Thriving In Your Business Through Real And World-Class Leadership With Michael J. McFall

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business


Everyone deserves to feel special. Listen to your host Dr. Patty Ann Tublin, as she sits down with Michael McFall (@MikeJMcFall) about a unique leadership perspective on creating a healthy and thriving organization. Mike is co-CEO of BIGGBY, which has over 250 stores throughout the Midwest. The company is in high growth mode, selling tens of thousands of cups of coffee each day. Mike shares the concept of falling in love with your business and conquering the world with real-world class leadership. As an aspiring business owner, you want to grow your revenue while taking care of your people and offering quality products or services to your ideal clients. Mike sure knows how much he loves running coffee shops and starting people’s day right. Tune in to learn more and achieve sustainable growth in your organization.

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Thriving In Your Business Through Real And World-Class Leadership With Michael J. McFall

Welcome to this episode of the show. If you are a Java lover like I am, you are going to love this interview and this guest. You’re going to love him anyway even if you don’t like coffee. Before we go any further, make sure you like, comment, share, and subscribe to the show. Our guest is the Cofounder of a chain of coffees called BIGGBY Coffee. I would like to welcome Mike McFall as our guest. Mike, thank you so much for coming on. I spent two seconds talking with you before we went live. I am so excited to have this interview, so thank you.

Thank you. I’m excited to be here. I love your energy. This is awesome.

Tell us about who you are. We were talking about authors of books. I always tell people, “Who’s the author?” Before we talk about coffee, which I live for, tell us about who you are.

My claim to fame in the world is that I started as a minimum wage barista in our very first coffee shop. I worked for my partner, Bob Fish, at that moment in time. I worked in a coffee shop and I opened a store.

How old were you?

I was 24. My parents put me through a private school. They gave me every opportunity in the world and here I was, 24 years old, rolling over mortgage payments, and being a barista. The beauty of my parents is they never said a word.

I would have loved to have been a fly in there. I would have loved to have heard that conversation.

I’m sure they had a couple of colorful conversations, but I fell in love with the business.

All kidding aside, you’re pouring people’s coffee. Americans in particular, we like our coffee how we like our coffee. How do you fall in love with one sugar, two sugar, skim milk and latte? How does that happen?

If you walked into my store, after about three visits, we will be best friends. When you’re in a coffee shop and you’re working, you get to engage people in a way that sends them out into the world in a better mood. They’re excited. You give them some positive energy about their day. I used to say, “We’re in the business of making people happy.” When somebody walks in the morning, it’s such a beautiful opportunity to be that first engagement for them in a day. You get to make their cup of coffee perfectly that they love. That makes them happy too. I love the interaction. I never understood the concept of hospitality growing up. It wasn’t part of my world.

I can already feel your energy. You might have done some research on me. You know I talk about relationships and trust. That’s what business is all about it. You reek of relationships and people.

I always had it. I always did it, but I never understood that it was a thing. I just thought I was being a nice person, being friends with people, and so on. When I realized that I loved taking care of people and being hospitable and that they would go out into the world and would talk about the amazing experience they had at the coffee shop, that drove me. It was something that I thrived on. That’s how I fell in love with the business. I didn’t know that until I was in it doing it.

I get that. I’ll share a little personal story with you. I’m a people person. My husband and I would go out to dinner. We’re just one couple. We pretty much are together the whole night for the most part having dinner and drinks. We’ll go home and I will say to my husband, “Did you know their kids are having a hard time? The husband is worried about his job.” He goes, “What are you talking about? Did you have this conversation before dinner?” I said, “No.” He goes, “We were together the whole night.” I said, “We went to the bathroom together.”

Know this, Mike. Everything for women happens in the bathroom. Even in the stalls, we’re talking to each other. We go to the bathroom and it takes fifteen minutes because we’re talking to each other. It’s the whole relationship. It’s the connection that you’re talking about. In the morning, someone comes in and you don’t know how their night or day was, but if you can be the first person that gives them a smile with a cup of coffee, I get that. If you have that, then you have a raving fan.

It’s more fulfilling than any other part of the business.

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business
Grind: A No-bullsh*t Approach to Take Your Business from Concept to Cash Flow

Do you look at the P&L and numbers or do you have somebody else that does that?

I know our numbers. I finished up my second book. Grind was my first book. I’ve got a second book coming out too. I have a whole section in there that managers of businesses should leave the financial analysis to somebody else. What managers of businesses need to focus on is the people relationships, the development of people within the organization, and so on. You have to be versed in the financials. You got to be able to at least understand them. At times, I had to be deeply engaged in the financials as any manager of a business would, but I’m not a huge advocate of obsessing. There are people that advocate that you can manage a business through financials. That is a fallacy.

All of my work in business is about business relationships. A CEO once asked me what I did. I said, “50% is the business, the product and the service. The other 50% is the people.” He said, “Can I correct you?” I said, “Of course, you can. You’re the CEO. You’re the boss.” He goes, “20% is the business. 80% is the people.” Corporate has messed things up when they’re so driven by quarterly earnings and the numbers aren’t what they’re supposed to be for that short-sighted quarter.

