Heeding Lessons from a Small Business


Last week I sat with the staff and management of a mountain town cafe – a group I’ve had the chance to work with as they have moved into the big center of transition. Without knowing it, this small organization and the people who sustain it are inspiring models of what showing up to change looks like.

For 14 years, the Cafe Regis has served the community of Red Lodge, Montana as “your community diner.” For each of those years, its popular breakfast and lunch menu and availability as 13245349_10208124392861681_8474239264633924552_na venue for community gatherings of all sorts have delivered.

With that much time under its belt, the organization has experienced its share of challenging changes. Most recently, the Cafe and the town are reeling with the sudden decision of the inaugural manager to resign. That decision follows what forever stands as a 14 year run of visionary, talented and tireless leadership.

In the week following this decision, new management came on line and the locally sourced, healthy and delicious meals have continued to be served. The staff stayed consistently on their tasks during work, even as they sought to answer their questions outside of work time. The new manager placed immediate priority on meeting with each employee, answered questions when possible and emphasized availability for new questions, concerns and suggestions as they arose. Ongoing informal communication among staff has allowed for refinement of understanding, their clarity growing as they make sense together.

In a recent staff meeting, the co-workers came to this:

  • In the way of life and time unfolding, we find ourselves together.
  • We are together to work for pay in service of the role, function and success of Cafe Regis.
  • 13263695_10208124392501672_4105697797596626236_nThrough the noise of upheaval we want to place priority on being good human beings – respectful and kind – with each other and our customers.
  • We are devoted to the Cafe’s original and ongoing emphasis on being a community place – welcoming people across the range of beliefs, cultures and identities.
  • It matters far more what we do than what we say.
  • It’s not ever about any one person – it’s about the food.

There’s lots for all of us to learn here.


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2 Comments on “Heeding Lessons from a Small Business

  1. I love seeing you use the word “clarity”. Not that you can patent it, but it fits in perfectly with what you do and who you are.

    Please give my regards to Gary.

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