Eco-conscious executive puts his good foot forward at Calgary-based coffee chain
Gerry Docherty joined Good Earth Coffeehouse & Bakery four years ago, charged with the task of marshalling the eco-friendly café chain into the wonderful world of franchising. Under the new COO’s guidance — who brought 15-plus years of restaurant franchising along in his briefcase — the company ballooned from 10 corporately owned units to 29 mostly franchised, highly successful stores. The 46-year-old father of two discusses why Good Earth cafés are among the most sought-after QSRs in Alberta.
F&H: What are the critical qualities a leader must possess in this business?
GD: Leading with passion is very important. Passion can be infectious. Being in a competitive industry like this requires a great deal of passion from everyone involved. Second to that, possessing the ability to articulate and personify our vision is critical. We’re an expanding franchise, and as we continue to partner with new franchisees it’s critical to our business model that they clearly understand and believe in what we strive to achieve, both in the coffeehouse experience as well as our sustainability efforts and community involvement.
F&H: Is listening to and trusting your team as vital as making some of the tough decisions yourself?
GD: It’s essential. We’re a lean organization, so that means listening to everyone from our front-line baristas to our franchise partners and everyone at our corporate support office. The tough decisions you have to make become easier if you’re listening to and trusting your team.
F&H: How important is mentorship?
GD: It’s very important, but more important is how you do it. As we grow, we’ll be a stronger organization if we can help our employees and partners grow along with us. But we don’t want to simply pass along lessons learned. We want to allow our employees the opportunity to experience these lessons first-hand while supporting them along the way. But reverse mentorship works as well. There’s much to be learned from the younger generation.
F&H: You don’t see too many of the Donald Trump types anymore. There seems to be a shift in leadership styles, to a more collaborative environment.
GD: Those dinosaurs are becoming extinct. You can’t operate that way, and leaders are realizing that.
F&H: Did your leadership style change through the recession?
GD: During tough times, when you’re looking for opportunities to reduce costs, you have to evaluate them. But we stayed true to our brand promise, while pursuing other means to improve value perception and maintain strong service levels. But things have turned around for us in the past quarter, and as we emerge from the recession, we’re poised to lead the charge. Our leadership adjusts from a “stay-the-course” hard-line approach to more of a “rallying-the-troops” approach and getting everyone excited.
F&H: How hard is it to balance your company’s business goals with its ethical goals?
GD: Of course, we want to earn profits and ensure our operating partners earn profits as well, but we know this can be achieved without the need to compromise on the quality of our ingredients or in the support of our communities in which we operate.
The balance of these goals is at the heart of what we do. We strive to be held in high regard as role models of environmental stewardship; we want to ensure our environmental and ethical impact is a part of our decision-making criteria, and continue to provide customers with a compelling choice of how they spend their discretionary income.
F&H: When you’re selecting new franchisee candidates, how important is their personal philosophy towards sustainability?
GD: It is key criteria when we’re awarding a franchise. A lack of appreciation for our sustainability efforts is a deal-breaker. To be successful we need like-minded individuals operating our outlets. We recommend they do their homework before they invest in us. The ones who come back to the table with us, after doing their due diligence, will understand what they’re getting into and why.
Illustrated by Jason Edmiston