BIGGBY Coffee Co-Founder Shares His Company’s Journey to Conscious Capitalism

BIGGBY Coffee Co-Founder Shares His Company’s Journey to Conscious Capitalism

The purpose of starting a business is not to make a profit. The purpose of starting a business is to find profitable solutions to the problems of people and the planet.

Conscious capitalism takes Milton Friedman’s theories of shareholder supremacy and throws them out the window.

The philosophy of conscious capitalism has four tenets:

  • Higher purpose
  • Conscious culture
  • Conscious leadership
  • Stakeholder orientation

As the co-CEOs of BIGGBY COFFEE, Bob Fish and I have embraced these tenets on a long and rewarding journey in the direction of conscious capitalism.

BIGGBY before consciousness 

Now a national franchise coffee chain with hundreds of locations, Bob and I (or BaM, as our team has nicknamed us) started BIGGBY COFFEE in 1995 with one location in East Lansing, Michigan. Our first business deal was an agreement to grow together made on a handshake and a couple thousand dollars.

By 1999, we were actively franchising; by 2008, we had 100 open stores and CNBC dubbed us the fastest growing coffee chain in America. By 2014, we were nearing 200 stores—but the wheels were starting to wobble.

Our brand’s identity was built on the cultural values that drove us every day when we launched BIGGBY in 1995: have fun, be happy, love people, make friends and drink great coffee.

But our growth over the next 20 years came at a cost – we weren’t living our identity and values internally. As time went on, Bob and I were making more money and the company was solidly profitable, but we were breeding a culture of fear inside our organization.

Our culture had become unhealthy. We had managers doing midnight move-outs (leaving a sticker on their cleaned-out desk reading “I’m leaving, don’t call me”) and employees who worked for us for a decade who showed up to work every day wondering if it would be their last.

Bob and I continued adding more zeros to our paychecks, but we were becoming less inspired. We knew something was broken, and we had to fix it.

The catalyst

Bob and I were searching for a solution to BIGGBY’s woes, and we found it in 2017 on South Manitou Island in Northern Michigan. I was on a camping trip with my brother and son, and one night we found ourselves gathered around the campground’s communal fire pit.

A couple joined us at the campfire, and my brother eventually struck up a conversation with the husband—his name was Nathan Havey, and he talked about his work and passion for a thing called conscious capitalism.

The next morning, on the ferry ride back to the mainland, I handed Nathan my business card and expressed a desire to learn more about the philosophy he was advocating.

Conscious capitalism had officially entered my life.

After telling Bob about the encounter, we brought Nathan to our home office in East Lansing to audit the six stakeholders outlined by conscious capitalism: community, customers, vendors, the environment, shareholders and employees.

Upon completion, BIGGBY was passable in five of six, but failing miserably in one: our employees.

To fix this, Nathan conducted a deep-dive survey within our home office and put the report on my desk. About halfway through reading it, I was struck by profound sadness and had tears rolling down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe that people were talking about an organization I was responsible for in such negative ways.

Nathan’s number one recommendation for us was to read that report verbatim in front of the entire home office. Bob and I agreed to do it, knowing that once we did, there would be no going back.

The journey

That afternoon, we read real quotes from our employees—word for word and through misty eyes and choked-up voices—in front of the entire company. At the end, we committed to do what was needed to make positive change.

It wasn’t until a couple weeks had passed that the gravity of what Bob and I had agreed to had come upon us like a rolling wave. We realized that we had to change, our leadership had to change, and our company had to change. We needed our reason for being.

It was clear there were two things we needed to find for ourselves: our purpose and our vision.

The process took us two years, and it involved weekly, hour-long meetings with leadership that were grueling, argumentative and full of debate and discussion.

After the first year, we came up with our company’s purpose statement: BIGGBY COFFEE will support you in building a life you love.

The ethos of that statement comes with four distinct measurables:

  • Do you have a sense of belonging?
  • Do you know who you want to be?
  • Can you exceed your basic needs?
  • Do you have emotional and physical vitality?

While it doesn’t seem like much for a year’s worth of work, these were really important words.

It took us another year, through the same arduous format, to discover our company’s vision: We will improve workplace culture in America.

There are a lot of toxic workplaces in this country that cause needless problems for the individuals and communities they touch.

We believed we would change that by following our purpose. If we could support people in building a life they love, the folks within BIGGBY Nation would be impacted, their families would be impacted, and their communities would be impacted in a positive way.

The impact

The weight of our commitment forced us to make changes so we could seriously pursue our lofty business ambitions while staying true to our purpose and vision.

As experts in scaling things, we knew that if we could grow BIGGBY COFFEE to $1 billion by 2028 and focus on following our purpose, the outside world would have to take note. At that point, people would ask us how we did it and we would have the opportunity to tell our story, thus improving workplace culture in America.

Since implementing the conscious capitalism framework to BIGGBY COFFEE, we’ve been able to accomplish the following

Internal culture

We have been continually striving to improve the culture within our organization. We have done a deep dive into pay in an attempt to find the right compensation structure. We have developed a curriculum around the four tenants for building a life you love. We have expanded our thinking in relation to diversity and inclusion. We have a long way to go in all areas of culture, but our progression is true and real. We are proud of it.

Direct-to-farmer purchasing

We are proud to have developed a direct-to-farmer purchasing pipeline for our coffee beans. Bob and his wife have traveled around the world discovering farms and forging relationships with people from different cultures—many of whom provide life-saving benefits to their communities.

Last December, we had our first beans from Zambia land in BIGGBY stores. By 2023, 50 percent of the beans we use in our stores will come from direct-to-farmer purchasing relationships.

Coaching model

We have also developed a defined coaching model inside of our company, independent of management of people in their job duties. The coaching isn’t about taking an employee and turning him or her into a more efficient and valuable asset to make Bob and me more money—it’s about helping them reflect, consider and pursue their passions so BIGGBY can support them in building a life that they love.

If they choose to leave the company to pursue their passion, we will celebrate and support them the best we can.

Takeaways for entrepreneurs: Conscious capitalism for all

Conscious capitalism is the tool we need to succeed at BIGGBY. It’s a method that has the power to unlock our brightest people and give them the resources they need to figure out how to make our companies, our communities and, ultimately, our planet, regenerative.

Entrepreneurs in America and around the world need to place less emphasis on the short-term value creation they promise their shareholders and become more concerned about whether our planet is going to be habitable for their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

If you want to build a better business with conscious capitalism, here are a few key takeaways to leave with:

  • People are your most important asset and should be treated as such
  • If you believe in something strong enough, you will find a way to do it no matter what
  • Every decision your organization makes should be passed only once its impact on the environment has been thoughtfully considered
  • The road to conscious capitalism may prove difficult for a time, but persistence will reap immense reward for your organization

The purpose of starting a business is not to make a profit. The purpose of starting a business is to find profitable solutions to the problems of people and the planet.

The post BIGGBY Coffee Co-Founder Shares His Company’s Journey to Conscious Capitalism appeared first on StartupNation.

Source: Startup Nation
Author: Michael McFall