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#244 Harry Snyder (In-N-Out Burger)
May 3rd, 2022 | E244

What I learned from reading In-N-Out Burger: A Behind-the-Counter Look at the Fast-Food Chain That Breaks All the Rules by Stacy Perman.


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[2:03] This is an absorbing case study on how a family business came to be at the center of its own cheerful cult.

[2:42] Aliens, Jedi, & Cults: A Mental Model for Potential

[5:05] Stripe gave me a mental model for potential. An alien founder assembles a group of Jedi to start a cult and go on a mission together.

[5:28] The developers raving about Stripe formed the cult.

[6:37] If you are searching for a project with potential, watch out for the alien founder, Jedi team, and cult following of people on a messianic mission.

[7:58] A few years ago I started notice that people were getting Tesla tattoos. It is very hard to ever short something where people are tattooing the brand on their body.   — Josh Wolfe

[8:38] Becoming Trader Joe: How I Did Business My Way and Still Beat the Big Guys  (Founders #188) Word of mouth is the most effective advertising of all. I have been known to say that there's no better business to run than a cult. Trader Joe's became a cult of the overeducated and underpaid, partly because we deliberately tried to make it a cult once we got a handle on what we were actually doing, and partly because we kept the implicit promises with our clientele.

[9:12] List of David Ogilvy podcasts:

Ogilvy on Advertising (Founders #82)

Confessions of an Advertising Man (Founders #89)

The King of Madison Avenue: David Ogilvy and the Making of Modern Advertising(Founders #169)

The Unpublished David Ogilvy (Founders #189)

[9:17] Word of mouth is the most effective advertising of all. In and Out has that, Tesla has that, Stripe has that, Bitcoin has that, Trader Joe's has that, Apple has that.

[10:35] Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue and Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future (Founders #31) The best startups might be considered slightly less extreme kinds of cults. The biggest difference is that cults tend to be fanatically wrong about something important. People at a successful startup are fanatically right about something those outside it have missed.

[11:33] In and Out was fanatically right about something that companies like McDonald’s, Wendy's and others, missed.

[11:43] The most important sentence in the book: "Keep it real simple. Do one thing and do it the best you can.”

[12:55] The family owned, fiercely independent chain has remained virtually unchanged since its inception in 1948.

[14:53] It is known as the anti-chain with the cult-like mystique. The anti-chain is a perfect way to describe In and Out’s approach to building their business.

[19:48] Harry's drive and tenacity were propelled by the uncertainty of watching his parents labor to provide for his family. Harry grew into a disciplined fellow with a strong sense of responsibility.

[27:50] The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (Founders #179)

[28:15] Sol Price: Retail Revolutionary & Social Innovator (Founders #107)

[28:55] I have always said that competition just makes you stronger. You shouldn't be afraid of the competition. They make you stay on top of your game. They keep you on your toes.

[29:23] You don't ever cut corners when it comes to the quality of your product.

[30:23] There is no cult-like following for shitty products.

[33:21] This dude is obsessed with simplicity.

[33:44] Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success Never underestimate the degree to which people crave clarity and respond positively to it.

[36:26]  If he was alive today and you could ask him for advice I think he would just say do it yourself.

[37:18] This is an important distinction —and I think also how you get to a cult-like following—he's not interesting in being the biggest, he's interested in being the best.

[38:34] If you’re efficient, you’re doing it the wrong way. The right way is the hard way. The show was successful because I micromanaged it—every word, every line, every take, every edit, every casting. That’s my way of life.

[39:47] He refused to sacrifice quality for the sake of profits.

[40:05] From the start, In-N-Out ran a customer-driven shop.

[41:00] Authentic: A Memoir by the Founder of Vans (Founders #216)

[44:07] He believed in paying for quality and that included wages.

[44:31] Why would you skimp on the level of quality people you work with? That's insane to me — it just makes no sense at all.

[44:48] Les Schwab Pride In Performance: Keep It Going!

[45:42]  Embrace hard work, ignore fads, identify what's important to you, and repeat it for decades.

[46:39] The Sugar King of Havana: The Rise and Fall of Julio Lobo, Cuba's Last Tycoon(Founders #237)

[50:00] Catering to the car-reliant customer, Harry focused on putting his drive-throughs right next to off-ramps of the fast-expanding freeway system. The growing Southern California freeway network became a significant factor in In-N-Out's own rising popularity.

[50:45] He's got a handful of really simple principles he refuses to deviate from. He focuses on quality and does that for decade after decade, He's giving us somewhat of a blueprint to build a cult-like following. People respond to this because you've put their interest ahead of your own.

[51:56] Nuts!: Southwest Airlines' Crazy Recipe for Business and Personal Success(Founders #56)

[56:50] You don't build a cult following by trying to wring more money out of cheaper products.

[58:19] I'm focused on the customer. I'm focused on quality. My competitors are focused on a spreadsheet.

[59:56] Limit the number of details to perfect and make every detail perfect. That is exactly what Harry Snyder did.

[1:00:41] From his perspective, In-N-Out was simply a different creature than its competitors.

[1:01:07] He was very much about problem solving before it became a problem.


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