Today’s interview is with Louis Tolentino of The Coffee Mill in Tehachapi, Ca.
Welcome to season three of the LeaderQuest Podcast! This season we are focusing on small business leaders who have had to pivot or transition during the 2020 Covid Economy.
Each interview was structured around three main questions:
How did your business pivot during 2020?
What does the future (2021) look like for your business?
What is a current problem or question that your facing?
During each interview, you’ll hear real stories from real business owners. They will share their highs and lows, along with important lessons learned along the way. You’ll be able to take their knowledge and turn it into wisdom.
Today is Louis Tolentino of The Coffee Mill in Tehachapi, California.
Louis is a friend with an extraordinary business mind. I have immensely enjoyed our off-air conversations about life, family, and survival in this business economy.
This interview is a personal favorite and the wealth of information, his passion, and his plans for future growth and service are inspiring.
Throughout this interview, you’ll hear not only how he cares for his staff, but how he is bringing innovation to a crowded coffee market and the larger Tehachapi area. Tune in to get inspired!
We’re continuing our look at Marcus Whitney’s Book Create and Orchestrate and how you as the owner need to spend time growing your business.
If you missed any of the previous posts, don’t worry, links are at the bottom.
Growth is about understanding that change is always happening. You can and should drive and leverage change to realize the vision and live out the values of the company.*
Reinvestment, Anticipation, Innovation
While highlights the need for growth under the three ideas of reinvestment, anticipation, and innovation. His focus on core aspects of your business are helpful, below I’ll use those ideas to talk about how we approach the same topics throughout coaching.
In life and business, reinvestment is primarily about the daily habits and routines we build into your schedule for success.
Reinvestment asks questions like:
Did you give your best effort towards getting better today?
What goals did you accomplish?
What new goals did you set?
How were you successfully able to eliminate distraction and do something of significance?
Throughout coaching, I highlight the need for these basic elements of our own growth. Many of my clients already know I’m going to ask these sorts of questions, even before I do. It becomes ingrained in the way we think during our times together.
Growing your business is about making small daily deposits of success, consistency, and routine. Otherwise, you will never achieve larger breakthroughs.
Anticipation is about your future self as much as it’s about the future market.
When I started coaching, my focus was exclusively on leadership health and burnout. Part of that was my own circumstance at the time. I was in an organization that consistently produced burned out leaders and I wanted to avoid that trend.
But it was also partly cultural. I started coaching as the U.S. economy was still feeling the lingering effects of the 2008 market crash. While in many ways we were ‘out of it’ by the time I started coaching, many individuals were still terrified and afraid. They were still recovering financially and were scared that something else might happen.
This made them extraordinarily open to talks of leadership health and sustainability, especially my focus on all areas of life.
As the economy recovered, I began to focus more on small business and HR needs. Again, both a personal decision and a cultural one.
It wasn’t that the need for leadership health was gone, but for many a strong economy hid the need to talk about it.
The current pandemic and economic collapse (and the resulting questions) have seen a large uptick in conversations around leadership health. People again are afraid and unable to mask their worry and anxiety.
I’ve had a number of individuals reach out to me about leadership health, including one organization who basically said, “We’re all hurting and can’t keep going on for much longer.” The long drawn-out year of 2020 has revealed the deep need for total leadership health.
Anticipation for me was preparing for this months ago and being ready to step in and offer coaching and consulting to these individuals and businesses. Your own anticpation needs might be different, but you can start by asking questions like:
What events, meetings, or opportunities are ahead of me in the next six to twelve months?
Who will I need to be to make those things happen?
How are my current behaviors limiting or enhancing my growth opportunities?
Growing your business starts by growing yourself and addressing your own needs first. Reaching your full potential allows you to serve others more.
In coaching, innovation is finding new ways to meet current needs.
As a business coach, I often tell young entrepreneurs that if people aren’t buying their product, they aren’t meeting people’s needs. Unfortunately, it’s just that simple.
We’ve seen a huge growth in the online education market, and rightfully so. Gone are the days of needing to be present for live or in-class training. Now, the convenience and adaptability of online learning make this decision a no brainer.
But smart entrepreneurs are already asking, “What’s next?” Online learning is the new, current, and necessary trend. But something will be next? Keeping an eye on upcoming methods of delivery, education, product placement, and advertising will keep facilitating steady growth in growing your business.
We’re continuing our look at Marcus Whitney’s Book Create and Orchestrate by examining what it means to have a strong sense of business operations.
