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Roots and Wings

La Marzocco

Interview with: Chris Salierno

Over 20 years ago our MD, Craig Macfarlane (also known as Maca), purchased a La Marzocco 2 Group Linea for his very first hospitality business in Inglewood, Taranaki, New Zealand. It was the first La Marzocco in Taranaki. Today, that same coffee machine has pride of place in his family home. A symbol of everything the Ozone family value - hospitality, quality, beauty and really great coffee. Since that first early encounter, both the Ozone Coffee and La Marzocco families have grown a little bigger and today, we are lucky enough to spend lots of time together in London, Auckland, Milan & Florence. On a recent catch up in London, we sat down with International Marketing Director, Chris Salierno to talk about culture, purpose and how to keep a progressive team motivated.

La Marzocco has famously created a ‘family’ culture; what were your first experiences like in becoming part of that family?

The people at La Marzocco are the creators of who we’ve become. Notwithstanding our beautiful machines, it is La Marzocco’s family that transformed our company into a legendary brand. We have a great story to tell. La Marzocco is real; our story is authentic. Visitors in Italy feel the authenticity. They feel the generations of workers that have contributed to making La Marzocco become who we are today.

La Marzocco is about being unique, escaping the ordinary and setting new standards. It’s about inspiring and touching peoples’ lives, it’s about embracing and understanding customers, about being locally relevant and at the same time telling a story that is truly “Handmade in Florence”. It’s about sharing our lifestyle with our customers. Management does not dictate the culture here. Rather, it stems from the collective personality of our colleagues.

I’ve entered my 8th year with La Marzocco and I can remember my first experiences as if it was yesterday. As I was already working in the industry, I knew several members of the La Marzocco family long before I joined the company. What I came to find, was that our culture was much deeper than social events and good times… that behind a product and brand there was a group of special people – and that was the “AHA!” moment for me.

While the word “family” in the workplace is sometimes overused, the important thing is that you make it real.

 

During the time you have been with the La Marzocco family, we understand the business has been through different periods of change, growth and challenges. Are there any defining moments (good or bad) you can recall during that time?

Yes, in recent years we’ve been enjoying growth. In 2009, however, it was a different story. We were in a perfect storm. It was the global economic crisis that gave birth to our strong team. Each of us had a strong personal sense for what needed to be done to help the company and we needed no direction.

It was an interesting time – full of adrenaline and initiative, spending several late nights with colleagues strategizing and thinking about the future. It was organic and it just happened. Today, I have the luxury to be able say that I work with my closest friends.

We’ve been lucky enough to experience the incredible culture that surrounds the La Marzocco family first hand. A healthy culture must translate to a motivated team – was this a strategic move for the brand’s identity or something which was organically built from within?

It was spontaneous… all that we are today came naturally. We work hard to create a place where people are in the centre. There’s a cool quote about two gifts parents should give their children: one is roots, and the other is wings. In fact, our job as leaders is similar to that of a parent:

The “roots” are our heritage, attitudes, vision and values. We need to help our people – and next generation of leaders – understand what they are part of.

Then we need to give them “wings” by providing them with clear objectives and priorities and a safety zone where our colleagues can be inspired to express themselves. It’s about putting people in the right position and providing them the necessary tools so that they can accomplish great things.

We work hard to build and sustain a healthy working environment, and the fact that it has translated into our brand’s identity was a natural process.

"The “roots” are our heritage, attitudes, vision and values. We need to help our people and next generation of leaders to understand what they are part of. Then we need to give them “wings”, by providing them with clear objectives, priorities and a safety zone where our colleagues can be inspired to express themselves."

Chris Salierno

Do you have an example you would like to share, that epitomizes the culture at La Marzocco?

The first thing that comes into mind as we have just returned to work after our summer holidays was the fact that several members of staff met during the break to spend part of their vacation together. I received photos and messages from groups of colleagues in Puglia, Sicily, Berlin – and as far as Koh Samui, in Thailand. Totally unexpected, it’s real – and that’s cool.

What personally motivates you? Not just at work, but in life?

What motivates me is an understanding that I’ve been involved in a massive cultural change within a company and industry – and that I have helped foster a legacy that I know my children can be very proud of.

We spend the majority of our adult lives at work. What motivates talented people to choose one job over another?

People look to change places when they find themselves living outside growth environments. So in order for our colleagues to express the best of their abilities, we need to help them grow. Humans are naturally self motivating; so we must create an environment where each person can become a motor of La Marzocco’s growth. What we are building is a culture that sparks innovation and creativity, a culture that applauds diversity and the human value – which is in turn expressed in our machines.

Young businesses are often driven by small teams of excited, passionate and enthusiastic individuals. As a business grows and teams get bigger, those initial motivators can become diluted.
How do you maintain motivation levels in times of significant growth?

It all falls upon transparency – by sharing who we are with our colleagues and by helping our people understand how we think and what we value. We are responsible for teaching culture to our people. It’s our DNA… and that can’t be delegated to consultants. It’s contagious and it has a multiplying effect that ultimately creates legacy. A feature on a machine can be copied. A culture can’t; it took us nearly 90 years to become who we are today. It’s that simple – which doesn’t mean that it is easy; there is a difference.