Let’s cut 20% of every division, and then you wonder why there’s no consistency in performance. People don’t think you’re genuine or authentic. Much more importantly, nobody trusts anybody. How can you trust your leadership when whatever the magic number the CFO or the analyst came up with for that quarter is missed for whatever reason, maybe a Black Swan or a war, your job is in jeopardy? Help us with that.

I had a moment many years ago. What happened to me was for the first fifteen years of managing the business, I had this notion that there was me as a manager of a business and then there was me as a person. They were two different people. I lived that way. I felt like this person had to be different from the person I wanted to be as a human being. I had this epiphany, and I’ll never forget the moment when it happened. I remember where I was sitting. I had it and I was with my management team. I realized that the people in that room were going to be some of the primary relationships of my life.

Tell us exactly what happened. I want to hear the whole epiphany.

What happened was I always had this conflict in my soul that as an entrepreneur, I am supposed to build a business. I am supposed to have some moment when I decide that I’m going to sell the business, and then I get to ride off in my gold-plated Bentley and leave everybody behind.

You start with an exit plan.

The exit plan is to sell and get rich. That’s the exit plan. I get sick to my stomach when I hear of young aspiring entrepreneurs talking that way. What I realized was in that moment of selling and leaving it behind and leaving everyone that I’ve worked with for fifteen years behind, they weren’t going to be taken care of. I realized that that didn’t have to be my outcome. There is one gentleman, Tony DiPietro. I used to work for him prior to BIGGBY, and then when BIGGBY started becoming successful, I hired him to come in as a manager. I’ve known this guy forever. I love him to death.

When you’re using the word manager, it’s your leadership team, right?

Yeah. When I finally looked at him, I realized that what was important to me was that Tony DiPietro was going to be one of the primary relationships of my lifetime. I was going to treat him as a manager of the business. It changed my entire perspective. People don’t understand the mentality. Could we sell the business now and I would have enough money to do whatever I want? What’s important to me is the story and outcome for the people I care about. Are the story and outcome for Tony DiPietro going to be that he worked hard for 25 years, he was loyal, did everything, and was an amazing employee, and then I sold it, walked away, and left him sitting in the middle of a shit storm? That’s not a good outcome for him, and that hurts me personally.

It goes against your core values. That’s why you get sick to your stomach. Let’s stay with Tony for a moment. When you had that realization, was there a specific thing that sparked that in you with the team there?

I was considering a sale. The team didn’t know I was considering a sale. It was something that I was working on independently of my team. I was working with a potential buyer. They didn’t know I was in the middle of that.

The whole façade you were talking about is, “We’re going to be here forever,” and you know that your Bentley is waiting outside.

That’s correct. I started to think through what was this going to be like for the people that I deeply cared about. That was when I admitted that I deeply cared about them. That was the transition.

Securing our future financially is less important than making sure that we are building the organization that we’re proud of and that our people are proud of.

Let me throw you a life raft here. You did always care about them when you were separating the personal person from the professional person. We can’t do that. Tell me if you can do this. That will be great for the audience to know. At that moment at that meeting, a decision needs to be made. I would imagine a lot of entrepreneurs have those moments. What’s the decision and how did you make it differently at that moment knowing that you may cash out, and Tony is going to be looking for a job? “Even though I love him and his family, business is business,that’s the expression. What was a decision that you made differently where you made A and you could have made B?

It is very simple. I was responsible as a leader of the organization to make sure that the outcome and the story for everybody else in the organization worked out well for them too and not just for myself.

What was the decision on that level?

We didn’t sell. We have gone through a number of analyses of bringing outside equity into the company. It’s something that my partner and I probably should do. From a practical standpoint, we probably should, but we’re not going to anytime soon. To us, securing our future financially is less important than making sure that we are building the organization that we’re proud of and that our people are proud of.

When you say should, it sounds to me like if you looked at your company from a strict business model, you want the cash and all that stuff. You should, from a cashflow perspective, bring in equity and partners. From the whole person’s perspective, the price that you pay for that cash is you dilute your influence. You know they’re not going to care about Tony the way you care about Tony unless Tony can deliver the bottom line.

You got to go into that transaction knowing that. If you think it’s going to be anything different than that, then you’re silly. We became clear about that. This is the premise of my next book. As an entrepreneur, you build the company to a certain point. The conventional wisdom is that you have a liquidity event and you step out for a couple of reasons. One, you want to secure your own personal financial future. Two, you believe you need that professional management team, let’s say what a private equity firm brings, into your world to help you become a more sophisticated organization and then continue to excel and grow.

You mean to bring in the barracudas.

Not all private equity is bad. There are good people out there that are in private equity, but they have a certain business model that they’re following. You’re signing up for that when you bring them on board. To sign up for that and then think that it’s going to be somehow different is an illusion. We decided that what we want to do is to work hard and learn how to become that sophisticated company that a private equity firm would bring to us, in theory, without having to bring in that outside influence. What that makes us in the end is an entirely more powerful organization.

Is that what you did or is that what you’re doing now?

