Friday, May 16, 2008

Jack Daniels and Legacy Learning

On a whim, and mostly because I needed an excuse to take a long motorcycle ride, I followed the back roads from Nashville out to Lynchburg, Tennessee for a tour of the Jack Daniels distillery. I had no idea what I was in for. I’ve never been much of a whisky man, but what I saw on that tour was truly inspiring. I can learn a lot about my own company from ol’ Jack.

Forgive me if I sound a bit like a whisky commercial for a minute here, but a little background is necessary. The Jack Daniels distillery still operates in the same idilic backwoods setting that it did when it was founded in 1866. Despite being the number one selling whisky in the world, not much has changed in the way it’s made, and our tour guide, a hillbilly whisky man if there ever was one and quite a character, walked us through the whole process. The grains are all harvested locally. So is the sweet maple birch that is burned one small brick at a time to make the charcoal used in the distilling process. Jack Daniels is one of only two distilleries that makes their own charcoal, and they do it exactly as they did over a hundred years ago. They also make their own barrels – by hand – and they are the only distillery to do so. The entire process is remarkably old school, despite the fact that they produce more bottles per day than any other brand in the world.

The company's commitment to doing things the old way (and the slow way) was incredible. What was truly remarkable, however, was the passion that goes into it. The people who work there LOVE Jack Daniels, and they are incredibly proud both of its history and its commitment to quality. The passion they have for it is contagious. I couldn’t care less about whisky, but I left knowing that from that day forward, no other brand would be served in my house. Jack Daniels has many fanatical customers who love Jack Daniels whisky because they can taste the quality, time, and pride that go into it. My palate isn’t that sophisticated, but I’ve seen the quality, time, and pride that go into it, and I won’t serve anything else again.

As I walked from whisky building to whisky building, I couldn’t help but think about my own company. If Jack Daniels and his successors could build that much passion into something as insignificant (and harmful) as whisky, how much more should I be building into my company – a company that purports to help people reach their personal dreams. What will people say about that company 100 years from now? Will it even exist? And if it does, will my passion for what we do still pulse through its veins?

I only have one life. I don’t want to waste one day of it chasing a quick buck or building things that are fleeting. After I die, I won’t much care whether people flock to my statue to have their picture taken, as I saw them do at Jack Daniels’ monument. I honestly don't care if they even remember my name. But I do care whether the work I do will stand the test of time; whether it will be good enough to still be helping people reach their dreams long after I’ve passed on.

To do so, of course, requires a standard of excellence that few have the stomach for. It’s not enough to build products that “satisfy” your customers or earn you two-thumbs up from reviewers. It’s not enough to do what’s expected of a professional organization. Building things that will stand the test of time requires a passion for excellence that goes far beyond what’s necessary.

Legacy Learning Systems helps people reach their personal dreams. The dreams they'd almost given up on. The things they’ve always wanted to learn, but never thought they’d get around to. That matters. Doing it passionately enough for it to last for generations matters even more.

What our company creates matters a whole lot more than whisky, so if Jack can do it, so will we. It will be our Legacy.


1 comment:

Brad Hill said...

excellent posting! Good tidbits in there, thanks Gabe.