If you missed any of the previous posts, don’t worry, links are at the bottom.
At its core, the purpose of operations is the indefatigable elimination of risk in the business.*
The Structure Of Business
The United States has a dizzying array of tax codes, legal standards, and licensing requirements for businesses. I’m not a tax professional, and I understand very little about the different structures and benefits to each different type of business entity.
What I do understand, however, is risk mitigation and people management.
Yes, creating the right entity matters.
Of course, you need to have insurance, file the proper paperwork, and utilize the right tax incentives.
But above all, it’s the measure of people’s development, conflict resolution, and personal investment that really shapes the future of your business.
Effective Business Operations Includes Substantial People Development
Years ago, I was coaching an individual that often touted his own leadership capabilities. He was convinced that both his ideas and his methods were right. It came as an absolute shock then when he was passed over for a promotion.
To hear that he didn’t play well with others, handled criticism poorly, and was developing a negative reputation in the organization truly came as a surprise to him.
Early on he expressed his anger and frustration. Everyone else’s inability to see his greatness was offensive. It was then that I asked him a fundamental question about his leadership.
“Great leaders produce more leaders. Who are other people you’ve developed that would identify you as their main source of influence?”
He sat in silence for several minutes, ultimately unable to come up with a single name.
He was slowly beginning to realize the difference between ordering others with tasks and leading people effectively.
To his credit, he took the insight seriously and began to change. His method and approach to interacting with others improved greatly. He led his team more effectively and radically improved his leadership capabilities. As a result, his overall business operations improved. His happier (and more well-developed people) made for a better culture, which made for a better customer experience. Everyone won.
Your Key Three Takeaways
To effectively grow your business operations and, as a result, your overall business, you must, as they say, play well with others. Ultimately it will all come down to how well you invest in the people and culture of your organization. Here are three things for you to practice this week:
1.) Think Through the HR Logistics
One of the reasons businesses call me is because they sense that a change is needed in their HR policies. People are leaving. Customers are unhappy. Turnover is high. What’s going on? Most times, the business owner hires an employee but then stops the conversation. Outside of the occasional business meeting, there is little to no talk of promotion, a pay raise, or leadership development. If this is you, your business operations are in need of a serious overhaul. Start with people. End with people. Develop people at every step along the way. Think through those logistical questions and treat your employees with respect, trust, and goodwill. It goes farther than you think.
I almost wrote, “Don’t criticize.” It’s not that people don’t need to hear good, constructive feedback, it’s that it’s so often done poorly. Coach your people through problems. This gives them the opportunity to listen and learn from their mistakes by applying critical thinking to their own actions. The most effective way to change behavior is through good, insightful coaching.
On the positive side, be generous with public praise. I once worked with an employer that openly refused to praise their employees.
“I give them a paycheck, why should I praise them for doing their job?”
The short version of that story is that employee turnover was extraordinarily high and morale was constantly low.
Praise frequently and extravagantly.
Let someone know when they do a good job.
Better yet, make sure others know it as well.
3.) Win Relationships, Not Arguments
Several years ago, mired in a personal conflict with someone else, I learned a very harsh reality: If I win the argument but lose the relationship, I’ve lost everything.
I’m sad to say that I lost everything. My moments of weakness, poor leadership, and even worse conflict resolution ability cost me a friendship and ultimately a job. As a person in charge of business operations, this decision haunts me.
From that moment on, I was determined to never let it happen again. Since then, I’ve never been disappointed. Even when it means swallowing my pride or allowing the other person to be right (even if factually I am) it’s always been worth the extra effort and energy to win the relationship.
As a business owner or other leader, be sure to win relationships. With your employees, your customers, your superiors, and your community. Sacrifice the idol of always needing to be right and instead work towards always needing to be loving. Demonstrate grace, compassion, and empathy as a leader.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
Today, we’re beginning a new series where we examine eight core concepts to help you grow your business. These eight core concepts come from Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate. You can currently pick up a copy on Amazon Kindle for only $.99.
In his book, Whitney outlines eight core concepts that every business owner must track, measure, and invest in in order to grow their business.
In this series, I’m not going to rehash his points (you can read his book to know what he thinks). Instead, I want to use it as an outline as a frame for what I do with business owners and leaders in the context of coaching. I agree with much of what Marcus said and want to springboard off of that to give you some additional insights, pointers, tips, and business tricks on your entrepreneurial journey.
