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The Servant-Leadership Philosophy that Has Propelled the Ballard Brothers

By: PJ's Coffee

Category:PJ's Coffee Commitment

For Steven, Scott and Paul Ballard, brotherhood has helped them create a long-lasting legacy and provide true servant-leadership to the PJ’s Coffee family. PJ’s Coffee has been a part of their life from the beginning and has been able to bloom under their passion, leadership and guidance.

Here’s how they make it work:

How would you describe your leadership styles?

Steven: We were all athletes and did team sports; I played college football. I was a coach for a little while as well, so I really like to build teams. I don’t ask people to do something I haven’t done or willing to do myself in the past. I enjoy being task-oriented – I like to give my teams a task to accomplish and be able to encourage and motivate them based off of goal achievement. I think our success has come from the three of us being able to put our individual desires on the back burner for what's best for the company and that's not always easy – especially as brothers and because we’re all used to being leaders. We all have enough of that servant leadership where we understand sacrifice, and all three of us have utilized and sacrificed our own ideas for the betterment of the whole team.

Paul: I think the servant leader is a great way to describe where we continue to evolve, too. I think in order to build the company over the last 20 years, we've had to learn how to delegate. Whereas when you start the company and the only have the three of us and a couple of employees on the store level, you depend on drive and ambition – those things get you to a certain point. But, then as you continue to grow as an organization, there's different leadership skill sets that have to evolve and I think we are a good example of having to learn how to do that.”


What is your biggest leadership challenge, particularly working as a family?

Steven: It's very challenging, honestly. You know, we always had people say all the time, “I could never do this with my family or my brother in particular.” One of the things that I think is made one of the reasons and secrets our success as a partnership group is ultimately even if we have typical brother fights or disagreements or we come at an idea from a different angle, the ultimate success of the business is first and foremost in all of our minds individually – that's the thing we care most about.

Scott: I look at us as being stewards of the brands that we create. We are not defined – I'm not individually defined by my business. I look at this as a journey. We are stewards of these brands just like Phyllis [Jordan], the founder of PJ's. I think that that mentally creates a dynamic where you are in a sharing environment of shuttling the brands along their best path. And so I think that any of the personality problems or the pride or jealousies go by the wayside by having that mindset of, “We're on this journey together just stewarding the brand's to be the best that they could be.” I think that helps to alleviate any of the challenges.


What has been your proudest entrepreneurial moment?

Paul: I feel like I'm living the American dream in the fact that PJ's Coffee was the first business I ever invested in, in the fact that Steve, Scott and I and our families were able to buy it in 2008 – it is just amazing. That was a special day. I remember when we negotiated the deal, I remember the day that we did it. The confidence has never wavered from it becoming everything that it can be. Another special day was when we hit a hundred locations between all the brands – that was fun. And then more recently when we hit a hundred locations with PJ's, that was another really special day. I remember when Steven Scott and I got together as partners. I think that changed my life forever in the sense that I think it really excited us three and being able to build on that legacy was a special moment.”

Steven: Proudest moment is how we shepherded our company through [Hurricane] Katrina. I would have to say that was a watershed moment for us. It was a watershed moment for our leadership style and how we were going to overcome this massive issue. We had no revenue coming in as a company, and we got through that and shepherded our company through that without ever having to lay anybody off or permanently closing a store or location. We got to where we are today because of that watershed moment and how we led ourselves in our company through that.


Thanks to their intentional, servant-leadership style and passion for PJ’s, the Ballard brothers have catapulted the brand from 50 units to now over 125 locations across the United States. For more insight on the Ballard brothers and their relationship with the brand, check out this article on our website.