Chatham and Chatfe Coffee

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In a world dominated by name brands like Starbucks, Teavana, and Caribou, it can be difficult for a new vendor to thrive. However, in Rachel Chatham's situation, the goal was never to thrive. “I've always liked the idea of running a coffee shop. I figure it would be fun.” She opened Chatfe, a parody of her name and cafe before she knew much about the crowded market. It was later that she came to make the transition from cafe to retail.

Her cafe was struggling and she needed to adapt. Rachel has no formal education in business and, consequently, did not associate her adaptation with any of the images. From the outside perspective, her method of change management most closely resembles that of a navigator. Her business model proved to be unsustainable so she drew her focus away from the food service aspect and focused on retail and internet sales. She navigated her small team of co-workers through the transition.

The context of the change came from an inclination to preserve her business. If she had not gone through with such changes, the cafe goes out of business leaving Rachel and her co-workers without work. Between the popularity of cafes and the market domination of cafe chains, she found her line of work to be financially unsafe. However, the coffee and tea retail industry has been growing recently. This is evident in the Starbucks acquisition of Teavana. Much like Teavana, she still offers tea by the cup, but her dining area has been replaced with a showroom. Even though Rachel always referred to her friends and employees as co-workers while describing this transition, it was clear they were subordinates in some manner.

Because of this, her role as a change manager somewhat resembled the director's role. The cafe did not transition into a retail shop by a natural flow of the event, such as people asking to buy her equipment, but through the willful actions of a director. While she held the opinion that she and her co-workers were “all in this together,” Rachel was the one with the vision. “I mean I didn't try to manage everything they did.” She said, suggesting a high level of autonomy for her co-workers. While this may, in a way, seem to match a coach's traits, it was clear she had no intention of coaching her employees. It is more likely she trusts her friends' judgment.

As far as phases of change are concerned, Rachel's cafe showed signs from the Entrepreneurial Stage and Collectivity Stage but neither the Formalization Stage nor the Elaboration Stage. Through the entrepreneurial stage, she made decisions on what her inventory would be, who would be interested, and how to appeal to those who would be interested. Rachel chose to cater to those who wanted the local businesses to survive while still finding “stuff they'd see online or at chain stores.” This seemed to require more effort than the Collectivity Stage. With no formal business education, it is safe to assume that the Collectivity Stage was only prominent due to her team-oriented ethical code. Rachel and her small staff had equal input throughout the change. Unlike Table 2.2 would typically indicate a Collectivity Stage, Rachel opted not to implement a reward system. The Formalization Stage and Elaboration Stage have been omitted as Chatfe's wanted to maintain a more casual working environment.

When asked about simultaneous changes, Rachel remarked on how she had to transition from food service to customer service only after mentioning how she was not sure how to answer the question. For this to happen, she had to build inventory and remodel the storefront. Rachel and the Chatfe staff stepped into online sales too. Rather than pay for a website, she and her co-workers use services including eBay and Craigslist to market their wares. She bought various types of coffees, teas, and brewing tools through the same online market places as well. A portion of her stock is second hand while she turned to online craftsmen to provide her with new merchandise. Though it may not be a priority now, Chatfe may be subjected to another series of changes if Rachel chooses to open her own online store.

Rachel's method of change did not entirely fulfill the Chaos Theory and Change Management Roles of Table 2.3. While she did get her people involved with decision making and problem-solving and nurtured creativity, she did not destabilize people. Beyond that, she worked to avoid a state of tension. Admittedly, she sometimes felt as though she should have played the devil's advocate. For Rachel, there was no need for a balance between order and the need for change.

It should be no surprise that Rachel and Chatfe neither matched any particular image of change nor strictly abode to any Life Cycle Stage. Her store was designed to be casual with no intention of greatness. Rachel wanted a simple line of work in which she found enjoyment for her co-workers and herself. While any formal business training would have been proved beneficial, such knowledge was not essential to the business model Rachel aimed to follow. However, this is not to suggest that she deliberately avoided images of change.

While she made the adaptations to Chatfe's structure in a manner comparable to that of a navigator, she borrowed concepts from directors and coaches. She delegated tasks in such a way that her team was effectively guided to make the best of the conditions in which they found themselves. The primary reason her methods bore a resemblance to a director is due to the fact she took control over the situation. Her status as the owner did not mandate she that would have to take charge during this period of changes. She assumed the role of navigator and directed her co-workers while coaching them through the transitional time with the goal of keeping her friends and herself in business.