That’s what we’re doing now.

How are you doing that?

Step one has been to bring in real world-class leadership.

As a consultant or as an employee and a team member?

As an employee. We have a gentleman who’s running the company as the president of the company. For 22 years, he owned his own company. He was a vendor of ours. He is a very sophisticated manager. He is running the day-to-day business. We brought in a woman who is world-class. She ran the Subway sandwich shop development team for twenty years. She was in the development department at Subway and headed up that group from 700 stores to 26,000 stores. She then became a consultant when Fred DeLuca died. We hired her as a consultant. She’s now an employee. She’s our chief development officer. She’s world-class.

A few years ago, we hired a gentleman by the name of Cordell Riley as our operating officer. He is also world-class. In fact, I had a private equity firm send me their prospectus and one of their advisors is Cordell Riley. The thing is we’re building out this management team where we’re bringing in world-class leaders in their disciplines. That team are going to work together.

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business
Thriving In Your Business: When you’re in a coffee shop and working, you get to engage people in a way that sends them out into the world in a better mood and positive energy about their day. We’re in the business of making people happy.


The next thing we have to do is we have to make our board more sophisticated, and then my partner and I can sit in an Italian restaurant drinking scotch together. That’s our board meeting right now. My partner and I get together, have dinner, drink scotch, and talk about stuff. That’s the next step for us. That’s what a private equity firm would do. They would come in and they would help us bolster our management team. They would help us put the right people in.

Usually, they have you get rid of people and they bring their people in. You’re being kind. I already know you. You’re kind. You’re always looking at the upside, but they pretty much fire people and bring in people that they know.

That’s true in certain scenarios but oftentimes, in those scenarios, the management team probably isn’t strong.

What got you here won’t get you there. That’s fair enough.

Tony DiPietro used to run development for us. He was our leader in store development. We brought Lisa in as his boss. We didn’t get rid of Tony. Tony stayed. We have a woman, Stephanie, who is with us for twenty years. When we brought Cordell in, she now reports to Cordell. She used to run training and operations herself, and reports to my partner and me. When we brought Cordell in, Stephanie didn’t lose her job.

It sounds like you know how to communicate, and you’re sharing with them. They understand what their skillset is. They understand their ceiling. For them to grow, they need someone to help them grow. That’s leadership on your part.

When you bring somebody like Lisa or Cordell in, no one can argue. No one is going to argue that Cordell is qualified to do his job. What ends up happening in Tony’s case and Stephanie’s case is they end up thriving because they’re in an environment that offers them the opportunity to grow much more so than I could ever do. I can’t help Tony develop in that world because I’m not an expert in that world. Lisa is. The next piece is the formation of the board. I don’t want to miss the overall message, which is that we are going to attempt to do what a private equity firm would do with us without the private equity.

That’s in-house.

All options are open. We can continue to sit back and be shareholders and let the management team and our board work together and grow the company. We’re on the board and we’re involved. At any point there, we can sell. There’s nothing saying at any point in the process that we can’t get in our Bentley and drive away. That’s what we’re in the middle of, and we’re trying to do it in a very healthy way. We are trying to set an example that it can be done differently. You don’t have to sell out, take the check, and move on. There’s a different way to do it. Ultimately, in the end, the purpose of our organization is to support you in building a life you love. Our vision is to improve workplace culture in the United States. We can’t do those things unless we own and control the company. That’s our opinion.

I coach and consult all different businesses. It’s the people aspect. It doesn’t matter what business you’re in. I’ve done a lot in the medical field. Different fields like dentistry have practices. They build other practices, and then they sell. They exit. I don’t want to give the name out but one, in particular, was involved with the whole process of selling out. He had an assistant that worked with him for twenty years. Everyone in his team and all the employees had a stake, a share, or whatever you want to call it. They all benefited from the sale.

When the sale was over, the attorney said, “Why did everybody get a big bonus number?” The dentist said, “My assistants work with me for twenty years. I know that money she got will help her child who has autism go to a private school.” That is how specific he was. Every dime that went to someone else in this model was a dime out of his pocket. He did not care. He was happy. It was his mission. Is that something that if you were to sell, that would be your model because then, everybody wins too?

My personal challenge to my financial planner is that I want to be able to retire without ever having a liquidity event at the company. That means that I can take the value of that and do whatever I want with it. We are very interested in putting together a program. We’re working on it. We’ve been working on it for maybe 4 or 5 years in terms of providing people equity. I want to be a privately held company that allows somebody to go and calculate what the value of that thing is. Let’s say you get 0.378% of the company on your first anniversary of working with us. I want you to be able to go and figure out what the heck 0.378% is worth. We’ve developed a tool to value the company, which is an important part of this. The only thing I would say about the doctor is that he got it. That doctor is deciding who gets how much.

This man is a good guy.

I agree, but so many entrepreneurs have a God complex, in my opinion. They get to decide who gets what and how much.

Some don’t even know the word share.

If an employee can’t leave to get that bonus check, then they don’t have agency over their life. They’re not freely choosing to be there.

I would say many don’t. Many don’t even think about sharing.