A software engineer by trade, Marcus outlines his eight core concepts in terms of ‘priority’ and ‘inheritance.’
What’s counterintuitive about this framework is that if you get hung up on the “priority,” you’ll miss the importance of inheritance. In computer science, inheritance means that an object has all the capabilities of the object it inherits from, plus its own new capabilities. If you apply this to the Eight Core Concepts framework, it means that while marketing is the least core of the eight concepts, it is the most comprehensive. Marketing has aspects of leadership, finance, operations, growth, product, service, and sales within it. It is the only concept comprehensive of all other business concepts, and that’s why marketers are so elevated in today’s business world.*
Concepts Number One: Leadership
John Maxwell has made famous the line, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Whitney, in his book, agrees. Leadership is a necessity for any business to be successful. Without good leadership, a business is doomed.
I’ve written a lot about leadership, especially in the workplace. The higher up you are in an organization, the more good leadership is expected (and demanded) of you. In order to provide this effectively, you must be rooted in the internal and external aspects of leadership health.
The internal dynamics of coaching include your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health. Internally healthy individuals ask questions like, “Am I spending time improving and leading myself well?” Strong morals are a part of internally strong leaders, but so are times of rest, physical activity, mental stimulation through reading, coaching, therapy, and times of quiet mediation.
Externally healthy leaders are focused on the relational and financial dimensions of growth. Their finances are in order so they can live generously and their relationships are strong. These strong relationships are found both inside and outside of work. Well-rounded leaders have close friends, a vibrant relationship with family, and uplifting and positive interactions in the workplace.
Strong leaders also have their finances in order. To lead a business well, they must lead themselves well. To grow a strong financial portfolio at work, they must know how to manage their personal money first.
Growing leaders know that they can only lead others as well as they have first led themselves and they take their own growth seriously.
Grow Your Leadership Capacity
Here are three ways to grow as a leader.
Professionally, seek out good coaching. This should come as no surprise. I’m a huge advocate for coaching. Coaches provide a judgement-free zone to explore serious topics. The higher you rise in an organization, the fewer peers you have to talk to, the more you need a coach. Find a coach who either specializes in your particular niche or area of growth and commit to twelve weeks of intentional investment in yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you can grow in twelve weeks. Reassess and recommit as necessary.
Develop deep relationships. One consistent problem I see with success-minded individuals is that initially, success can be viewed fairly small. Most of the time, success is thought of in relation to our work. We can be tempted to think, “I’m successful because I’ve made XXX amount of money.” This fallacy leaves us in danger not only of burnout but of disconnect in our relationships. If you ever hear a phrase like, “Dad made a lot of money but was absent most of my childhood and a jerk when he was around” you’ve failed as a leader. Success happens one drop at a time, make sure that you spend time putting effort and success into many aspects of your life, including deep and significant personal relationships.
Just yesterday, I spent time talking with my wife about some current frustrations in my business. There are parts of my business that I know are struggling and some that need to be reevaluated. As a solopreneur, finding time to balance everything can be difficult, and I was sharing some of that frustration with her. My failure to hit some of my more significant KPI’s left me frustrated. When I asked her what I should do, she said, “Ride your motorcycle.”
It was genius advice.
For me, more stress equals more I work. That helps no one. Instead, I needed to do the opposite of what my gut told me. Private leadership development is about finding life-giving and enriching hobbies that keep us sane. When stressed, I experience less productivity, decreased creativity, poor results, and increased anger. That’s not at all the type of person I want to be. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do. Privately, find and develop hobbies. Escape your workplace. Find ways to evade work. Unplug. Recharge. Breath. The only way to keep your sanity in the midst of a difficult time is to know when to turn off your work brain and turn on your fun brain.
Make a plan: As we work through the eight core concepts, make a plan for growth. Today, pick one of the “p’s” mentioned above and write out your growth plan. How do you want to grow professionally, personally, or privately in the next twelve weeks. Find someone to hold you accountable. If you need, you can email me your plan and I’ll follow up with you personally.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
Inside each of us is the self-destructive internal narrative that repeats phrases like, “I’m such a loser!” when we mess up. Learning to silence the inner critic is one of the key requirements to experience breakthrough success. The best way to do that is through the three c’s for personal growth.
“Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchhill
Setting the Stage
Deep down, you know that failure isn’t final. Yet, it is an inevitable part of the struggle in life.
