5 Battle-Tested Insights from Philz Coffee CEO Jacob Jaber

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Jacob Jaber is the CEO of Philz Coffee, a coffee shop that strives to build a community, one cup at a time. His father, Phil Jaber, founded the company 25 years ago. The father son duo worked closely together to challenge the status-quo and build an authentic brand centered around amazing coffee.

Spoiler alert: They are a business success story.

Today Philz Coffee has more than fifty locations and has been successful in raising capital: recently raising more than $70 million in Venture Capital funding.

I had the opportunity to talk with Jacob as part of our LEADERS podcast series at Fratzke Media. The interview was brimming with insights. It was hard to pick, but I narrowed it down to the top five game-changers we discussed:

1. There is no better teacher than first-hand experience in the trenches with other business owners.

Jacob gained valuable business experience by working side-by-side with his father. He’s definitely not opposed to sitting down for a cup of coffee and discussing ideas or concepts. But what really propelled him forward in learning about business and corporate leadership was the ability to see the daily grind, first-hand.

Good leaders understand that leadership skills develop when what you’ve learned is applied, tried and calibrated.

There’s so much that happens in an experience that can’t be communicated well in a textbook. Those experiences become a foundation that you can leverage in the pursuit of any business passion, helping you to become a great leader.

2. Business passion is required to persevere and reach your full potential.

Jacob dropped out of community college to dive in and expand his small business. On paper, that might seem like a bad move, but he was tired of learning about topics that weren’t interesting or relevant to his dreams. He was dying to get his hands dirty and start a business.

He’s not opposed to learning. In fact, he spends a portion of every evening watching informative videos on his iPad, actively seeks out conversations with those that are further ahead of him on the path and credits Napoleon Hill’s Law of Success for helping him focus his passions in his late-teens.

But he raises a really good point about modern education:

"We ask people at a young age to decide what they want to do with their lives. Then we ask them to invest heaps of time and energy into learning about a specific topic. Before they’ve even had a chance to explore and uncover their passions, they’ve been locked into an investment that is propelling them down a path that might not leverage their most valuable asset – the passion required to persevere and reach their full potential."

3. Like coffee, employee feedback is best served fresh and daily.

Taking honest employee feedback can be difficult. Who wouldn’t love to be told they’re amazing everyday. But growth requires an honest assessment of strengths and weaknesses.

Jacob works hard to promote a culture at Philz Coffee where employees are championed for their strengths and given the tools they need to grow. One important tool for growth involves receiving feedback - even if it’s negative feedback.

In fact, he credits the positive feedback and constructive feedback his team members receive for their growth – it allows people to double-down on what they’re great at, while being honest about opportunities to improve.

This is a two-way street. Jacob wants his team to know that he’s open to their input on how he’s performing as a business leader. It’s a balancing act, but great leaders know how to provide constructive criticism and accept the same in return.

4. Don’t let the data talk you out of changing the game.

A healthy dose of ignorance can be an entrepreneur’s best weapon. It allows them to challenge the status-quo, try new ideas and learn by pushing boundaries.

Logically, it’s easy to talk yourself out of trying something that you’re passionate about. Everything around us is subtly pushing us into a “status-quo” mold.

Social media is full of positive snapshots featuring the high-points in our friends’ lives. The idea of following the well-traveled path and capturing your own highlight reel along the way can be seductive.

But you can build your own path - if you have the grit and determination. Never let go of that healthy ignorance – it will help you overcome fear and chase real knowledge.

Even if things don’t work out, you can take the lessons with you for your next at bat.

5. Discover what matters to you and make time for it.

Business passion is important, but you have to think strategically about making time for your off-the-clock passions, too.

Work/life balance is difficult for entrepreneurs at every stage. But Jacob believes that living a well-rounded lifestyle is critical to success. The people that you surround yourself with will help you grow in more directions.

If you know what is truly important to you, it becomes easier to push away the distractions – shut off the TV and focus on things that nourish your spirit. For Jacob, that means time with his girlfriend and friends, working out and feeding his brain with new ideas.

It really was a great 30-minute discussion with Jacob. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Checkout the full interview on the LEADERS podcast to get in on everything we covered!

James Fratzke

Co-Founder & Head of Operations

4.24.2019

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