After growing up in Philadelphia, Steve has spent most of his adult life in Ann Arbor. He has held a number of positions in a variety of industries (from wholesale to retail), including holding a job as a Senior VP of operations for a furniture manufacturer, prior to coming to Zingerman’s. He has a range of interests and the uncanny ability to spend a ton of time on all of them at once. For example, Steve earned his MBA from Cleary University while working full time, raising his children, and also studying to become a Deacon in the Armenian Orthodox Church.
Steve wouldn’t have guessed that he would end up being a business owner in the coffee industry – when he had his first cup of coffee at age 19, he disliked it so much that he couldn’t swallow it. However, when Steve found his way to the Zingerman’s Coffee Company in 2006, filling the role as sales manager, his passion, knowledge and love for coffee grew. In this role, he quickly saw that the Coffee Company could grow by expanding its channels of distribution. During this period of building the business, Steve discovered that the culture, work environment, and values so closely aligned with his own that he decided to fulfill his dream of being an owner in 2008.
Steve is involved in every aspect of the business from sourcing to roasting to building the wholesale base of customers. He travels to origin regularly, building relationships with producers. In order to build the business, Steve travels to potential wholesale customers to evaluate sales opportunities and to provide training and support to existing customers. He also participates in a number of Zingerman’s Partner’s Group committees.
Steve compares the structure of our organization to a “shopping” experience, so to speak, for any number of “satisfiers/needs.” We can stroll down aisle one and pick up some personal satisfaction. Down aisle two is ample gain-share and opportunity for those that are driven. Aisle three carries healthy peer relationships, and on and on. Ultimately, when we “check out”, we have in our shopping cart all the ingredients of a satisfactory and fulfilling work experience. This applies to employees at all levels of the organization, as there is no limit to the opportunities to forge a fulfilling work experience.
So, the chance to create opportunities for staff to learn and grow was a big motivator for Steve in becoming a partner, as he strongly believes in servant leadership. The principle of which is that leaders must serve those who choose to follow, not the other way around, as is the case in many organizations. One trip to the Coffee Company, seeing Steve interact with his employees and guests, shows that he lives this.
Steve is also active in a range of activities in the community. He shares his business knowledge through his service with Nexecon Consulting, a UM business school student consulting group. He also serves on the Washtenaw Community College advisory board and participates in WCC’s School of Business, teaching Business Management for over 4 years.