I think it’s shifting now though.

I do too. For sure it is. What I would like is I would rather have it be something that they get and feel great about. They understand the value of it. They can leave at any time. Even if there isn’t a liquidity event, they can leave and they get their 0.378% of the company. Maybe that’s worth $240,000 or $500,000, or maybe it’s worth $3 million. Who knows whatever that percentage they own is worth, but it’s theirs. They aren’t waiting on the doctor to decide to sell.

When we get done and then I decide who gets what, maybe they think, “That sucks.” Maybe it wasn’t enough. It’s hard to do because when you’re assigning people interests in the business, even if it is phantom, it’s still a contractual obligation that you have to live up to. When they leave, you got to pay that. If they’ve been waiting five years and they opt out, the company has to figure out how to pay them.

This is so interesting because I can hear your value as a person. It sounds like you’re desperately trying to take the subjectivity out of attaching a number. Everybody loves to think that numbers are logical and linear and that 1 and 1 is 2, but everything is emotion-based. You’re going to have some sleepless nights there.

We’re working on it. We’re hiring people that are working on it. I believe we’re going to get there in the end in terms of this structure. To me, it’s about the agency. That is an important part of any relationship. My therapist would say, “Until you can say no, you can’t say yes.”

Even if you know, you don’t own your life and your business.

That’s what I’m talking about a relational employee. If an employee can’t leave to get that bonus check, then they don’t have agency over their life. They’re not freely choosing to be there. If they can make up and calculate, “If I leave, I get $178,000,” that’s cool. That’s agency. That makes them powerful. That makes them fulfill their own lives as opposed to being beholden to some entrepreneur who might cut them a check at the end of the day.

This is great. I’m going to go back though because amazingly, I didn’t forget what we spoke about. This is important. You said early on about bringing people in or going out and getting the knowledge that you know you don’t have. I’m being serious. Were you always that enlightened where you could check your ego at the door knowing what you don’t know? You know many entrepreneurs cannot get out of their own way. For lack of a better way of saying it, they hit their ceiling. All they’re doing is bumping their head against the ceiling, and people are saying, “You have to hire.” They won’t because of their ego. Were you always like this or did something happen where you were like, “This is a wake-up call?”

It’s not only that they won’t hire. Sometimes, they will hire and then they don’t let them do their job.

It’s like they don’t know what they’re doing. You know better, but you hired them because you don’t know.

It’s super hard to hire somebody. They walk in and you’ve hired them. You’re paying them.

It’s your baby and they’re telling you that your baby is ugly.

They tell you, “You need to do this,” and then they tell you, “I need this amount of resources in order to make my world thrive.” Not only am I going to pay you a wage to come in and work, which is significant, but you’re also telling me I got to figure out how to come up with an extra $250,000 next year for you to be able to hire this person and do this program. They start telling you all this stuff you’ve got to invest in. If you don’t invest in what they tell you that you need to invest in, you’re not listening to them. Was I always this way? No. For many years, I lived in the space of being the smartest guy in the room. I was in command and control. It was all fear-based. I struggle with the idea of whether that mentality is necessary at some point in the development of an organization.

You said command and control. Are you referencing Stephen Covey’s Trust and Inspire?

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business
Thriving In Your Business: We always understood that the biggest issue for our organization to thrive was that we approach things from a different perspective, especially if there’s conflict.


I’m not referencing that. It is a term that came to me through my management team.

It’s a classic management term.

There’s an evolution that occurs when you begin to realize your limitations. I’m super fortunate to have a partner. We’re 50/50 partners. Neither one of us controls the business. We bring each other feedback all the time. We have almost that mirror that gets held up to us by someone that’s our equal. I don’t care what business you’re in. I shouldn’t say this so emphatically, but I don’t think there are many entrepreneur-employee relationships where the employee can be honest with the entrepreneur.

It’s hard to speak truth to power.

It’s very difficult to do. I have that. My business partner and I critique each other all the time.

He’s not your employee. A lot of my work is working with cofounders. If you think about it, it’s a lot like a marriage. You’re going to do better than everybody else until you don’t. Talk about the challenges with Bob, your partner. Give us the history of the partnership because I love this stuff.

I worked for him.

This was the man that hired you when you were 24.

We agreed to set an organization up where we would be equal partners. It was him, his wife at the time, and myself at 33% each.

You’re a kid. How did he know you? How did he pick you out? Did you go to him or did he go to you?

He sat down to interview me for a job as a manager in the business. I was on my way back to graduate school. I had this amazing position at Michigan State University on a research project. I was going to be able to handpick my graduate school. I was all set up. That’s what I was doing. I started working at BIGGBY. I fell in love with the job. I fell in love with being a barista.

He came to me and said, “I’m interested in talking to you about becoming a manager.” I was like, “I’m not interested. I’ve got this other thing.” That led to, “What if we set up an entity that you could be an equal partner in? We would use that entity to grow the brand and grow the business.” It was half crazy on his part because I was a 24 year-old-kid. We shook hands.

