Chris Baca, Co-Owner, Cat & Cloud Coffee
Company: Cat & Cloud Coffee
Location: Santa Cruz, California, USA
Sector: Coffee Retailing, Barista Employer
tLBCC: What makes you choose to hire one employee over another? Once working for you, what do employees do—or can they do—to build and earn your trust?
Chris Baca: We hire for cultural fit and values alignment. People who believe the same things that we believe will thrive at Cat & Cloud, while people with tons of experience or skill but don't share our vision will become toxic and quickly erode the culture we've worked so hard to build. Hiring for skill is a trap—you might think you're solving a problem or plugging a hole quickly, but you'll end up paying heavily in the long run.
Through our hiring, on-boarding, and orientation process people gain a strong understanding of who we are as an organization and what our mission and values are and therefore even our newest employees start out with a great deal of trust. This doesn't mean they'll never make mistakes—they will, just as we all do. But mistakes made within the context of supporting our values system are not frowned upon. Employees can do any number of things to earn respect with leadership and their peers over time, but everyone starts with a great deal of trust. If you don't trust someone, you shouldn't hire them.
tLBCC: What steps do you take to build trust with your employees? How do you ensure they can rely on you, your coffee, and your company?
Chris Baca: We share. We share our thought processes and or "why's" behind everything that we do. We share our financials with the entire organization. We share our great ideas and our wins, but we also share our losses and the lessons we've learned from them. We include our leadership team in our decision making processes. We allow people to bring ideas to the table in a structured way and give them all the credit if we adopt their ideas. We provide things that we don't have to because we feel they're important: 4 weeks paid vacation a year for full time employees, profit sharing, origin and industry trips, we don't have "superstars" or "show ponies" that travel while everyone else stays home—every employee gets a chance to participate. We're incredibly proud of all these things but I think the number one thing we do that builds trust is taking an active interest in our employees as people. The people that work for you aren't just employees—they're human beings. Get to know them!
tLBCC: Do you have any other thoughts on building trust along the coffee supply chain?
Chris Baca: To build trust you have to be honest with your intentions and with what you expect from others. It's far too common to see open and honest communication muted in an effort to simply look good, play a political angle, manage the message, or to avoid having a tough conversation. While this approach might make you feel more comfortable in the moment, it has negative long term effects that are difficult to recover from. There's nothing incredibly unique about the coffee supply chain that makes it exempt from these truths. Thoughtful conversation and honesty builds trust, while hidden agendas and manipulation destroys it. You know what you're supposed to do. Start doing it.