Article originally posted in and nationally syndicated by the American City Business Journals on August 15, 2017.

One of the greatest opportunities a young person can be granted is the responsibility to run a business, lead employees and be held accountable for achieving results. This was the opportunity granted to 20-year-old Tauheed Baukman when, as a Drexel University co-op student, he was selected to run the most recently opened Saxbys Café, which is the second Saxbys on Drexel’s campus.

Baukman is a student entering his pre-junior year at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business. He is in the five-year program, which includes three six-month periods working and gaining practical experience in his field of study. Saxbys is Baukman’s second co-op experience, which ends in September.

I asked Nick Bayer, the CEO of Saxbys and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Drexel’s Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, why he decided to pursue the idea of having a Saxbys café managed and operated by college students. He said, “I saw that college students were looking for experiential learning opportunities, and I wanted to provide it to them. These students get the opportunity to see how a strong and focused organizational culture successfully drives a business.”

Currently, Baukman leads a team of 21 people, which will grow in the future. All are part-time Drexel students. Baukman is responsible for hiring, developing and leading his team members, scheduling his café’s shifts, managing inventory, planning menus, minimizing waste and spoilage and ensuring his café meets health and safety standards. Baukman is also responsible for meeting his café’s revenue and profit targets. Rarely do 20-year-old college students have this broad range of responsibilities.

I asked Baukman what he learned about leadership in his job. He said, “What I am learning is not something you can learn from a book; you need to experience it.

“You learn to lead by example, be consistent, honest with yourself and transparent with your team members. You need to communicate with your people and build trust. If you can’t communicate, you won’t be a good leader. As a leader, I am learning to make the tough calls.”

Baukman added, “You will make mistakes, and you will learn from them. As a leader, you are not going to make the right decisions all the time. You learn to take initiative. Being a good leader is like being a good teacher. You need to teach others so they can grow and develop and can replace you.”

There are three competitors within very close proximity to Baukman’s Saxbys café. His aim is to be the preferred café to visit by providing great hospitality and a great guest experience.

I asked Baukman why his café is different than his competition, and how he and his team work to become the preferred café. He said, “We treat those who visit our café as guests, not customers. We serve delicious coffee and food, and provide great hospitality.” He added, “Guests will not see their friends working behind the counter at a competitor, or friends managing a shift team or the entire café.

“You go to our competitors, and you do not see lively energy from the people taking your order. If a line forms, everyone on the Saxbys team works hard to speed up the line. Our competitors are not as responsive to long customer lines. They know their customers will just wait. We want to give our guests a great experience. Speed of service is big for us. It’s one of the first things we learn in training.

“If a guest waits too long to be served, any Saxbys team member behind the counter is empowered to hand out a free drink card. That is why we want to hire people with good critical judgment and common sense – to know when to hand out a card.”

Baukman added, “A great experience leads to guest loyalty. Good business operations lead to profitability. When you combine guest loyalty and profitability, you can successfully grow your business.”

I asked Allie Bassman, manager of talent development for the company, what Saxbys looks for in the people they hire. She said, “We hire and train based on attitude and culture fit.

“We are looking for people who are people oriented, outgoing, detail oriented and disciplined. We can teach skills and knowledge, not attitude. We want people who are happy with what they are doing day-in and day-out. These people will be successful at what they do.

“We are a hospitality business first. This is how we differentiate ourselves. We are going to pay attention to our guests before anything else. Our team members know many of their guests’ names and what they drink.”

What struck me interviewing both Baukman and Bassman was their proactive, can-do attitude and the degree to which culture plays a huge role in Saxbys’ success.

The opportunity to lead a Saxbys café while being a college student is a gift. What Baukman is learning can’t be learned in a classroom, and will help him on the path to effective leadership and success regardless of the career path he chooses.

Stan Silverman is founder and CEO of Silverman Leadership. He is a speaker, advisor and nationally syndicated writer on leadership, entrepreneurship and corporate governance. Silverman earned a Bachelor of Science degree in chemical engineering and an MBA degree from Drexel University. He is also an alumnus of the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He can be reached at Stan@SilvermanLeadership.com.
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