This whole thing came down in an afternoon. It was March of 1997. We went for a four-hour walk. At the end of that walk, we shook hands and formed the company. We didn’t form the company for another fifteen months, but we formed the company on that handshake. I worked for him. That was the dynamic. He was the president of the company and I was the manager of the business. We started to grow that, and we did that for a long time. That was the setup. That was the dynamic for a very long time.

It sounds like he gave you that latitude. Is that why it worked?

It worked because he is a brilliant guy. He brought a ton of value to the business. I brought a ton of value to the business from a different perspective. We have a high degree of respect for each other. That’s why it worked.

There’s an evolution that occurs when you really begin to realize your limitations. We should understand the power of commitment and time. We have to know how to build something amazing.

Those are the best partnerships when you have respect, trust, and different skillsets. The mistake that they’ll do is they have a cofounder that matches their skillset. That’s a prescription for disaster.

What’s the point? It was probably 2010 when I was a president. He was CEO. I started talking to him. It was all ego-based. I was upfront about it. It was ego-based for me because I didn’t work for Bob. The dynamic was we were partners and we did everything as partners. I didn’t answer to Bob. I have my area of the business that I ran. He had his area of the business that he ran. We used to call ourselves vice presidents of our areas reporting to each other. That’s how we looked at the business.

In the end, my ego was struggling with the concept of working for him. The world perceived that I worked for him. I laid it out for him. I said, “I’m struggling with this.” I know it’s ego-based. When people come to me and say things to me like, “It must be so amazing to have a boss like Bob. You must be so honored to work for such a good guy,” that stuff was hard for me because we were equal partners. Remember, we own 50% each.

I’m going to push back on you here. I’m going to speak truth to power to you. He started the company. It was his company. You worked for him. What’s the disconnect?

The disconnect is it was sixteen years later. It was sixteen years of that dynamic. Secondly, he didn’t start the company that we all worked for and made our paychecks out of. We started that together as equal partners. He did start the very first coffee shop. That was what he started. It was a long conversation. It was a two-and-a-half-year conversation about what this dynamic meant and how we would resolve it. We talked that maybe he becomes a different role and I become the CEO. It was back and forth.

The key points here are one, I was incredibly patient in the conversation. Two, Bob was incredibly respectful of me in my ego-based need. We talked about that that’s what it was. Three, we always understood that the biggest issue for our organization to thrive is if he and I have a conflict. We always approach things from the perspective of, “We have to make sure we don’t get in a fight.” That’s number one. If we get into a fight, the value of this thing goes sideways. Everybody that’s involved goes sideways. That’s how we went through that. We settled on co-CEOs. We didn’t have some grand announcement. We changed our business cards and moved on.

I assume you changed the contract.

The contract didn’t have to change because we were both managers and members of the LLC. We didn’t have appointed officers.

It does speak to how important labels and titles are. When he first offered this to you, it was a four-hour walk and a handshake deal. Sixteen years later, it’s two years and he’s patient. It sounds like at the core of the relationship, there was trust.

There is no doubt about it. We’ve been through so much together. We’ve been at it for 26 years as equal partners.

Was there a time when you thought, “It’s game over. It’s time to move on.”


How about him?


That’s amazing. What do you feel differentiates you guys from the crowd?

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business
Thriving In Your Business: We’re building a legacy, and we know that the best way to build a legacy is to work together in this company.


We understand the power of commitment and the power of time. We are building something amazing, and it’s going to take a long time to build something amazing. Both of us realized that if we kick out of this thing and go do something else, it’s not going to be as powerful. This is a powerful thing we’ve built, and we love it.

I can tell you a quick story about the partnership. What’s that Dale Carnegie program where they give you the 50 cards or 70 cards that all have traits on them and then you burn through them really quick? You go through it and then you end up with your two cards, whatever it is, six minutes later. We started with 70 cards. My business partner is across the room. We’re 20 feet apart from each other.

How long ago did this happen?

This was about a decade ago or maybe a little more. We’re going around the room and it comes to him first. He pulls up his first card and it’s legacy. He pulls up his second card and it’s loyalty. Those were my two cards.

That is exactly the story you told.

We’re building a legacy. We know that the best way for us to build a legacy is by working in this company together.

When I asked what differentiated the two of you, it sounds like you are both in lockstep in alignment with the vision of the company. That hasn’t changed. I could be wrong, so correct me if I am. It feels like for both of you to bring it full circle to how we started, you said it’s so much a part of your identity in a healthy way. It’s almost as if a part of your soul would be taken if you weren’t at the company, and it’s the same for him. That’s powerful. That will get you through any storm.

We both are committed to trying to be an example for the rest of the world that you can run a successful private enterprise and be good to people. When someone shows up to work in the morning, they can leave their job more invigorated than when they showed up in the morning. You can invest in people personally, and you can support them in their development. It can be a nurturing environment. We’re committed to that and growing a world-class company. You can do both.

I say that too. We can have it all. It depends upon how you define it, but I do believe that. Why do you think everybody has so many habits that are so wrong? Where do we lose our way, or do we never have it?

