Lessons from Leadership: Interview with a Coffee Chain Owner

by Chris Cloud

The following interview is the fourth of a series of four interviews with missional business owners on the lessons they’ve learned about leadership.


Pete has established a chain of cafes and a hospitality training business in Asia. His business employs over 120 people and has trained staff for 50 other businesses.

1. What is your philosophy of leadership?

A test of leadership is that people around you are growing. If I want to look at whether my leadership is effective, I look around and see are my people growing as people, is their capacity increasing? Is my leadership creating capacity in others, making disciples, growing other leaders? That’s my benchmark, my measurement of leadership.

I realize now that a growing business is the only kind of business that can truly develop and grow people because it forces people to grow with the business, otherwise there’s a tendency to just stagnate and that doesn’t help anyone. Our business is growing fast, and it’s given so many people an opportunity to rise to the occasion and grow up with the business.

2. What experiences, people, or philosophies have most influenced the way you view and practice leadership?

My big brother has a big influence on me because of his style. He influences people, but it’s through humility. He’s the teaching pastor of a very large church, but he’s just another guy when we’re together.

My mother has also been a big influence – she has been our greatest fan and our greatest critic. Not in the sense that she’s always criticizing, but she knew you had more to give and could go higher. A secure home gives kids a good launching pad. Mom was always for me. She would praise little things like, “you are so helpful, the way you helped that person was so great…” She elevated us in a positive sense and she would definitely pull us aside and give us critical feedback as well. With my staff, I want them to know “I am for you, I want you to succeed so desperately” – then they are secure and I can help them “be more” rather than settle for mediocrity.

In business and in life, you have to first know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your passions? Don’t try to be someone else, or copy someone else’s business. Have a strong core identity and values, and then go and be the best version of yourself that you can be.

3. How has your view of leadership changed over your years leading a BAM company overseas?

I used to be a consensus builder, I like everybody happy, so I’ve led before in the past where it’s all hugs and “ra ra” and everybody likes you. However, but I’ve seen that fail and I realize that it requires more than just leading by consensus. I have to ask, “What’s the most loving thing I can do for this person, within the context of my company and business?” Sometimes the kindest thing I can do is really have a hard conversation with somebody and tell them “you are not measuring up”.

The weakest form of leadership is when I have to say, “I’m the boss” so I try not to operate that way.

4. If you could rewind the clock to when you first arrived overseas to work in business as mission, what leadership advice would you give yourself?

Get an expert accountant first. For those working overseas, don’t give advice to newcomers unless you know it’s sound advice. If you recommend someone to help with legal or finances, make sure you’ve vetted them. Someone recommended an accountant, and we took their advice but it got us into a lot of trouble later down the road and we had to undo all of that. It was a mess, and we could have saved that if we had found a true expert and professional, not just a “good guy” to hire.

5. What are some of the areas of leadership that could improve among missional business practitioners?  Where could we all do better?

Folks need to decide on the question, “Am I a business, or am I not a business?” They need to ask, “Am I going to be serious about the business?” Most of the people I see are playing business, but they’re not serious. It’s more NGO or charity, but it’s not business. There’s nothing wrong with that at all, but call it that. Be honest with yourself. Don’t pretend to be a business, but run it like a charity.

I also believe business as mission should be 100% business, and 100% mission, not 50/50.

This is the call to the church to wake up. We aren’t sending our best business guys overseas, and why is that?

6. How do you intentionally develop your leadership talents and skills?

I read things here and there, but these days I am reading more about financials than leadership!

Constantly observing those around me, the people I have the most influence on because the test is “are the people around me growing?”

Have an investor or adviser who gives sounds advice on growing the business.

7. How are you personally involved in mentoring or raising up leaders in your context?

Almost everything I do is to build up the leaders in my business, by working with my leadership team every day. My whole leadership team is made up of nationals.

Every new employee goes through a 9 week training course after they are hired. The course is taught by outside missional leaders, and is a comprehensive course on the company’s core values. The gospel is presented at the end of the course, as most employees are not Christian. Then we continue to reinforce those core values throughout their tenure of employment.

8. What advice you would give to an aspiring BAM leader?

First, you better make sure your business is viable in the country you are working in. Get an accountant and make sure your numbers are going to work.

Second, can you get out of bed and do this every day, or do you just think it’s a good idea?

Prepare. Before you go, do you have the experience and credentials to succeed? The fact that I managed a similar business previously has helped me exponentially, for example. How can you prepare before you go?

Surround yourself with good people, experts and a strong community of faith.

To me, your first one or two hires are just so massive. You can’t overestimate how important it is that you hire outstanding people, not just your guard’s son who may need a job. Be careful who you hire, we go through hundreds of CV’s before we hire and I am involved in every single hiring decision. Hire outstanding people, especially the first few.

 9. What is one book, aside from the Bible, that has most influenced your leadership?

I’d say The Heart of a Servant Leader by C. John Miller


Interview by Chris Cloud, with thanks to Pete.


Read Lessons from Leadership 1: Interview with a Multinational Owner

Read Lessons from Leadership 2: Interview with a CEO to CEOs

Read Lessons from Leadership 3: Interview with a Manufacturing Founder


Chris Cloud Chris Cloud is an entrepreneur who has been living and working with his wife in Nepal over the past 3 years. He is passionate about helping companies and individuals identify their perceived growth ceiling, and break past that ceiling. He is partner at a firm in the U.S., ALIGN. ALIGN helps leadership teams clarify their “true north” and gain traction by aligning every aspect of the organization to that vision. He holds a degree in business administration, but counts his 12+ years of starting or serving in a series of fast-growing startups as his real entrepreneurial education! 

On a good day, you’ll find Chris running up a mountain or snowboarding down one. You can connect with him here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ccloud/