As with so many business-defining decisions for Pineapple, this one came when we’d wrapped up work for the day. With the sun setting over a hot, hazy Brooklyn in the summer of 2016, we turned our attentions to the question that so often created conflict within the team:
“So, where are we going to eat?”
As is custom, we teased one another about the obscure restaurants and cuisines we each suggested, from a hole-in-the-wall Malaysian curry house to a farm-to-table fusion taco truck, all of them the sort of establishments that primarily attracted trendy, ironic customers with too-tight trousers and elaborate haircuts. Ultimately, however, we agreed that what we really wanted was a huge, sloppy, unpretentious pizza.
Pineapple on Pizza
We ended up at a local joint known for selling quality slices at prices that didn’t seem to leave much room for profit, and wondered aloud how they could offer a large pie at close to half the price of the spot across the street without compromising on quality. It quickly became clear that they survived at least partly on efficiency, with their employees working in perfect harmony to construct a pizza by way of a frictionless assembly line. It took them no more than a minute to toss the dough, add and spread a ladle of pre-made sauce, and sprinkle on three handfuls of cheese. With a flourish, the final man in the line heaved the pizza into the oven from four feet away, deftly closing the door with the pizza paddle.
We watched intently, and I asked the second big question of the evening:
“How can we be more like these guys?”
We all had full confidence in our own abilities – and one another’s – but didn’t have that pizza-parlour-level efficiency as a team. We were forever yelling across the room for status updates, or to ask where we could find a certain file or password. In all, we calculated that were wasting around 15% of our working week on redundant emails, catch-up meetings, and other mechanisms to correct for inefficiency and miscommunication. We’d dedicated most of our self-betterment efforts, however, to more attractive goals, particularly around innovation.
In Search of Unsexy
So we took a step back and went in search of the unsexy to improve Pineapple. Rather than looking at agencies we admired or the behemoths that built the tech industry, we sought out organisations that operated with a minimum of wasted efforts and resources. We drew inspiration from companies as diverse as Toyota and Arizona Iced Tea, and even studied the corporate practices of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers* to see what we could learn and steal. It was painfully apparent that in the course of becoming the very picture of a cool Brooklyn boutique agency, we’d neglected to consider the role of efficiency in helping us better serve our clients.
What resulted was what we now know as The Pineapple Process, a codified set of rules that govern our internal project protocol. This process – first defined in 2016 and continually refined since then – has helped us dedicate 20% more of an average week to actual work, giving our designers more time to design, our writers more time to write, and our coders more time to code. The end result was that we were able to simultaneously reduce client costs and increase our net profit, while effectively gifting ourselves an extra working month per year.
For more information on the not-yet-world-famous Pineapple Process, check out this blog post, which covers our conclusions in more detail.
*NBA fans will recognise our inspiration for the use of the word “process” here.
(Editor’s note: The Pineapple team is officially divided in its opinions on Hawaiian pizza.)