I Invented the Everything Bagel

I’ve told you the story of how, as a kid, I used to deliver bagels and milk along my Daily News paper route, to give my accounts a little something extra, a little “What Else.”

The guy who owned the store that I got all the bagels from took a liking to me, and he hired me to be his morning baker two days a week. Eventually, he hired me as his night baker.

One night I was screwing around with different combinations of toppings – sesame, salt, poppy, onion and garlic – making braids, onion flats, and other unorthodox concoctions. Then, after a while, I had the thought to throw all the toppings on a bagel at once.

That’s how I invented the everything bagel.

This was 1973; I was 14.

You think I'm kidding?

It was me. And as far as I can tell, no one who’s claimed to invent the everything bagel claims a date prior to 1973.

That includes a hero of mine – but a bagel charlatan nonetheless – Seth Godin.

Seth, I love you, but you gotta free yourself from your doughy, braided shackles of inaccuracy.

Anyway – I’m thinking about my bagel days for a reason.

See, what a lot of people don’t realize is that bagels are one of the most complicated breads to hbake, because of the number of temperature changes they go through during the process.

You start with mixing the dough; when you’re finished, the dough is hot. You have to let it sit so the humidity can “poof" it up. Then you put it in the fridge to stabilize the poofing – to keep it bagel-sized. When it comes out of the fridge, you let it warm up to room temperature; then you put it in boiling water. When you take it out of the boiling water, you put it in a kettle and pour cold water on it. Then you put it on a board and slide it into the oven.

There are thousands of places selling bagels these days, but only a small percentage of them sell bagels as they’re genuinely meant to be: spongy on the inside and crunchy on the outside; that taste similar to bread but aren’t just donut-shaped bread.

The reason is that it takes so much nurturing at each stage of baking to come out with a perfect bagel. Most bakeries simply don’t have the time or resources to execute these highly-calibrated steps.

And it’s true in business, too.

If you think about the business you’re in, there are probably a lot of different layers – between the manufacturing, the research & development, the shipping, etc.

How good is your company at each stage? How much do you personally know about each stage?

Because I think the best way to sell a product is to understand how you get to that product. What exactly makes that product as good as it is.

Too many people in marketing and sales and other areas don’t fully understand how all the different parts come together, how they’ve all evolved.

I think one strength of our Steiner Sports collectibles is that our managers and I are involved in the “ancillary” parts of production: the matting, the framing, the shipping, etc. We even pay attention to seemingly irrelevant factors, like where a particular athlete grew up, or what his hobbies are. These pieces of information don’t necessarily feed into every product we make, but having that comprehensive knowledge means all our bases our covered, that what should go into every product does find its way in.

Think about what you make or sell.

Do you have comprehensive knowledge of it?

If not, you’re probably not able to make it the best it can be.

1 comment

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