My Experience With Espresso Culture by Valleen Bowden

When I first heard the company name “Espresso”, I instantly thought it was an internal coffee shop at Kaspar Companies, and I thought “How cool!” My first job was in a coffee shop in Fruita, Colorado, when I was 14 years old, and I loved it! The atmosphere of a coffee shop is intriguing in so many ways. It has the opportunity to lure you in to stay awhile. I’d like to say that Espresso (as a company), like the scent of coffee beans, has a way of lingering with you. I was offered the position at Espresso as the assistant to the team, and I jumped at the concept. Even though I had a job description, I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I walked through the doors. Would I like going to my job, or would I feel on edge? It all depended on the culture.

When I first moved to Midland, Texas, I wanted to find a favorite coffee shop as quickly as I could. I tried out a few and was amazed at the differences in Starbucks, the downtown coffee shop, and a sweet little place called “Harvest Cafe.” Starbucks was a great place of course, but this particular one was really too small to enjoy personal space and lingering time. When I heard that there was a coffee shop in the heart of the busy downtown, I thought “Yes! I’m so excited to try it.” I walked in and it was spacious, had couches and board games, big windows, a beautiful old bar, and a small stage for live music. I walked up to the counter and immediately felt the experience start to fade … the smell of … well … I didn’t really know. Cigarettes, cigars … or something that was probably illegal. The barista began talking, and the atmosphere began crashing. I started to feel the desire to leave. “What a bummer,” I thought. “It’s so beautiful; it has all that it needs; but it lacks heart, gusto, umph, and values.” I walked off staring at the back door and imagining a shady deal taking place. So, the final try was Harvest Cafe — an old building with high ceilings in a shopping strip with lots of parking. Walking up to the building, there was a short metal fence with an open gate that surrounded the outside patio tables with big umbrellas for shade. Entering the building, I heard the gentle jingle of bells and noticed the low lights above the long expanse of counter equipped with a glass display full of freshly made pastries. When I walked past all of the mismatched kitchen tables to the end of the long building, I found a comfortable arrangement of couches surrounding a fireplace with an area rug, houseplants, magazines, and a huge coffee table in the middle. This was a place worthy of time, and so I lingered for hours and hours at a time eating breakfast and then ordering lunch for round two!

Our company, Espresso, is a lot like Harvest Cafe — it has a good atmosphere. What exactly do I mean? I’m so glad I asked … let me see if I can explain. Every week, we have a company meeting where we video call our satellite office and see our fellow workers face to face. At the end of each meeting, we have a five minute “Hi5” (High Five) where someone on the team shares something that has inspired them, work related or not. I know, awesome, right?! So we get to dive into each other’s personal interests and lives a little. Adding a taste of sweetness and joy to the everyday life. I remember watching as the weeks went by as each person took turns sharing what inspired them and realized that I was jealous. Why? Because I was watching people have life, and I wanted more of it myself. So I began exploring hobbies that I had forgotten I loved to do. Crafting, painting, gardening — the things I told myself I didn’t have time to do, and I began to float again because I had forgotten the joy of the little things.

Espresso’s management frequently reminds us of where we are going and why — and they mean it. You know how bothersome it is to have a barista say “have a great day” and what they really mean is “here is your coffee, take it and leave.”  You think “thanks, thanks a lot.” It’s not like that here. Chris and Cherise mean what they say. Espresso’s values are real.

*Can I just stop and sigh for relief. Let me read something right out of our playbook under Core Values: “Inspirelational: We inspire, excite and breathe life into our environment. We are genuine, hardworking and desire for people to feel loved and valued.”

Boy do I ever feel loved and valued! When my cousin passed away, and I was deciding between attending her celebration of life and the family reunion that was already scheduled two weeks after that (both being out of state), Chris told me that I didn’t have to choose, and I was welcome to go to both. Cherise told me “Whatever you need to do to be with your family is fine with us – just keep us posted, but know we support you being with them in lieu of being at work.” They could have said a million other things such as “make sure you have enough PTO.”

We laugh together on our team Skype group titled “Team AWESOME!” — we send information or things worth sharing through the feed. I can thumb through the 410 attachments on our team Skype and find anything from personal family photos, hilarious memes, laughable bloopers of things we are working on, or photos from home.

At our bi-annual reviews and monthly 1-on-1s, we are scored on several things, but it’s not just a “pass or fail” program, but rather “here is what we want you to work on” meeting where management openly discusses and celebrates our strengths and weaknesses and asks us to work on specific areas before the next meeting. There are a series of questions on this form for us to fill out such as:

“What has been your favorite project to work on?”

What? You actually care what interests me?

“What aspect of your job has been most frustrating to you?”

This is not a “take your coffee and leave” statement.

“What is something you would like to get better at before your next evaluation? Is there anything we can do or resources we can provide to help you accomplish that?”

When I first saw this statement, I was ecstatic! What could I do? Think of the possibilities if my bosses honor my desire to grow in my workplace. There would be no limit to success.

I’ll never forget Chris standing in the doorway challenging my over the top perfectionism. He said, “Valleen, if you make 10 mistakes it would be worth it because the value of what you learn is irreplaceable. Your assignment is to make mistakes!” FREEDOM! I laughed, smiled and then chuckled to myself after he walked away. How empowering is that? That is what the Espresso culture does for me.

It lured me in, empowers me and makes me want to linger awhile.

 

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