A team that’s built to last


Wayne Katz has been fueling Whistler for years. First at Zog’s Dogs, then Moguls Coffee House, Gone Village Eatery and Lift Coffee Company, but it’s not just coffee beans and baked goods that energize his booming businesses. His crew keeps customers loyal to their Lift lattes and devoted to their Zog’s Dogs and it’s because of this team that Katz has grown (and continues to grow) his local eatery empire.

Success, for Katz, is determined not simply by profit, but by people. He’s growing his business by cultivating a team (now 140 employees) with strong roots because his passion lies in looking after people, especially in this community.

“Success is not about you. Success is always about the people around you,” said Katz.

Risk and reward

Katz’s believes that to grow your people you must keep growing your business and although he admits his philosophy is not comfortable for everyone, he insists this means taking risks.

Whether it’s extending hours of operation or integrating more food into a traditional coffee shop mix, there have been plenty of risks along his road. One of his boldest moves came when he acquired his second location, Moguls Coffee House.

“We paid the premium price for location, but I jumped at the opportunity and proved we could do better and make more money. From there we just jumped at the big opportunities when they came up,” he explained.

The success of his Village eateries led to Lift Coffee Company locations in Function Junction and Nesters, a catering business, a pub in Squamish and a food truck in the works. When staff can grow along with the company they are rewarded with opportunities for new roles, new locations and higher wages.

“If you’re growing that allows you to keep people because when you grow you give your staff more stability,” said Katz. “Selfishly, I wanted to grow my business, but truthfully, I grew because I knew that I had to, for people to stay and then those people help develop a culture.”

Mountain life motivation

In his commitment to elevating his people, Katz focuses on what truly matters to his team, so they have a quality of life they can enjoy for the long haul.

“Time is the most meaningful to the new generation. They want money, but they’re not as concerned about money as they are for their balance of life. Especially living here, they want to bike, hike, ski and travel, so you have to support those things. Their lifestyle is extremely important.”

This is why Katz provides bike park passes, gym passes, ski passes and other benefits to engage staff and enhance their Whistler experience. While admitting it is a challenge in a resort, Katz tries to give staff (including management) a four-day work week and provide ample holiday time.

“I never believed in the traditional system of two weeks off. To work human beings to death is just absolutely not logical,” said Katz. “Yes, there’s a cost. Do I make less money? I absolutely make less money, but I never believed in that philosophy.”

Setting the course for growth

Katz is excited for the opportunity to develop future leaders, as longtime Whistler business owners begin to retire or pull back to work in different capacities.

“My generation has held the reins for so long and now it’s shifting. Look at Joey Gibbons, Joey Houssian, Jay taking over at Caramba, Pepe from Mexican Corner, Eric at Alta Bistro — all these young people. I’m stoked for this next generation. It’s a big shift and it’s a first in our community,” said Katz, who is just as passionate about nurturing talent within his own business.

He is keen to share his unique experience with his senior team who have grown with him and are in that age group that are now ready to take the torch.

“They can run it. They have the ability, with us being behind the scenes, giving them wisdom and direction. I’m building succession for someone to take over from me and I implicitly ask that they are building succession as well.

I want them to make sure they are constantly building succession. I’m a real nut for that.”

This waterfall effect of wisdom and direction creates a bright future for his team and sets the course for tomorrow’s leaders.

Katz on placing the priority on his people:

“Supporting your staff is really important, but it’s not just important in Whistler, I think it’s important everywhere and it’s logical for all businesses.”

Link to Whistler Question article: http://ow.ly/VMarn