Those that become entrepreneurs, if we’re talking about that subset, they’re motivated by status and success. You don’t go start your own enterprise. You’re not someone who thrives on accuracy and order. You thrive on the game. The game is a big part of being an entrepreneur. To win a game, you have to keep score. How you keep score is how rich you get. I’m making this so simple. In so many ways, the scorecard is screwed up. We need to change the scorecard as to what it means to be a successful entrepreneur at the end of the day.

I’ve got this concept in my next book. I want to have a metric that we evaluate and keep track of in organizations. It’s called a lumen. A lumen is a metric of love. I want to be able to figure out how we can graduate people through the processes of developing lumens. Let me give you my vision for my eventual departure from the organization.

Is this in your book or is this separate?

I think I included this in this next book.

Let’s plug it. Go ahead.

My vision is that I’m sitting in a room either in Las Vegas or Orlando because they’re the only two cities in the country that can hold a group our size. There are 15,000 or 20,000 people in a conference room. I’m giving my last presentation, and I’m done after that. I know that I have supported everyone in that room in developing and pursuing a life that they love. I know that I’ve created an enormous amount of love and an enormous amount of lumens in the world, and then I walk out and I’m done. It’s over. That’s what it’s about.

A vision becomes powerful when you emotionally connect to yourself and your people.

I don’t worry about how much money I have at the end of the day. I don’t worry about the Bentley. That stuff is probably going to happen. I’m financially secured now. I have nice things. That stuff is going to happen, but that’s not the outcome. That’s not the be-all end-all. The be-all end-all is how much love I can create in the world. My partner and I did a TEDx Talk. One of the things is we want to make love as ubiquitous in business as the word profit. Why not?

I had goosebumps when you talked about your vision. I don’t know if you’ve heard the concept of vivid vision. Cameron Herold wrote the book. Are you familiar with it?

I don’t know it, but I’m sure I do it.

You would love it. There’s a woman, Jenn Hudye, who does vivid vision retreats for companies where you go three years out. It’s incredibly powerful. You would love something like that for your business. It talks about being aligned in all areas of your life. The other thing is the concept of 10X from Dan Sullivan, the Strategic Coach founder. He talks about 10X in your life. When you 10X your life and your business, it transforms you. The money happens to come. It is exactly what you’re talking about.

The concept of the vision is something I’ve done since I was six years old.

Check out Cameron Herold’s Vivid Vision. I can put you in touch with him. He’s a very good friend of mine.

I would love to read it.

It’s an easy read. He was one of the cofounders of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He was originally a Canadian. I cannot say enough nice things about this man. He is a great entrepreneur. He is brilliant and cares about people deeply. I had a vision though. I visualized what you said of a room filled with tens of thousands of people. It’s your last hurrah if you will. You leave, but then what for Mike McFall?

I was on sabbatical for three months. I haven’t touched my business in three months.

Is this interview the first touch of your business?

No. That was an interesting moment for me because I got to feel what it would be like if I sold.

You truly did a sabbatical. There are no emails, nothing. That’s awesome.

I got to feel that way and I didn’t necessarily like it.

I felt an emptiness. When you said what you said, I felt like, “He’s walking into a black hole now. Where is he going?”

I don’t know if that is that. What I believe is that a vision becomes when you emotionally connect to that possible eventuality in the future. That’s when visioning becomes powerful. What I’m trying to emotionally connect with is this concept of creating an organization or a company that is creating love in the world. That’s the emotional piece to me. We all need to make living. We all need to retire. We all want to have boats, toys and whatever. In the end, what it’s about is relationships. It’s about trust. It’s about the love we’re creating. To me, that is what I want to be an example for in the world.

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business
Thriving In Your Business: When the scorecard is screwed up, we need to change the scorecard as to what it means to be a successful entrepreneur.


You are. I say all the time, “All success is based upon the ability to create, nurture, and sustain healthy relationships.” Can we talk a little bit about Grind? When I look at you and get to know you, I would never associate the word grind with you. It feels so heavy, but when you get into the concepts of the book, it has got you written all over it.

Here’s something that I want to talk a little bit about. You talked about healthy customer relationships. You talked about authenticity and consistency. Here’s the connection for my audience in particular. You talked about romancing your customer. I love this and it goes with love. It’s all consistent with what you’ve described. The romance part that I love is during the best of romance, sometimes, you hate the person. They suck, but then you have to work it through. You have to be able to keep the relationship. How does trust fit into that?

I appreciate you highlighting that grind and a book on entrepreneurship don’t fit with who I am now. It doesn’t. I agree. My book is a series. It’s book 1, book 2, and book 3. It takes you from the minute you commit to a concept to your first day of cashflow, which is the grind. That’s Grind. Book 2 is from that stage where you’re on your first day of cashflow and you’re bootstrapping still. I’m calling it through to sustainability, which as the entrepreneur, you could get run over by a bus and the organization would continue to thrive. Book 3 is from sustainability to legacy. I haven’t written book 3 yet. I’ve written book 2. It will come out in May.

