Over the new year’s holiday, I catch up on reading the many hundreds of magazines that have accumulated over the year. I also have the pleasure to enjoy longer non-fiction books.

This week I read John Wasik’s “The Merchant of Power,” the fascinating story of Samuel Insull, the energy and transportation baron of Chicago and his role in creating the modern city. Earlier this summer, I wrote of our participation in Starbucks “Ultimate Coffee Break” and its location on the Chicago River right across from the Civic Opera House, one of Insull’s most spectacular creations, which opened in October of 1929 right as the stock market crashed.

My other major achievement was reading “Team of Rivals.” Doris Kearns Goodwin’s riveting story of Abraham Lincoln’s political genius and that of the men who were his challengers for the 1860 Republican Presidential nomination and who later became his closest advisors and cabinet members. Although 757 pages in length, the book tells a great story of Lincoln, the Civil War and America in the 1800′s.

With a little more time to enjoy the break after Christmas, I read Subir Chowdhury’s “The Ice Cream Maker.” Only 115 pages in length, the book tells the fictional story of a struggling regional ice cream maker that want to sell its ice cream to a grocer that sounds a lot like Whole Foods. From a series of conversations with the wise grocer, the plant manager learns what it takes to create an organization based on quality products, great people and the best service possible.

One chapter of “The Ice Cream Maker” is entitled “Striving for Perfection” and tells the story of how perfection is a real and tangible goal and that to achieve perfection you must: first, recognize the price of failure (devastating for the entrepreneur); second, do it right the first time; third, be very detail orientated; third, always be “productively paranoid” (paranoia is
good when it refers to making better products, giving better service and out thinking others in the business); and fifth, instilling in everyone on your team a passion for perfection, every minute of the day.”

Those are great words to measure our efforts to make our customers happy. One more important statement was that “quality is always defined by customer” In other words, always work hard to bring perfection to the customer

As we at Eli’s Cheesecake kick off 2007, we are honored to have one special fan who defined our cheesecake as “Perfection on a Plate.” On the O-list in the January 2007 issue of “O-the Oprah Magazine,” Oprah Winfrey herself picked a few of the things that she thinks are the best. We are delighted to be her “Slice of Heaven” and take that endorsement to mean that we
have to work so much harder this year to maintain this level of quality and service for all our customers.

At Eli’s the Place for Steak, my dad, Eli maintained a sport jacket or suit policy for gentlemen long after most restaurants had relaxed that policy. When Eli’s friends asked him why they were forced to dress up, he replied that his concern was for the other customers–that family that came to Eli’s for a special occasion and to whom the dress of the people around them
contributed to the dining experience. We take the same approach to our cheesecake. It is great to have wonderful fans, but we are only as good as that last cheesecake and we want every Eli’s customer to become a life long fan and customer of ours.

Have a happy new year! Wishing you a year of striving for and achieving perfection in whatever you do.

Sincerely,

Marc Schulman