) Only two episodes have screened, 2) It's television, so it's hard to know what's real and what's 'made for TV,' 3) I used to admire said cake company.

I was a little torn about this show. On the one hand, I think its GREAT that there is finally a local show to rival the endless American and UK import shows we get here. I also think this company has raised the profile and quality of the cake industry across Australia as a whole, so it's a good thing that the non-cake world will get a taste of it too. Often people have no real concept of the time, effort, skill and artistic talent which goes into a cake - so to show that to millions of people can only be a good thing. For all those people who wonder why bespoke cakes are so expensive - well, now they get to see behind the scenes and find out. My negative feelings about it were probably because I'd heard some not-so-complimentary things about the owner of said business - and that, too, has the potential to affect the industry if people are watching what I'd been told was, shall we say, less than ladylike behaviour. Plus, let's face it, I'd like to be on TV someday, too.

After two episodes, I'm still torn about what this show may or may not be worth to the industry. But one thing I'm not torn about is the amount of confidence it's given me in my Big Boss Lady skills. Let's face it, I'm watching a company which is - in a small way - my competition. They're hugely successful (although it's been many years in the making). Their company name is said among cake decorators with some reverence, and for a long time they were the end-all-and-be-all of cake companies. Let's just say what it is - I used to be envious of their success, and in awe of their owner.

I'm not anymore.

Even given the above disclaimers, I've now watched two episodes which show an owner who speaks poorly of her clients, discounts at the merest whim, leads by intimidation, does not believe in her staff's skill, believes the only way to "be the best" is to "poach the best,", who gives her off-sider design authority and then totally ignores said authority, who blames her staff for decisions she was clearly a part of and so on.

I'm a fan of Duff (annoying laugh and all) and Buddy (comic accent and all) NOT because they are crazy talented cake decorators and pastry chefs - but because they lead their staff with love, with education, with strength and by example of their own behaviour. I've never heard any of them speak ill of their clients - although I'm sure they've done it behind closed doors, they're not doing it on camera. I've also never heard them discuss price either on camera or with staff, as compared to, "Does this LOOK like a two thousand dollar cake to you? Because it doesn't to me!" In short, at best this Australian show is showing off what an incredibly talented and resilient group of people the staff of that company are, and at worst, it's showing the owner off in a pretty unflattering light.

Today one of my staff members (who reads this blog - so I can't even varnish the truth if I want to) came to work and said, "You know, after watching that episode last night, all I could think was, THANK GOD I work for you and not for her!" I'm pretty certain that's just about one of the nicest compliments I've ever gotten. (Thanks, K. *smile*)

I don't run the biggest cake company in Australia. Not the best one, either. Not the most amazingly special, not the most expensive, not the most "I want to be them when I grow up," and not the most well known or revered, either.

I DO, however, run a damn fabulous cake company. A cake company that creates cakes with personality and love for both the people we are and the people we serve. We create cakes which are about WAY MORE than just the cake - and they are more than cake not only for the customer but also for those of us hiding behind the buckets of icing.  I treat my employees with love and respect and most of all I TRUST them to use the skills they have, learn the ones I (and others) can teach them, and to make decisions on their own. I'm not the bestest boss ever (let's face it, nobody is), but I do my best and that's about all I've got to offer. Every single day, I'm proud of the products we produce, but I'm also enormously proud of what we are achieving on a personal level. We are growing and learning, together, in SO MANY WAYS.

TV show or not - judicious editing or not - I don't think it's EVER okay to throw your employees under a bus, which I've now seen happen on that show more times than I care to count (and I've only see two episodes.) So I'm no longer envious of that cake company, not one teeny tiny iota. They might be able to command a lot more dollars per cake, they might have a huge, gorgeous cake studio, they might make cakes for famous people, they might [insert brag-worthy achievement here] - but they've got NOTHING on my company. Nothing at all.

Because what I've got - and what I'm nurturing every single day - is quite literally priceless.

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