Grind was written and Grow was written. Grow is the second book. Those are written as foundational tools for the book that I want to write, which is book 3. From sustainability, you’re a successful entrepreneur. You have two homes. You’ve got nice cars. You’re a successful entrepreneur as the world sees it, now what? That’s the legacy piece. That’s the book I’ve always wanted to write. I wanted to write the first two to build a foundation so that when I write book 3, I have the credibility that I’ve gone through all of these stages to get to where I am.

I have to share something with you. I don’t think you’re going to be able to write a legacy yet because you’re not there. I think you need more time, but I would love to have you come back when your book comes out if you like. We can talk about it because talking about love, what’s not to love about love?

The question you started with though was, “How does it relate to trust with your customers?” The key to being an entrepreneur and a lot of what I teach in my class here is that you don’t know why the consumer is necessarily going to buy your product. You think you’re creating a product as an entrepreneur. You’re landing it in the marketplace and you think the marketplace is going to accept how you’re presenting it to them. Rarely is that the case. The consumer identifies with your product in a different way.

What’s critical is that you build a relationship with your consumer where you’re listening to them, understanding them, and allowing them to communicate with you about why they’re using your products. The only way you get that done is through building trust, building a relationship with them, and communicating with them in such a way that they can bring you that feedback so that you can make the product that they want.

Many times, we give people what we think they want and it’s not what they want. I have to go a little bit further with this because you’re certainly speaking my language. In order to have trust, you have to have empathy. The only way to create empathy out of all the soft skills, all the emotional intelligence, and everything about the coaching and consulting I do with business people is active listening. It’s listening for curiosity.

What active listening does is it allows you to create a connection. This is so simple, but not easy. Connection is the prerequisite to empathy. Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” I’m not going to trust you if I don’t think you care about me. I’m not going to tell you the truth either If I don’t think you care about me. If I think you do care, I will make myself vulnerable. I’ll say, “Mile, this is not a good idea,” because I know you’re not going to chop my head off. If I think you’re going to chop my head off, I would be like, “Mile, screw you. Spend thousands of dollars on that product. My girlfriend has already told me it sucks, but whatever.

I don’t know what magazine it was. Maybe it was QSR. It was one of the restaurant industry magazines. They do a piece where it’s CEO to CEO. The CEO is giving advice to other CEOs. They’re short little interviews. They said, “If you have one word for other CEOs out there as a word of advice, what would it be?” I said, “Shut up.” You got to shut up to be able to listen. When people are talking, you have to continue to inquire, not respond. At that moment, if you can figure out how to not respond and continue to inquire, that’s when the magic starts to happen, in my opinion. That leads to a real conversation. That leads to building trust, which leads to authenticity.

It’s listening with curiosity. When I coach people and they’re like, “I want to hear more but I don’t know what to say,” I say, “Just say, Help me understand that.’” You can do that in parenting. You can do that in any relationship. Wouldn’t the world and the country be a much better place if we could say, “Help me understand that perspective?

That’s correct. What we use in our management team is, “Keep asking why over and over.”

You have to have the right term. I’ve heard that so many times before. By the fifth why, I’m like, “Enough already with the why. Can you come up with another word?” It’s curiosity.

It’s trying to get to the root of whatever is coming at you by asking why. First, you got to shut up. That leads to, hopefully, listening, and then that leads to relationship and trust. To me, the number one thing that gets in the way of strong leaders and strong entrepreneurs is if they can’t control themselves to not talk and listen.

I have to ask you a question. This is a little bit off on a tangent, then we can wrap up soon. Do you know how that infiltrates into your hiring process? For some people, it’s hard to listen. Some people are crazy. How does that infiltrate? We’re not in a Pollyanna life here.

When people are talking, you have to continue to inquire, not respond. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

Is the question about being in an interview?

No, but do you have some kind of process or something in place that people look for?

I’m going way back here to when I used to hire baristas in the store. One of the greatest things that we used to do would be to ask somebody, “Make conversation with me for one minute,” and then you don’t say anything. There are certain people that can step right into that void and say, “I notice you’ve got a pink shirt on. It looks like a golf shirt. Do you golf?” “No, I don’t golf.” “Anyway, I like your shirt.” There are certain people that can flow with that, and then there are people that when you ask them, “Make conversation with me for a minute,” it’s impossible for words to come out of their mouth. That was a tactic that we would use to hire people.

To be clear, that’s important for that specific role. For other roles, you don’t need to be such a conversationalist.

For a barista in a coffee shop, you want somebody that can make conversation. The thing that I’ve been spending a lot of time talking and writing about is the Great Resignation, what the heck is going on, and what we should do about it. It’s backward how we’re looking at it. It starts with management and the organization. Are you creating an organization as the manager of the business that people want to be a part of? Are you willing to make investments in people before they’re loyal to you?

The contract is flipped. It used to be, “I’ll pay you a wage. You come in and do a job. Because I’m paying you a wage for that job, I expect loyalty from you.” That has now flipped. The employee is saying, “What are you going to do for me in order for me to be loyal to you as the employer?” The employer needs to have an answer to that question. How are you investing in your people?

