Not sure about yours, but our office has some serious coffee and tea drinkers. Whenever we come across a good spot we’re sure to share it with our team. Sometimes we come across a spot that’s SO good we’re compelled to share it with everyone outside our office as well. A few months ago we were treated to a 2 hour coffee and tea tasting at our new favorite spot; 7 Leaves Café. But before we get into that, it’s important to provide some background info.
For many years we’ve been members of the CSUF Center for Family Business and through our involvement we’ve met some amazing people who now we’re honored to call friends. One such person quickly captured our attention and our hearts due to his giving nature, community commitment, generosity and overall humble personality. All this was before learning about his professional accomplishments, which are as inspiring as they are impressive.
Turns out this wonderful person we met through the Center for Family Business is also the Co-Founder of one of the best cafes we’ve ever been to. I could go on and on about the professional accomplishments in a very crowded retail environment with the rapidly growing locations in Southern CA (and now expanding into other states), but what impresses me the most is the loyal friendship and sound business advice we receive from this month’s Thought Leader. We’re proud and honored to shine the spotlight on the Co-Founder of 7 Leaves Café, Sonny Nguyen.
Was building a business always a goal of yours? Or was it a path that revealed itself along the way?
It was definitely a path that revealed itself along the way. All the places I worked for gave me the experiences I needed to have a entrepreneur mindset that I have today.
What life experience(s) do you feel best prepared you for the leadership position you are in today?
I would say working at the Bank and experiencing the corporate culture. I learned the importance of structure, rules, policies, and SOPs through the bank but I also learned what not to do. For example, not to create an environment where your team feels like a number because you’re so focused on efficiencies & profitability.
Who has had the biggest impact on you throughout your career – in regards to professional development?
I would have to give credit to a person I never met and wish I did before he passed. Stephen Covey. He wrote the book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. Growing up this book was my compass on how to structure my thoughts. I remember being completely lost when starting my career and distinctly remember just going back and reading this book as a guide on how to navigate the corporate environment.
Expanding from 1 to 12 locations in Orange County over a span of five years is an incredible accomplishment. What were some of the toughest growing pains you experienced over that time, and how did your team overcome those challenges?
When you grow fast you sometimes forget that you need to upgrade your vehicle & driver in order to sustain your growth. Going through constant change and improvement is a very uncomfortable environment for young inexperienced team members. It required a tremendous amount of time teaching, coaching, and nurturing each individual. We were tempted at times to just hire experienced individuals but glad we didn’t take that path for the sake of preserving our culture.
As 7 Leaves Cafe expands its franchising initiative this year, what do you see as the key factors for balancing growth potential with brand consistency?
The key factor to our success in my opinion would be to find capable partners that share similar values and passion for our brand. Its extremely tempting when you get thousands of folks monthly wanting to hand you money to expand your business. Saying no and staying discipline to our vision will be the difference between our growth or our demise.
Looking forward into 2019, are there any retail or customer service trends that have captured your attention?
Technology & Artificial Intelligence has been gaining lots of noise lately in the retail & customer service sector. Our wishlist is to work on a mobile application that is as sophisticated as Starbucks but also integrates with AI.
Do you have any advice for someone looking to build or grow their own business?
If you’re going to get into business I highly recommend working with a team that you enjoy being around, covers your weakness, & you trust and respect. Lastly, find a mentor that’s done what you’re looking to accomplish.
What is your favorite quote?
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Viktor E. Frankl