It’s hard to imagine what our company would be like without our employees, and our managers have especially earned that place in our hearts. Since we take that sentiment so seriously, it only seemed fair to take a bit of notes and show them off. We recently interviewed them to hear their thoughts on their time here, what they love about their jobs, and how they make it through their hectic daily routine. A window, a story, and the sharing of life advice which was hardly unique to coffee.
It was just past three o’clock in the afternoon as the café managers began making their way to our Pensacola street location, gathering for what I viewed as a unique opportunity: a chat. A time where we could level with each other and talk about the things that fueled their passions, pardoned their frustrations, and dotted their café-alter-ego’s day-to-day. The low murmur and undifferentiated coffee noise that filled the air seemed to saunter off as the conversation grew and the caffeine took effect.
“So, who are you and what do you do at Lucky Goat Coffee?”
Christie, the manager of our Capital Circle location, offered a suggestion while hiding behind her sarcasm and adorable 9-month-old baby: “We’re the managers.”
They laughed, but I glare at her.
“…the ‘council’ of managers” Jasmine, North-Side’s manager added.
I’m getting the point…
Ben, the manager of Pensacola, chimes in: “Hey everyone, we’re the council of café managers. Uh. Thanks for having us out here, this is our first song…”
Ok, that one was funny.
“I’m Victor, I’m the manager of our midtown location.”
“Thank you, Victor”
“So, tell me a little about your jobs.”
Christie: “Well, we manage the cafés. Basically, I view my job as filling in the gaps of what people are in charge of. We all have our responsibilities, and if something happens in the café where something falls through the cracks, it’s my job to take care of it.”
“Okay, so like a fallback of sorts.”
Ben: “I like to set the standard for what the expectation is of my staff. I want them to know that when I do something, the expectation is the same for them, within their job description. If I can do a good job, I believe my staff will want to rise up to that quality.”
Jasmine: “I think all four of us have a very similar proactive approach to being on the floor with our staff.”
“So, when you’re not arranging schedules and ordering straws, you’re basically a super-employee. Interesting. What parts of that stand out the most?”
Victor: “Its interesting. For me, when I started in this company I was focused so hard on my coffee. As I progressed, and now that I’m a manager, is all about the experience, the customer, and making sure people are happy. The part that stands out for me is recognizing that.”
“So, what started as a hobby, turned into a love for service?”
Victor: “Absolutely. That’s my role here. Making sure people are happy!”
I spoke to each of them at length regarding their backgrounds. They’re from up north … down south … and Germany. The medley of places seemed scattered, however, they all shared a common theme of working in some sort of service job in the past. The careers ranged from things like wheelchair escort, mall manager, security guard, to being someone else’s barista—the list could go on. Throughout this conversation I learned that they all had an innate passion for people and a desire to make people happy. I eventually asked them how they got involved with Lucky Goat. For many of them, it seemed haphazard, as if working here was by chance or luck. Though, hearing about their past and their passion for others, it made total sense to me. But it gets better.
“So, what are some of your favorite parts about working for Lucky Goat?”
Christie: “I like that its local. That might be cliché, but I like knowing exactly who I’m working for and that they can pop into the café at any moment. I think it can be a bit scary, but it’s not for me. It makes me feel more invested in making sure we’re representing ourselves well. When you work for a corporation, there can be a lot of drone mentality.”
Victor agreed. He expanded: “Honestly, this is the first job where I feel believed in, and that’s empowering. That carries over to how I treat my staff. If I feel empowered, then I want my staff to be empowered—it’s an awesome cycle. Being believed in is something that’s huge for me that I didn’t see in my past jobs.
“Was there ever a moment in any of your previous jobs where you realized the need for that type of environment?”
Victor: “It was actually at my first job when I was pushing wheelchairs at the airport. Long story short, I saw a woman in a wheelchair who was lost. She didn’t know where she needed to go and she didn’t have the means to get there. It wasn’t my job to help her, but I did anyway. I got in trouble for that. I didn’t feel valued and I didn’t go back after that season. I knew I was right and that they were wrong. As a 19-year-old that affected me. I was empowered to take what I had learned and apply it somewhere else.”
