In Pursuit of the Common Good: Twenty-Five Years of Improving the World, One Bottle of Salad Dressing at a Time by Paul Newman

Summary

  1. Paul describes how he started Newman’s Own

Key Takeaways

  1. You can get straight As in marketing and still flunk ordinary life. —Newman to lee Iacocca after Iacocca’s Pinto caught fire
  2. One day the two of them ran into a friend of a friend, late of the restaurant business, now in shoes, who flatly stuck his finger in PL’s chest and said, “We were always filled to the rafters but no profit. I was skimmed to death, skimmed! Waiters in collusion with the cashier! [This is before computers, remember.] They saved up all the cash register chits in ten-cent increments from $2.50 up into the hundreds. Guy gets a check for $49.50, they go into the chit collection, get a chit for $49.50, guy pays the bill, nothing rung up on the cash register, they pocket the $49.50, and—which really frosted my ass—they get the tip as a bonus!”
  3. From the very beginning, we bucked tradition. When the experts said that something was “always done” in a certain way, we’d do it our way, which was sometimes the very opposite.
  4. It was Newman’s insistent desire to market the dressing that kept Hotch in motion. Scarcely a day passed but what Paul was calling from some unlikely place to discuss a newly discovered source for the perfect olive oil, the perfect red wine vinegar, the perfect mustard, and so on, which he constantly sought. He phoned Hotch from racetracks, in between his races, from mobile dressing rooms on location while shooting Absence of Malice and The Verdict, from airports on his way to make speeches on behalf of the nuclear freeze movement, and even, on one occasion, from where he was making a coffee commercial for a Japanese film crew, a background of cacophonous Nipponese chatter making it difficult to hear him.
  5. Paul had always been perverse about complacency. It was his theory that he had to keep things off balance or it’s finito.
  6. But to Andy’s surprise, after testing, his chemists concluded that since Paul’s dressing consisted of oil and vinegar and contained mustard, those elements combined to form a natural gum.
  7. “We don’t think you’ll get anywhere with Crowley. He already turned us down.” “Gentlemen,” Stew said, “I am Andy’s best customer—I sell more Ken’s than all his other customers combined. If your dressing measures up, I assure you he will bottle it.”
  8. “I think I’ll sleep on it,” Paul said. “Maybe I’ll dream something that will put me straight. I’ve had a lot of luck with my dreams.”
  9. We now needed a name for this sauce, and what we came up with—Newman’s Own Industrial Strength All-natural Venetian-style Spaghetti Sauce—horrified our brokers. “Industrial strength! They’ll think it’s for factories—they’ll never buy it to put on spaghetti.” As usual, we disregarded their “expertise”

What I got out of it

  1. Fun, easy read on Newman and how he got started with Newman’s Own, having donated nearly $250m!