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Canzano: A game of 1-on-1 with Dutch Bros CEO Joth Ricci
Q and A with the president and CEO of Dutch Bros.
Nobody is having more fun than the employees working in those Dutch Bros coffee stands. Between the cheery vibe, caffeine and up-beat music I always leave the drive-thru in a better mood than when I arrived.
Joth Ricci joined Dutch Bros in January 2019 as President and CEO. He’s an Oregon State graduate with deep connections to the state. Also, Ricci is a die-hard sports fan who has a particular fondness for basketball.
Last September, Dutch Bros went public (stock symbol: BROS). The IPO raised $484 million and was a huge success. The Oregon-based coffee chain, founded in Grants Pass by Travis and Dane Boersma, now has 538 locations and ambitious expansion plans.
Ricci and I talked about the connection between leadership in sports and business. What is good coaching? How do you build and maintain good culture? Can business leaders draw upon lessons learned in sports?
Here are 10 burning sports-business questions with Joth Ricci…
Question: There are some parallels between winning in business and winning in sports… what are the big common factors in your mind?
Ricci: I believe that program chemistry and the discipline of great (practice/planning) wins championships in sports and in business. Too much focus on the outcome can create bad behavior by the team (business/sports) and the (fan/customer). It will create short term results but tear down long term outcomes.
Q: You have a rich basketball and sports background… what sports influences shaped you as a leader?
Ricci: There really is only one person and that’s John Wooden — I think the “pyramid of success” and his system has proven over the years to be a model for many aspects of life. The way he carried himself, his devotion to perfect practice and understanding that at the end of day it wasn’t about him, it was about UCLA and the players. And he was a winner. Very applicable in 2022 as much as it was 50-60 years ago.
Q: What sports poster did you have on your bedroom wall growing up?
Ricci: George Gervin — “The Iceman” where he is sitting on the ice throne. So cool and matched his game. Then I had the original “Jump Man” poster of Michael Jordan. So iconic, he changed sports.
Q: There’s a wonderful vibe in those Dutch Bros. stands, what are the fundamental building blocks to good culture?
Ricci: The Dutch Bros culture is 30 years in the making and has been and will be the No. 1 lens for how we run the business. We are in the business of people and the decisions we make to grow are all predicated on our people. Building culture starts at the top of the organization with leadership that lives the culture we ask from the rest of the team. Then it’s creating a system of which all levels of your organization understand that you are a team vs. a group of individuals. Much to unpack in each of those sentences.
Q: What’s your drink order when you visit a Dutch Bros.?
Ricci: Vanilla Latte
Q: When did you know joining this venture would be a success? Was there a moment? If so, what?
Ricci: The first time Trav (Boersma) and I got to speak with our leaders and franchisees to lay out the vision and plan. The feedback was amazing and nothing like anything I had seen at other companies at an early stage of the plan. I think that the early chemistry between Trav and I was very important to the team, and that continues to this day.
Q: What has been the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced in the last year and how did you overcome it?
Ricci: Without a doubt running the IPO process while leading a record growth year for the company. Overcoming it by staying healthy and being a great communicator. I got to live a year that many leaders will never get in their lifetime. That reminded me to embrace it and accept the challenge.
Q: We spend a lot of time talking to our kids about resilience… can you build and nurture it in kids, co-workers and employees? Or are you born with it?
Ricci: There is so much in that word — “resilience.” Life experiences play such a big role in shaping our lives. I think with kids, their development before age eight is critical otherwise we end up playing a lot of catch-up throughout their lives. Then it’s about peer groups and people of influence — parents, teachers, coaches, counselors, managers, leaders — that can shape the influence of that word. It’s harder as we get older, but as a society we should never stop learning and developing or we become stagnant and lose resilience and our ability to affect others.
Q: Favorite all-time athlete?
Ricci: If I can pick two: Jackie Robinson and Michael Jordan. Jackie Robinson was an incredible person and athlete, can’t imagine what he endured in that time. Michael Jordan as a pure athlete, as he was the only person I can remember that I would change my day to watch play. And it was pretty common to say, “Did you see what Jordan did last night?”
Q: Favorite sports moment you witnessed in person?
Ricci: The opening kickoff of Oregon State-Notre Dame in the 2000 Fiesta Bowl was a moment that I will never ever forget. I just couldn’t believe it was real. Go Beavs!!
NFL DRAFT WATCH: Former Clackamas High standout Cole Turner will be watching the NFL Draft with some extra interest this week. The University of Nevada tight end is projected to be among those selected. Turner joined me on Monday for a 1-on-1 interview on the statewide radio show.
He’s a great example of a college athlete who stuck with a program, even as he didn’t play much in his first two seasons. Turner started his junior and senior seasons at Nevada and had 19 total touchdown receptions.
Said Turner: “I saw a lot of guys transfer. I didn’t think going anywhere else was going to give me a better opportunity than what I had in front of me… I trusted the process and I loved my coaches and believed in what they were saying.”
Listen to the full interview:
NUMBERS GAME: I’m not going to wade too far into the raging debate still going on between USC and Oregon fans after their respective spring games on Saturday. (I find some of it amusing.) USC announced it had more than 33,000 fans at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the spring event. Oregon "estimated” 42,000 on Saturday for its scrimmage.
I’m not a “guess how many jelly beans in the jar” guy but both numbers felt ambitious. I’ll just say this — the Ducks outdrew the Trojans. Fun was had by all. I’m not sure why any of this really matters. But I do look forward to seeing how good both of those programs will be in 2022 under first-year head coaches.
Unfortunately, USC and Oregon won’t play in 2022 unless they make the championship game. The conference regular-season schedule skipped them so the only possible way that we’ll get to see Ducks-Trojans would be in the Pac-12 title game in Las Vegas on Dec. 2. Decide for yourself which fan base would bring more fans.
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