This was an interesting part of the interview for me. This was the moment I realized I wasn’t talking to four individuals who just happened to work at a coffee shop and just happened to do well enough to become managers. These were individuals who had seen hardship and push-pack throughout their lives and decided not to be stopped by it. Victor’s story was one of the many instances shared by these four that seemed to shape the way they treat their customers and staff.
Ben agreed and went on to talk about the coffee community that formed around Lucky Goat’s belief in its people: “I’ve known about Lucky Goat for a long time—even before I worked here. About six years ago Lucky Goat hosted a weekly time for those of us interested in coffee to get together and share knowledge or skills about the craft. Things like latté art and brew methods. Throughout our time together we learned a lot about coffee. Eventually, we even put on the first latté art throw down in Tallahassee.”
“So, your favorite thing about Lucky Goat is something you could have said six years ago. We’re that consistent, huh?”
Ben: “Well it’s a culture thing. To me, Lucky Goat is a huge reason why there’s coffee talk and coffee culture in Tallahassee. They believed in their community six years ago, and they still believe in us today.”
“Do you still see that culture and that energy in your café?”
Ben: “That’s one of the coolest things. Six years ago, when we would meet up at Lucky Goat, we weren’t that good and we had no one to learn from. Our current baristas are learning things in just a few months that took me years!”
“Wow. That’s amazing. So, how do you guys manage to keep that energy and positivity in your cafés?”
Christie: “I can’t say exactly ‘what’ I do—that might be a better question to ask my café—but I’m driven by the idea that I don’t want the people who work for me to feel like I did in my other jobs. I don’t want to be the boss that I’ve had.”
“That makes sense coming from someone with a history of working for larger companies. So, what does that look like in the cafe?
“I don’t focus on the negative. I try to highlight people’s strengths and match them with people or situations that compliment that. I don’t want my staff to come in dreading their work. That just isn’t the way we do things. People should have fun in coffee.”
Ben: “That’s one of my big things. I always try to keep my staff entertained but also challenged in my café.”
“How do you do that?”
“You know, coffee science things. TDS, temperatures, brewing methods… I try to bring that here. I try to find people’s individual interests and meet them where they’re at. One time I brought in all the real ingredients for the tasting notes we had in our coffees. That way they actually knew what to taste for! I mean, when’s the last time you had an apricot?
Jasmine: “This is a land of resources. We work with good equipment. Those types of projects keep me engaged and help me keep my café engaged.”
“Do those sorts of projects have any sort of impact of the customer’s experience in any way?”
Jasmine: “I think it shows our staff that there’s no limit to coffee. Just because we have recipes for our coffee doesn’t mean that’s the way it should always be brewed. Experimenting with coffee helps inform baristas who help inform customers who want to know why their coffee doesn’t taste the same at home.”
“Interesting. So, what are some other parts of your job that effect the customers?”
Ben: “We try to maintain a clientele at our shop. Since we see so many of the same customers day in and day out, we want more of an engagement with each of them. I try to cultivate a staff that’s willing to work with them to make sure they’re not confused or embarrassed. We have that time at Pensacola.”
Christie: “I would hope that my customers actually don’t notice my job. Since Capital is our main location, we have wholesale orders, donations, and a lot of other moving pieces. Because of that, I don’t want anything falling through the cracks as it relates to the customers. I don’t want anyone having a bad experience.”
Victor: “For me it’s trying to instill positivity in my café and to make sure customers feel welcome. We have the potential to make or break someone’s day simply by how we treat them. Because of that, I remind my staff to avoid letting anything negative effect whoever their talking to. That’s something that I feel effects the customers and hopefully makes them feel welcome.
What was initially an attempt to get to know the managers better turned into a conversation helplessly wrapped in remarks of expectations and goals each of them guards in order to serve their communities. Whether that be their customers or their café staff, I quickly learned that each of our managers harbors a deep sentiment for other people that’s obvious in their work ethic and lifestyle. Toward the end of our time together, I asked Victor what he thought of the complex interwoven coffee community and the delightful people surrounding it—the friendship and kind customers surrounding it.
“People crave connection and to feel like they belong. So, when you become a part of something like all this? I don’t know… It’s special.”
We agreed, wrapped things up, and gathered our things.