Raphael is the owner of Kahwa Coffee Rosting Company. Kahwa opened its doors in St. Petersburg, Florida in 2006. Their first café opened in 2008 in downtown St. Pete to showcase enthusiasm for great coffee and high quality coffee drinks. They now have 13 cafés across the US. I recently talked to him about Digital and what it means to him.

Audrey McGuckin (AM) – Tell me about your journey with Kahwa Coffee.

Raphael Perrier (RP) – we’ve been in business for 11 years. We had 3 tough years and 6 years of fun. The last 3 years have really been fun.

AM – Why did you keep going when it was tough. What’s your why?

RP – I quite simply believe in the brand! I reach for the moon every day and my wife balances us out by keeping us on earth. In the world, we live in today, employees also want to work for a brand they believe in. That doesn’t always mean a huge brand, it means a believable brand.

AM – Tell me more about your brand.

RP – It’s a dilemma. On the one hand, I want it to feel like a big brand but on the other hand I want it to feel like a small European coffee shop. I don’t want my team wearing uniforms or hats, I want them to have the opportunity to be themselves and bring themselves to the workplace. It needs to feel small, intimate and European in my shops, yet I want consistency in experience for our clients.

RP – Our vision is to be the best coffee company out there. When we started out we focused on going to market with solutions that our competitors couldn’t deliver. We looked for our differentiator. We still do that today.

AM – Tell me about your leadership style.

RP – I first of all respect employees and want to create an environment where they can flourish. I learned this from being an employee for many years in the industry. I’m clear on what motivated me and what de-motivated me. I’m generous and loyal to my employees. One thing that’s tough for me though is delegating. It’s a big deal to trust others with your brand, but life and time has taught me. I also firmly believe that our customer experience is directly related to our employees and how they feel about Kahawa Coffee.

AM – Tell me about what digital trends you see and how this shows up for you in Kawha?

RP – One of the trends we’ve adopted is using analytics to have our fingers on the pulse with our customer sentiment. We leverage social medial and analytics to get real time data and feedback from our customers. We have immediate feedback through Facebook and other social media outlets which we can then correlate to customer experience. When you’re a one shop company you can get this from the barista but when you have 15 coffee shops across the country and you want immediate feedback we need real time analytics. We want to drive for consistency in experience and we want to deliver this through our employees and the team.

AM – What else about digital?

RP – We’re not necessarily chasing digital trends and trying to go after the edgy customer. In this industry companies are going after “farm to table””, serving food on a belt” but we are going after a consistent customer experience and our strategy is to stay focused and push through. In a digital world there is so much data, so many inputs, so many options. If you lose focus on your mission, you lose your business.

AM – One of the trends we’re seeing in a digital era is the challenge for leaders having to always “be on”. What does this look like for you?

RP – For me it’s not about figuring out work life balance, this is a way of life for my wife and I. My kids are always asking us “why do you always talk about coffee”. It’s simply a way of life. You have to do what you love. Your employees have to feel it from you to believe in what they are doing.

AM – So how do you manage the stress?

RP – Sleep. Sleep is so important and I have the ability to fall asleep in 2 seconds, which drives my wife crazy. In a digital, always on environment, sleep is my secret weapon!

Audrey McGuckin consults with top CEOs and HR Executives to solve their toughest and most complex talent and personnel challenges. To connect with Audrey on how she can assist you and your organization, visit our contact page or message her directly at audrey@audreymcguckin.com.