How to Be a Strong Business Leader in Difficult Circumstances – Michael Coles, Great American Cookie Co.

Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we welcomed back Michael Coles, co-founder of the Great American Cookie Company. Coles has built a career as a successful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and best-selling author. Coles is also the former CEO of the widely popular coffee company, Caribou Coffee, and he’s the namesake for Kennesaw State University’s Michael J. Coles College of Business.

Coles opens the conversation by explaining how his new book, Time to Get Tough: How Cookies, Coffee, and a Crash Led to Success in Business and Life, was written to motivate young entrepreneurs. Coles notes that the book has become even more relevant amid COVID-19 creating new obstacles and challenges for new businesses. 

“I think businesses that can innovate through social media and can build bigger on that side of their business will come out of this really well,” said Coles. “I think the others have to find ways to be innovative, whether it’s home delivery or however they can expand on how their business operates.”

Coles then goes into best practices for business people in today’s climate. His advice: know what you don’t know. Coles says that entrepreneurs should surround themselves with experts and people that know what they’re doing. When business leaders hire the right people, respect them, and allow them to do their jobs, they begin to see the results they are hoping for.

Coles closes the discussion by speaking on his involvement in nonprofit work. Coles is on numerous nonprofit boards. He speaks on the challenges that nonprofits face in today’s market.

“Everybody should be involved in nonprofits that they care about,” said Coles. “And it’s not always about giving money, in fact, one of the things I encourage people who have the ability to give money is to also give their talent and their mentorship to those organizations. Most of the people who can write big checks have an aptitude that most nonprofits can’t afford to tap into.”

Coles also encourages people to be good corporate citizens by engaging with nonprofits. Coles references Tom Cousins who has taken on major projects like revamping the East Lake area of Atlanta which is now a model for other cities across the country.


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This has been a JBF Business Media production.

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