Lessons from Vegetable Soup
It’s that time of year and no I am not referring to the holidays. It’s soup and chili time of the year. As temperatures begin to drop our craving for a bowl of warm soup (and hot chocolate) goes up. There is nothing like curling up on the couch wrapped up in a blanket sipping a bowl of vegetable soup while the cold envelopes the outside. There is something comforting about this and for many, it just takes you back home to a time once forgotten, until this time of year. Perhaps you are using your mother’s or grandmother’s recipe, thinking of a time you made it with her and smile. Perhaps you are teaching your son or daughter how to make this comfort food from scratch so they will connect with their past while growing the future. Whatever the reason, a great bowl of vegetable soup always seems to hit the spot this time of year.
While preparing to make some for my family, I began to think about all it takes to put it together. The more I thought about it, the more lessons for business and life I began to see. I was reminded of some of my favorite authors and teachers who looked at the simplest of items to teach the most profound of lessons. We’ve all heard the lightbulb analogy from Thomas Edison (when ask about his failures, he simply said, those aren’t failures, just 2000 ways it didn’t work. “All I need is one way”). So here are a few lessons from the everyday, vegetable soup.
Variety of Ingredients
A great vegetable soup is going to have a variety of ingredients. Perhaps, back in the day, this was just a hearty way to use what was harvested from the garden. Something different than the normal use of vegetables and yet, something amazing. I love thinking about the origins of food and why people did what they’ve done with what they had. Many of our great recipes were simply born out of what was in the cupboard, the field or simply because it was all they had. Regardless, vegetable soup is one of those dishes made with a variety of ingredients. Each vegetable and seasoning bringing to the bowl its own uniqueness. You choose each for what it has to offer the overall dish.
The individuals we hire are much like this. Each come to the office, different than the others, yet they bring a set of skills, personality and ideas to make it a better place. In many cases, a company will hire someone to fill a gap, never really investing in the person to see if it is a right fit for both parties. They need a warm body, and this is as far as it goes. If the person leaves, then they will be replaced with another. I read a line which has stuck with me through the years but cannot remember the author. It simply read, “Companies made a mistake when they changed from ‘The Personnel Department’ to ‘Human Resources.’ They went from looking at the person to looking at people as just another resource.” Like ingredients in a vegetable soup, people bring their own uniqueness to the business.
Blending of Flavors
Corn, broccoli, carrots, potatoes, and much more go into a great bowl of vegetable soup. Then you must add your stock after you’ve chosen which one to use. Let’s put in some water, then some spices and seasonings just to take it to another level. As we mentioned above, each ingredient is unique, but when they come together, they begin to marinade. The flavors from each of ingredients start to blend together, creating a delicious new flavor. Although you can still pick out each individual vegetable, when scooped up in a spoon, they collectively bring something new to the pot of soup. Combined together, when it is the right set of ingredients, your meal is better than if you ate each on its own.
When running a business, the same is true when the right team is assembled. Each person brings with them their own set of skills and personality which, in theory, complement the rest of the team, keeping it all running smooth. When the right team is in place, everyone knows their roles, and in many cases, knows the roles of the others, enabling them to fill in if needed. Have you ever taken a bite of a vegetable soup and there is just something off-putting about it? There is that one ingredient which just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the dish. This is why when making vegetable soup or choosing employees, it is so important to choose the right ones. So, they will blend in together, creating something special.
Takes Time to Cook
One mistake many novice vegetable soup makers encounter, is they want to rush it. I am in the mood for some vegetable soup and I am in the mood for it now. Although you can make a decent soup in a short period of time, the experienced cook knows it is better to take your time. Once you have combined the ingredients, let it sit to marinade, blending the flavors. Then you place it on the stove, not on a high heat but a low heat, so it cooks slowly, further infusing all the flavors. Once it is cooked, you serve a bowl of this deliciousness. However, don’t eat it all the first day, save some for tomorrow. It only gets better with time.
The same is true with putting together a great team for your business. For the sports fans out there, how many times have you tried to justify your team’s losing streak as a ‘rebuilding year?’ Having a great team is like having a great business or even a great bowl of vegetable soup, it takes time. Time to search out just the right fit. Time to allow the individuals to grow as an individual as well as a team. Patience to wait, knowing the end result will be beyond what you’ve hoped. To say it isn’t tough to wait would just not be the full picture. But, when you take the time to develop the flavors, you’ll have the absolute best team working for the success of everyone.
As we approach a brand new year full of uncertainties, one thing is for sure, a great bowl of vegetable soup will make it all a bit better.