The importance of people



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by in Recruitment
September 29, 2016 0 comments

The people section of the formula for coffee shop success is a huge and incredibly important consideration.  It’s also one, I’m sorry to say, that many new operators make dreadful mistakes with.  The skills required to be a great people manager are very different from those that are required to be a great barista or chef.

In essence though it boils down to a very key principle that we have been espousing for several years now.

A great coffee shop is about “people, employing people, serving people”.   All the way along the chain you have people interacting with people.  And you MUST realise that, for the average customer, that interaction is at least as important as the great cup of coffee or food.

I, as ever, learnt this the hard way.  During my business studies degree we had various sessions on Human Resources and how to manage people.  I yawned through most of them and assumed I’d always have someone else to do “that stuff”.  Big, big mistake.  Over and above any other skill you think you might have, or which you think might be important, the ability to get people on your side is the very top.

With that said, your people management falls into three distinct categories.

Recruitment – getting the very best people in place to begin with.
Induction – training these people at a very deep level so that they fully “buy in” to your business and can provide great product and service.
Retention – making sure these people stay with you and you can reduce staff turnover.

The most important of these three, by far, is the recruitment.  If you can get your recruitment right you’ll save yourself horrible headaches in the future.  It’s extremely difficult to turn bad people into good ones through great training and you’ll waste a hell of a lot of time even if you do manage to turn people round.

This became increasingly obvious to me during my own career in running and owning coffee shops and various hospitality businesses but it really hit home when I started my consulting business.  One of my first clients had 24 retail outlets which he wished to turn into coffee shops with an ice cream parlour angle.  Over a week touring these stores and speaking to the managers I was exposed to one overriding truth.  The successful stores, of which there were twelve, all had great managers.  The unsuccessful ones, of which there were also twelve, all had poor managers.  And all you generally needed to do was move a good manager to a bad store and the sales and profitability would improve.

No matter how great the training was that we put in or how good the basic operational systems were, over multi-site operations you will always struggle if you have poor people and especially a bad manager at the top.

This trend has followed through with every other medium chain operation I’ve worked with.  In some cases it can make the difference between producing substantial losses in a site and making substantial profits.  In one site that we work with at the moment it has taken nearly a year to remove a manager who we suspected of stealing, but couldn’t prove it.  Large amounts of time went into the eventual removal of that person and the site in question lost money every week for a year until they were removed.  Within one week of a new manager being put in the site was back in the black.

In my own business several years ago it took me three full months of my time to remove a senior manager who had been bullying junior members of staff.  The person in question was highly intelligent and very litigious so it was a very, very complex process, resulting in extensive court time, to get this person out without costing a fortune.  With that said there were still hefty solicitor fees and I had lost three months of productive time in developing the business.

We conducted a test recently with a client and discovered, almost without exception, that the exceptional area manager for a chain could walk into any store in the chain and produce sales records on a Saturday just by driving the staff and creating a hugely buzzing and appealing atmosphere.

So the lessons are clear.  Always, always recruit the best you can.  In our full Cracking The Coffee Shop code program we explain in further detail how to do this but in essence the recruitment process NEVER stops.  You must always be on the lookout for “A-players” in your business.  You need to be constantly meeting with and letting these people know that you’re after the best and you potentially see them being in that role.

And therein lies another issue.  I am asked with enormous regularity, when speaking at events, one question, over and over again.  “How do I find great people and get them to work for me”.  The answer, which may be annoying, is actually really quite simple.

You create a business that people want to work for.  There are coffee shops out there, highly successful ones, who have people queuing up to work for them.  But the key thing is that they create an environment for these people to want to work in.  A-players want to work with other A-players.  They want to be challenged and have opportunities for growth.  They want to work somewhere that isn’t just about clocking a card.

So, if you can’t, hand on heart, say that you truly provide such an environment then that’s where you need to begin.




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