by Scott Ronalds

I love my dog. But there’s no chance I’m eating her food.

Or so I thought.

Turns out I’ve been “dogfooding” for a while. I came across this term the other day in the Financial Times. It’s slang for “eating your own dogfood [cooking].” The expression is thought to have first entered the lexicon in the late 1980s, in the halls of Microsoft no less. Techopedia defines it as:

IT slang for the use of one's own products. In some uses, it implies that developers or companies are using their own products to work out bugs, as in beta testing. One benefit of dogfooding is that it shows that a company is confident about its products.

The Financial Times article used it in reference to CEOs and senior executives who are looking to get a taste for the frontline experience and test the quality of their product/service. DoorDash co-founder Andy Fang, for example, is known to periodically drop off orders as a way to test his product, stay in touch with changes, and live the customer experience.

Similarly, Airbnb co-founder Brian Chesky frequently stays in one of his company’s rental properties. In fact, on a podcast earlier this year he referenced that he’s been living in Airbnbs around the country, typically for a week at a time. It allows him to pick up little things about the service that can be tweaked or improved.

My favourite example of a dogfooding exercise is Waystar Royco’s practice of requiring employees in its management training program to work as a mascot at one of its theme parks to live the brand and gain firsthand knowledge of the customer experience. OK, so Waystar Royco is a fictional company in the HBO show Succession, but it’s a solid idea. Maybe Disney is taking notes?

At Steadyhand, there’s a big bag of Purina in the kitchen. Our employees on average have over 90% of their financial assets invested in the same funds as our clients; we publish the figure every year and are the only firm in Canada to do so. We also get the same reporting and pay the same fees as our clients (not the norm in our industry). Your returns are our returns. It means we live the same experience, feel similar investing emotions, and gain insights into what can be improved about our offering.

While it’s an off-putting term, we’re big believers in dogfooding. Just pardon the offensive breath.

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