Article published in the Philadelphia Business Journal on October 8, 2023. Updated 9 pm.
Last week, I stopped by Saxbys second cafe on Drexel University’s campus to buy coffee and a croissant. The great customer experience and hospitality extended by the barista reminded me of the Philadelphia Business Journal columns I have written in the past about how Saxbys trains future business leaders and differentiates itself from its competition.
Saxbys’ first campus cafe at Drexel was opened in May 2015. The company has grown to 23 locations on college campuses with more on the way, all led by students who attend that institution. These students are trained by Saxbys’ as student cafe executive officers.
Saxbys’ impact on the students hired to run their cafes is described in the Philadelphia Business Journal column I wrote in August 2017. This is an update of that column.
One of the greatest opportunities a college student 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 second Saxbys cafe at Drexel.
Baukman was a student entering his pre-junior year at Drexel’s LeBow College of Business. He was in the five-year program, which includes three six-month periods working and gaining practical experience in his field of study.
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 cafe 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.”
Giving students this opportunity has now become a strategic focus of Saxbys. Bayer recently told me that Saxbys has transformed into an “education company disguised as a coffee company on a mission to make life better by supporting and empowering the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs through experiential learning.” All of Saxbys on-campus and off-campus locations are managed by student cafe executive officers.
Bayer told me that on average, college students achieve their first managerial position seven years after graduation. For those who have been Saxbys student cafe executive officers, on average, they achieve their first managerial position 12 months after graduation.
At Drexel, Baukman led a team of 25 employees. All were Drexel students. Baukman was responsible for hiring, developing and leading his team members, scheduling his cafe’s shifts, managing inventory, planning menus, minimizing waste and spoilage and ensuring his cafe met health and safety standards. Baukman was also responsible for meeting his cafe’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 [or in a classroom]; 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. As a leader, I am learning to make the tough calls.”
Baukman added, “As a leader, you are not going to make the right decisions all the time. You learn to take the 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.”
I asked Baukman why his cafe is different than his competition, and how he and his team work to become the preferred cafe on campus. He said, “We treat those who visit our cafe as guests, not customers. We serve delicious coffee and food and provide great hospitality.
“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. We want to give our guests a great experience. Speed of service is big for us.”
Baukman said, “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.”
Baukman now works at J.P. Morgan Private Bank as an advisor to high net worth individuals. I recently asked him how his experience as a Saxbys student cafe executive officer helped him be successful in his career. In addition to building and operating a business, he said his Saxbys experience helped him develop emotional intelligence by dealing with actual business and people issues. What Baukman learned as a Saxbys cafe executive officer will help him be successful regardless of his career path.
Stan Silverman is founder of Silverman Leadership and author of “Be Different! The Key to Business and Career Success.” He is also a speaker, advisor and widely read nationally syndicated columnist on leadership. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.