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The New Face of Coffee

Biggby Coffee founder Bob Fish believes in management by walking around. And it's working.

This story appears in the February 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

As the owner of a 115-location franchise with 2008 sales of $38.5 million, you might expect Biggby Coffee co-founder and CEO Bob Fish to be running his empire from an executive office. Yet, almost two years ago, Fish traded his office for a new work space: the Biggby Coffee stores themselves. "I decided to give up my office because I felt the truth was out there in the stores," says Fish, 45. "And if I really wanted to know what was going on in our system, with our operators and with our customers, then I basically needed to be in the stores."

Fish opened the first Biggby location in 1995 with Mike McFall, 37, and Mary Roszel, 64, and they began the East Lansing, Michigan-based four years later. Now he spends much of his time traveling to his stores across nine states, which Fish sees as a big differentiator between himself and other franchisors. From casual drop-ins to formalized meet-and-greet events, Fish's store visits allow him to get firsthand feedback from employees and customers alike. "It's inherently more valuable than any poll I could do or any or data I could drive," Fish says. "What I do is get the real thing live."

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