If you’re a parent, you’ve seen this countless times with kids. What would happen if, the first time my child tried to talk a walk, he fell over and I determined that walking must not be for him. I’d pick him up, vow to never let him fail again, and prohibit him from walking. I don’t want him to be a failure after all!
You’d call me crazy and think I’d be a bad parent … and you’d be right. When it comes to children, parents are keenly aware that temporary failure is a part of the learning process. However, parental insecurities also pass on to offspring and soon children internalize that failure is bad, and not acceptable. The first time I heard my oldest child criticize herself as a failure was kindergarten.
Let that sink in. Somehow, I taught my child before her fifth birthday, that failure was to be avoided because it was a bad reflection on her.
All of humanity is embedded with the Inner Critic. Success happens, not just by battling the inner critic, but by overcoming it. Once you acknowledge it, you then want to dismantle the power it has in your life. How? Through the three c’s of personal development
Three Sources of Feedback
The first step in the process is competency. When I first started coaching, I labeled this as an individual’s calling. It was the answer to the question: what on earth am I here for? It’s a deep examination of you life, purpose, skills, abilities, passions, and goals in life. Your calling, as Frederick Buechner so eloquently put is the place where, “your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” You were put here for a specific purpose. You will only truly be happy when you are fulfilling that purpose. I’ve worked with entrepreneurs who were looking to start a business, stay at home parents, career professionals in a variety of backgrounds. Each and every one of them had a unique purpose and we structured our time together to help them achieve clarity in their calling. Then, they were called to action.
You are too. Your calling, your greatest competency, is a gift to bless others. That new product or idea, the time with your kids, your neighborhood involvement, it all matters. Your legacy will long outlive you in the thoughts and minds of those around you. The more effectively you engage your calling, the deeper the impact you make on the world, the more significant your legacy will be. By discovering your core competency, your calling, you embrace who you are and fix your mind on completing the deepest parts of your existence.
The second part of the process is compassion. More specifically, self-compassion. You beat the inner critic by extending grace on yourself. Several times over the last decade, I’ve posted a simple question online: do you find it harder to extend grace to others when they mess or to yourself when you mess up? While no results are ever 100% clear, and Facebook obviously isn’t a scientific platform, the results are always heavily skewed towards a struggle with ourselves. The problem is that you know your own internal moral compass. When you don’t live up to that, it’s a frustrating and embarrassing failure. When someone we love screws up, it’s a forgivable oversight, when you screw up, it’s a violation of your own personal moral code and honor.
In spite of how hard it is, the journey towards self-compassion is a necessary one. During my master’s program, my wife made me a shirt that said, “Be Tender To Yourself.” It was a reminder that just as I have forgiven others, I must also forgive myself. I spent years in counseling unable to do so. It wrecked my life. While your own journey may not see you in counseling, I’m guessing you also struggle with it.
Here are two ways to begin the journey towards greater self-compassion.
The first part of the problem is to put yourself, more pointedly your mistake, into someone else’s shoes. I’m not saying don’t accept responsibility or blame someone else. The idea is to imagine that someone else committed the error. If Bill had promised you the expense report at 7:00 last night, but got distracted dealing with a sick child’s vomit on the floor, would you refer to him as a lazy, good-for-nothing, idiot? My guess is (my sincere hope is) probably not. Instead, you’d reassure Bill that everything is okay. Extend yourself that same grace. If you’re not bothered by someone else doing it, don’t be offended when you do it.
The second way to engage in self-compassion is through humor. When you screw up, learning to laugh at yourself is a vital and necessary step. Spilled your orange juice? Instead of criticizing yourself for being an idiot, make a comment on how far it got. “Man, this time I was able to get it on the floor, the walls, and the ceiling. I really am talented!” Shifting your perspective, and in the process finding a way to compliment yourself, destroys the power of the inner critic.
The final piece of the puzzle is community. In community, you can discover who you really are. Friends, parents, coworkers, a spouse or life partner, a trusted boss, mentor, and former professor all have insights into what makes you, you.
Seek authentic feedback from others. What are your strengths and weaknesses? How can those who know you best affirm your calling? What does your support network look like? By examining the community you participate in, you can assess that you are on the right path. During coaching, you can also use that time to change or adapt your community. If you try to assemble your feedback team and realize that no one supports you then you need new friends! Having a well-rounded, supportive, diverse community is key to your success, and the only way to make sure you have one is analyze it! Community grounds and surrounds us in the difficult moments of life, giving us the energy and strength to carry on.