Interview with Mike McFall: Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Legacy and a Little bit of Love

Interview with Mike McFall: Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Legacy and a Little bit of Love

Steve Blakeman 28/10/2020 3
Interview with Mike McFall: Entrepreneurship, Sustainability, Legacy and a Little bit of Love

Mike McFall is the co-founder and CEO of America’s third biggest coffee chain, BIGGBY.

Starting off as a humble barista he has helped to build a business worth over $100 million USD. It’s a genuine ‘rags to riches’ story and to celebrate International Coffee Day, I interviewed Mike and talked about how business success and being a humanitarian can effortlessly coexist in his world of 'conscious capitalism'.

Exactly 50 years ago, Milton Friedman posited that ‘greed was good’ and only people can have social responsibilities not businesses. I asked Mike if he agreed with the Friedman principle and his reaction was the complete antithesis of the Friedman theory...

“I’m sure Friedman was a decent guy and well intentioned but his theory dates back to 1970. We live in very different times now. We have an obligation to take care of our employees and be a steward of their environment. You can still have a social responsibility to your people and maintain a healthy bottom line.”

I asked Mike if the effects of the recent Covid-19 pandemic has had any effect on how businesses treat their workforce…

“We are all getting to grips with this ‘new world’ in business. Most businesses with a conscience have been slowly and carefully making the working environment better for their people… but coronavirus has accelerated it like a bullet train!”

We all know that the likes of Google have their nap areas and Facebook have their free meals, which are their iconic ways of demonstrating how they care for their people. What have you introduced at BIGGBY which symbolizes your humanitarian approach to your workforce?

“I am somewhat cynical about gimmicks like free meals at work. Could it just be a way of making you spend more time at work and getting more hours out of you?! I am far prouder of our individualised life coaching curriculum called ‘The Moonshot Guide Book’. It’s all about helping the individual live a life that they love, both at home and at work. It focusses on their physical, emotional and spiritual vitality which exceeds peoples basic needs and helps them cultivate a genuine sense of belonging.” 

Playing devil’s advocate, I challenged Mike and said that there will inevitably be some business leaders reading this article who will cry bullshit. I asked Mike what he would say to the critics?

“You can make money, satisfy shareholders and love your employees equally. It’s all about focus and priorities. You have employed these people in the first place so you have a duty of care, just like in any relationship you have chosen to instigate. Show them that you genuinely give a shit about them and they repay that by loving you back and doing what they can to help you out with your own shitshow”

Mike talked a lot about ‘love’ during out conversation and to conclude our chat, I asked him why ‘love’ was so important to him.

“I always said I was going to write 3 books. The first one, Grind, is essentially about entrepreneurship. Simply, how do you start a business? The second one is all about sustainability. So once you have launched the business, how do you, say, achieve a cash flow of $1 million USD. But the third book is going to be about ‘legacy’. So once I have left the business in the capable hands of my successors, what do I want to be remembered for and how do those people use that as a beacon for running the business in the future? And that is all about being deliberately developmental for the benefit of all employees and the business. In other words, love.” 

No wonder that the tagline for BIGGBY is "we exist to love people" - Mike McFall definitely practices what he preaches...

NB. If you have any questions for either Mike or myself, then please ask them in the comments section and we will do our best to answer as many as possible.

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  • Kyle Williams

    This man is a genius and a national worldwide treasure!

  • Marie Walter

    I can't spend a day without coffee !!

  • Scott McFarlane

    Mike is a great leader and decent bloke

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Steve Blakeman

Business Expert

Steve is Global Media Lead - Nestlé at Mindshare. Prior to this role, he was the Managing Director - Global Accounts for OMD based in London / Paris leading Groupe Renault and CEO for OMD in Asia for 4 years based in Singapore. At OMD, he increased billings by +60% to over US$ 5bn and won 1000+ industry awards including agency network wins at the Cannes Lions (2013) and Festival of Media Asia (2013). He was named by LinkedIn as a 'Top 10 Writer' for 3 consecutive years (15/16/17). His first book 'How to be a Top 10 Writer on LinkedIn' is a Best Seller on Amazon. Steve holds a Bachelor in Psychology from Liverpool University. 

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