I talk about making the investment first. Don’t wait to see if somebody is going to be loyal to you or be an all-star employee. I believe 98.5% of people can be strong solid employees if management engages them appropriately and makes investments in them to help them grow and become the employee that you want them to be. It’s a role reversal.

What you’re saying is 1000% correct. A lot of positive things came out of COVID from the perspective of there are a lot of paradigm shifts going on. Working women have been begging to work from home since we went into the workforce. For a while, it was, “We’re going to lose productivity,” but the metrics prove differently. It was then collaboration. If you think there’s not much collaboration going on, you’re kidding yourself. There’s mentorship and sponsorship, maybe not as much as you think. More still goes on the golf course doing traditional work. They say it’s culture. I tell people, “Every time you hear the word culture, think about the word control.”

You’re 1000% correct. It is the paradigm shift in the obligation of that relationship between leadership and the team. It’s not your staff. It’s your team. You’re a part of something. It used to be command and control. When your boss said, “Be in the office at 9:00 AM, you’re in the office. I’ve heard honest CEOs saying, “I’ve been begging people to come in.” My leadership team is saying, “Don’t push so hard.” He goes, “I’ve got to realize this is a new generation.” That’s good. I don’t think the inmates should run the insane asylum. Having said that, let’s look at the role.

You talked about command and control versus Stephen Covey’s book, Trust and Inspire. When the previous generations went to work and the leadership would say, “You have to earn my trust,” the team member would earn the trust. Now, trust is to be given. It’s the 80/20 rule of life. When you give someone trust, they will give it back to you. That’s the part of the difference right there.

I agree with that. That’s the paradigm shift that I’ve been talking about for months now. The other piece of it is your employees are volunteers. Until you understand that and you’re willing to do what you need to do as a leader to make somebody value working for you and wanting to show up, they’re volunteers. They can move on and go get another job that pays them the same with the same responsibilities.

That’s a mindset shift though. Quite frankly, the older generation still doesn’t get that. They think people are going to work 30 years for the watch. These young kids have seen their parents work for nineteen years, and in the twentieth year when they get the watch or the pension, they were let go. They watched that and they’re like, “We’re not playing that game.”

It has become that you have to earn their trust. It always should’ve been that way. Great leaders in the past did that.

I could have you here for another hour talking about great leaders. Sometimes, I felt like we’ve learned nothing from history. Other times, I feel like we have. To be respectful of your time, I have a couple of last questions. What’s the last book you re-read and why?

I’ve read The EMyth by Michael Gerber probably 3 or 4 times. From coaching entrepreneurs and business leaders of newer or younger businesses, it’s a beautiful book to help you put your mind into the right place in relation to managing a business. Michael Gerber’s EMyth is brilliant. That would be my answer. That may be the only book I’ve read 3 or 4 times.

TTD 41 | Thriving In Your Business
Thriving In Your Business: The consumer identifies with your product in a different way. What’s absolutely critical is that you build a relationship with them, where you’re actually listening to them and understanding and allowing them to communicate with you about why they’re using your products.


What is the one place in the world you haven’t been to that you must go to and why?

I was having this conversation with somebody. I don’t have good answers as to why, but I’m drawn to Tokyo, Japan. I’ve never been there. That is a place I will, for certain, get to. I’m also fascinated with Dubai. I have friends that live there. I’ve never been there. I would like to see that. Those are the two places.

Thank you. This was so awesome. You were incredible. Where would you like people to find out more about you? Can they go to Amazon to buy your book?

The best place to get in touch with me is LinkedIn. If I’m being perfectly frank, I don’t manage my own social media at this point, but I do use LinkedIn as a place to communicate and catch up with people. You can always reach me through BIGGBY. If you need to get me, you can get me through BIGGBY. is the website for my first book.

Thank you so much. This is great. I appreciate it. That concludes this episode of the show. I knew you were going to love this interview. Make sure you like, comment, share and subscribe. Until next time, be well.


Important Links


About Michael J. McFall

Born and raised in Michigan, Mike began his journey with BIGGBY COFFEE as a minimum-wage barista at the original store in East Lansing in 1996. Over the span of 23 years, with business partner Bob Fish, he has helped create one of the great specialty coffee brands in America. 

Today Mike is co-CEO with Bob, and BIGGBY has over 250 stores open throughout the Midwest. The company is in high growth mode, selling tens of thousands of cups of coffee each day. Mike is proud to say that BIGGBY is a healthy, awesome, thriving organization. 

He is also the author of Grind, a book which focuses on early stage businesses and how to establish positive cash flow. If Mike’s business philosophy can be distilled down to its essence, it would be this: Be brave. Be humble. Be aware. Be yourself. Be aggressive and conquer the world.


  • Co-owner and Co-CEO BIGGBY Coffee
  • Author: Grind: A No-Bullshit Approach to Take Your Business From Concept to Cash Flow
  • Began his career as a minimum wage barista at the original Biggby Coffee store
  • 23 years later he & business partner Bob Fish created a $425 million dollar company
  • Biggby now has over 250 stores throughout the Midwest
  • Mike’s business philosophy: “Be brave. Be humble. Be aware. Be yourself. Be aggressive and conquer the world.


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