Tricia Zimmer Ferguson is loud and clear: relationships and team work help make Kaldi’s Coffee the company that it is. Build your company culture with intention and the right team members who fit within your company values. Read below to hear more of her tips and insights on leadership and teams.
Are you a natural leader? What do you find easy about leading a team? What do you find difficult?
Yes, I would consider myself a natural leader. I enjoy and am passionate about helping people reach their full potential. I am more passionate about our team than anything else. People ARE our most important asset. I think two heads are better than one when solving problems. I believe team work creates synergies that you wouldn’t have by letting others work on their own. Sometimes the difficulty is knowing when you have invested too much in a certain individual and it’s time to move on. I want to see everyone succeed!
What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
Our culture simply put is the values we have for our organization. They are: Continual Improvement, Ownership, Leadership, Openness, Respect, Fun, Passion and Humility (COLOR FPH). Values and culture should not change year to year in an organization. It’s about keeping these as you grow and not losing sight of what’s important. I always say, it’s more important to hire people who are culture fits even over skill set. There are a lot of people with every skill set out there but not as many who are culture fits within your values.
“I always say, it’s more important to hire people who are culture fits even over skill set. There are a lot of people with every skill set out there but not as many who are culture fits within your values. ”
How do you find people to hire that truly care about the organization the way you do and how do you know you’re bringing on the right team member? (What’s your biggest hiring tip/secret?!)
Quick to fire and slow to hire is our philosophy. We have an extensive interview process even for hourly team members. It takes years to build a successful culture through hiring. It can takes months to tear it apart with making some wrong hiring decisions. Hiring is one of the most important things we invest in throughout our organization and I probably spend about 20% of my time if not more seeking out great talent.
When you first started hiring employees, how did you delegate tasks, create a company structure, and make sure everything worked efficiently as you grew?
We are never 100% perfect with our hiring however I think it’s important for the entire organization to understand our recruitment process even if they are not making hiring decisions. They are then better informed of how we on-board successful team members and what we are looking for in a successful team member. We have also now been able to articulate and define who we are looking for in the hiring process. We break down the acronym GIFTS- and the S stands for Sparkle! Everyone has to have the Sparkle!
“In order for any partnership to be successful, they have to be culture fits as well.”
Do you have a business partner? How did you find them? How have they added to the success of your business?
We have business partners in some of our other businesses but not Kaldi’s. Each situation has been different in how they became a part of each of our companies. In order for any partnership to be successful, they have to be culture fits as well. A few of my favorite criteria include: You have to not only get along but have the ability to lead together, you don’t only solve problems together but also create synergies, you don’t just help each other but have to WOW each other, and finally you can’t just have similar values but you HAVE to share every single value of the organization or it will never work.
What do you think are some major differences between someone who is an entrepreneur and someone who works for someone else?
Entrepreneurs hire people smarter than themselves. Entrepreneurs take big risks and thrive when they do. Entrepreneurs delegate so they can keep moving forward and not micro-manage. Entrepreneurs say no to a lot so they can keep laser focused on what’s important.
Since your family bought the original single Kaldi’s coffee shop in 2005, you have grown the company by leaps and bounds. What are your future plans for growth? How do you plan for your locations to maintain the “neighborhood coffee shop” vibe as you open more store fronts across the region?
Again it’s really all about the people. As we grow it only becomes more and more important to having the right people so execution does not slip. We have to invest in our people so they invest in our customers and focus on what’s most important (providing a wonderful customer experience). In each community we go into, we need to build relationships with others and make sure we have the right people in our cafes whether they are in Honolulu, Atlanta, or St. Louis. It sounds simple but it’s not.
“In each community we go into, we need to build relationships with others and make sure we have the right people in our cafes whether they are in Honolulu, Atlanta, or St. Louis.”
Coffee shops probably seem like a pretty basic concept to an outsider, but Kaldi’s does so much more than make a good cup of joe. How do you manage so many different business segments which include your retail locations, wholesale accounts, catering, roasting, etc?
We keep our different business segments separated so we can continue to evaluate them to make sure they are successful in their own right. Also, we make sure we have the right people on the right seats on the bus and the right skill sets are in place because the business segments are all so different. It’s like one giant puzzle!
As our name implies, we encourage women to be brazen and bold! Tell us about a moment you were brazen in your business. When did you do something bold? Were you excited or scared? What was the outcome?
Well, back in 2008 we bought a company in Hawaii before we ever got to visit and check it out!! We didn’t go see it until after the deal was closed! Today, it has been an important investment in our family business portfolio and continues to grow.
You can follow Tricia and Kaldi’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @Kaldis_Coffee and check out their website at kaldiscoffee.com
Kaldi’s Coffee was founded in St. Louis’ DeMun neighborhood in 1994. We specialize in sustainably sourcing and roasting the finest coffees in the world, and partnering with those who share our values. From visiting coffee farms to hand-roasting and hand-brewing, we are committed to creating memorable coffee experiences.
After attending and graduating from MU’s College of Business in 2003, Tricia went to work with Edward Jones until she crossed paths with Kaldi’s Coffee in 2005. In 2005 she and her family purchased Kaldi’s Coffee in St. Louis, MO. Kaldi’s has retail locations across MO, KS, and GA and a wholesale operation in mid-town St. Louis. In 2008 Tricia and her family invested in another coffee venture in Hawaii where they own retail locations, Honolulu Coffee Company, and have franchised stores in Canada, Guam, Taiwan and Japan. In 2013, the family invested in a joint venture in Nashville, TN with a company named Frothy Monkey Roasting Co. Also, in the same year, Tricia partnered with a new tea company, Firepot Nomadic teas.
Tricia currently serves on the Board of Trustees at Missouri Baptist Hospital, the Development Committee of the JDRF, University of Missouri-Columbia Entrepreneurship Alliance Advisory Board and the Management Advisory Board. She is also a member of EO (Entrepreneur’s Organization) and YPO (Young President’s Organization). Tricia resides in St. Louis, MO with her husband, Josh, and two sons, Hunter and Walter and baby girl on the way in September of 2017.