This is not such a bad label to carry through life.
I would add – engaging.
We met at one of his newest locations in Seton, opposite the South Calgary Hospital. I wanted to talk about business and he wanted more to talk about environment, his experiences in Tibet and trips to meet coffee growers in Central America. I wanted lots, and I came away with lots …. and with some great coffee beans. Thanks.
He is currently Chair for Alberta, of the Nature Conservancy of Canada – who have been in the news lots lately about preserving southern Alberta grazing lands.
Michael Going was born in High River and raised in the Millarville and Black Diamond areas – his family have been ranchers. He is #5 of six siblings. He attended school in Black Diamond and finished high school in Vulcan. Dad was a rancher, mom was at home (and credited with many recipes that have found their way to the Good Earth menu). Ranches near Black Diamond, Carseland and Longview. He left the ranching business as “working for-dad did not equal working with-dad ”.
Before his Ontario commercial real estate developer days taught him all about that industry, with a focus on retail leases, Michael had an extended eclectic youth – milkman for Palm Dairies (work started early, ended early – time to go skiing), real estate brokerage (Going Real Estate with siblings until the NEP wrecked the ranch selling business for a long while), portable sign-rental business, rugby (played for the Calgary Canucks).
His Bramalea Shopping Centre days had him working in Calgary, Toronto and Hamilton – and late 80's after the Trizec-Bramalea merger - before he returned west to do consulting work in Vancouver. ICSC conferences were usual events, until he attended one in San Diego where he met Nan Eskenazi – and their partnership was born.
Michael worked on the Eau Claire market development in its early days of Eau Claire market. “It was ahead of its time”. Long distance relationships being difficult to manage – Michael and Nan were married in 1990 and settled on making Calgary home. They established Good Earth Coffee House and Bakery in 1991 – the first store being on 11th Street SW and began opening a café a year. “We didn’t have children – we had coffee shops ”.
Living in an extraordinary and famous eco-house built of straw bales near Millarville yielded to home in Calgary; being close to business and raising a daughter (she is 13) caused them to give up the country life. Michael says Nan does not like winter so much and her old stomping grounds on Whidby Island, Washington tug when retirement is mentioned ...
“We are not cookie – cutter. We design to suit the location. We franchise to operators who are committed to the community. We offer food, coffee, atmosphere, decor, locations and brand. We have worked well with Marcel Proskow at Maxim Design International.”
What would you say most contributed to your success? - “My partnership with Nan. We have different skill sets and work well together ... I am a natural entrepreneur – a risk taker. I am not happy with the status quo. And challenging our team to do better.”
What has held you back?
“Missed opportunities. We did not come out of the gate as strongly as we could have – we could have grown and expanded more quickly if we had not waited to do it.”
Any last words?
“If you do things well, profits will be there … ”
I asked Michael how he sees his business – a franchisor of cafes – generally; ‘how’s business?’ over the next quarter?
… Excellent. Strong same-store sales growth, new product offerings. Interest rates are low, consumer spending is getting tight. Expansion – we are opening in Ottawa and looking at more growth across the country. Downturns in some markets can help us as costs come down. Our brand is getting traction. We are premium, but we are not pricey.
And over the next five years?
… People appreciating quality better – going more up-market in their tastes. We see fallout from failures – closures and consolidations in the sector may help us. When weaker operators fail, that creates opportunities and may facilitate locations becoming available in markets we like.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… #1 is quality. #2 is price. #3 is distribution capability. Closest to home, matching values, capable to perform. Local, local, local.
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Michael Going and Good Earth, why do they do business with you, why have they chosen you, over your competitors?
… People really appreciate good coffee and wholesome foods without additives. They appreciate our values. For 24 years now, we have built a brand that attracts people. We are NOT a fast-food experience. Doing business with like-minded people and companies. We have never been a discount operation. We are now at 45 stores. That means 600 people!
How would you describe your leadership style?
… we lead by example. Strong work ethic. We hire like-minded people.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you worry about?
… the rising cost of everything. Relationships with our coffee growers throughout central America. All coffee is not created equal. We have our beans roasted in Calgary.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… several. My dad impressed me by how well respected he was. Early in my career, joining Bramalea Group was a great learning experience. The Quantum Shift Group – Ivy School of Business. They take 40 entrepreneurs from across Canada each year, being exposed to the brightest and best. A year ago I took a one-month trip to Tibet at the urging of my friend David Farron, retracing Mallory’s expedition to Everest. You can read about it – Wade Davis’s book.
Work life balance, do you have it?
… not as much as we would like. I have been stepping back from the day-to-day (we have a great COO Gerry Docherty) so I can focus on new business development.
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