Throughout my engineering career, I've come across dozens if not hundreds of equipment suppliers. But there are a few suppliers that leave a long-lasting impression. Thorlabs is one of them. Why?
It is quite silly actually. Every time I order a linear actuator, motorized stage, or axis controller... something that's just normal industrial hardware, it ships unremarkably with billable weight in hundreds of dollars, docks, and sits at the shipping & receiving until I haul it into the lab. Cut open the box, and you see this:
This little red box brings so much joy it is hard to describe. Thorlabs shipping boxes contain one or more of these red boxes, it's got - cookies, candies, granola bars, chips, etc. with seemingly a singular heartwarming goal - to put a smile on my face. They didn't have to do it but they did. And they've been doing this for many years. In fact, they've trademarked "Lab Snacks" which is such a cool name on its own.
Thorlabs founder, Alex Cable, wrote an article about his vision of what customer centricity is, there is so much to learn from it, Wikipedia quotes:
An important part of Thorlabs' brand and culture is Lab Snacks. Lab Snacks were created to support the famished grad student researching all night, serving as an occasional meal for someone hard at work.
I implore you to read the original article because it exemplifies what a CEO and Founder should do to build an honest, customer-centric business and how to genuinely connect with them. Everything at Thorlabs, from their phone support to documentation, is focusing on how best to make you, the customer, successful. Therein lies their success and they double down on it.
Thorlabs has left such a long-lasting impact on me that I am writing this post after last enjoying Lab Snacks 2 years ago.