CV #5 D’Artagnan: All For One and One For All
COMPANY AT A GLANCE
Founded: In 1985, by Ariane Daguin (CEO) and George Faison. Ariane is the sole owner of the company today. D’Artagnan sells naturally raised, antibiotic & hormone free beef, pork, lamb, duck, chicken, foie gras, charcuterie, and truffles. Located in Union, NJ. ,Houston TX ,Chicago IL, and Macon GA
Employees: 280 | Revenue: $121 Million
Company Philosophy: All for one, one for all.
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED
Ariane Daguin is from Gascony, France. Her father, Chef André Daguin, was famous throughout France for his artistry with foie gras and other Gascon specialties. By the time she was 10, Ariane was an expert at deboning and cooking game birds. While a career in food may have seemed natural, Ariane decided to go to Columbia University instead to pursue an academic degree.
However, her roots soon caught up with her when she was going to school and working part-time for a New York pâté producer. There, she met the first foie gras producers in the United States. When her employers declined to go into business with the duck farmers, Ariane quit her job and pooled her limited financial resources with a co-worker to start D’Artagnan. The name was inspired by the real-life musketeer, D’Artagnan (from Ariane’s hometown of Gascony) made famous by the Alexandre Dumas novel, “The Three Musketeers.”
Today, D’Artagnan sells many types of fine meats and mushrooms. Since the beginning, D’Artagnan has partnered with small, family-owned farms and organized cooperatives who focused on the welfare of the animal (no growth hormones or antibiotics and a clean, natural and appropriate diet etc). Because in Ariane’s words "A happy chicken is a tasty chicken."
LET THE TOUR BEGIN
When I arrived at D'Artagnan, it was a sad day. Ariane and the company were mourning the unexpected loss of celebrity chef and dear friend, Anthony Bourdain.
When I asked Ariane if we should reschedule and do a call instead, she insisted I stay. I share this information because our visit was naturally, more philosophical, than practical. However, the beliefs we discussed are very relevant to our conversation on culture.
And in the funny way that life works, we also got to celebrate new life that day (more on this full-circle moment later on). Ariane gave me an in-depth tour of their new 80,000 sq ft facility, including their freezer and storage spaces (which is why we are wearing those awesome jackets below). I also had the chance to ask her some questions about her company culture and meet some employees along the way. Here's what I learned:
1. All for One, One for All Philopshy In Business
Ariane grew up in Gascony, France where D’Artagnan the musketeer is from. Ariane joked that she may be a descendant of D’Artagnan (the Musketeer), given his promiscuous lifestyle. The Musketeer slogan, “All for one, one for all” is D’Artagnan’s business philosophy and since Andy Wertheim, President of D’Artagnan, came on board 12 years ago, they have worked hard together to create systems to put this philosophy in place.
An example of this is that D’Artagnan strongly encourages employees from all levels to voice their opinions. For this reason, Ariane and the rest of the leadership team keep their doors open. In fact, they strongly encourage being the minority thinker of the group – because oftentimes, this pushes the company forward.
Another example is how they structure their sales compensation. Instead of having each sales person’s compensation tied to their individual performance, it’s tied to how the entire team performs. For this reason, if someone is weak, the rest of the sales team has the incentive to help the person reach their goals. The other part of this is that if someone is weak and can’t perform, they tend to self-select out of the organization because they don’t want to bring the rest of the team down. For this reason, seldom does D’Artagnan let go of a sales team member.
Lastly, the “all for one, one for all” shows up strongly in D’Artagnan’s multi-stakeholder approach. From the beginning, Ariane has believed that a happy and healthy animal will lead to a tasty animal. For that reason, D’Artagnan has always partnered with small independent farmers who take care of their animals. In turn, they pay these farmers good wages for this, who then go the extra mile for D’Artagnan products. D’Artagnan takes great care of their employees, and ultimately, because of this, their employees take great care of their customers. All parts of the supply chain are extremely important to D’Artagnan because of their philosophy.
2. Hire for Heart – To Be in Hospitality, You Must Have Heart
As you can imagine, with a company who is essentially all in or nothing at all, you must have loyalty and you must have heart. In fact, those are two of the biggest qualities that D’Artagnan looks for when hiring candidates. Ariane admits that this may be to a fault, but she believes firmly that skills can be taught in a way that heart cannot be. In the interview process, they try to get into the candidate’s personal experiences – what are the things they are passionate about? Do they enjoy serving others? What examples of this do they have? How long have they been a part of previous organizations? What do they care about outside of work and why? The bottom line is that D’Artagnan is in the hospitality industry – and to make other people happy, you must find joy in doing so.
3. Take the Time to Step Back and See the Forest
I asked Ariane if she always thought about company culture and her answer was no. In fact, for the first seven years, all they could focus on were the day to day problems. But today, she recognizes that it’s essential to the organization. Her advice— take the time to breathe for at least 15 minutes a day to think big picture. She used the analogy of the tree and the forest. When you’re in the trees (or the day to day operations of your company), you don’t see what’s around you, but when you take a step back to realize that you’re in a forest, you see the bigger picture – and company culture is the bigger picture.
A Life Moment…
For over 20+ days, Ariane and the team were anxiously awaiting the births of their first office chickens and today was the day. It was quite the scene walking around with Ariane as she excitedly went around to every single office and shared the joyous news. Employees enthusiastically yelled things like “I’m an aunt and I’m a grandpa” and rushed over to see the baby chickens. Given the tragic news earlier in the day, it was quite therapeutic and lovely to see everyone gather around and celebrate these new lives.