A kindness-first culture with core values emphasizing its secret ingredients being flavorful, friendly, and fun, Bahama Bucks created more than a trademarked Cup of Sno. In 1990, owners Blake and Kippi Buchanan opened their first shaved ice shack with a vision for the future: to provide the Ultimate Tropical Dessert Experience. Over three decades and a few tons of ice later, the company’s culture, which serves as a stabilizer for its continued growth, remains consistent.
We sat down with Kippi to discuss the practice of establishing a long-lasting company culture.
LEDA: Tell us about the culture of Bahama Bucks?
KB: The first thing that we tell our Avalanche Crews and our staff is that we want to be flavorful, friendly, and fun. I mean, that really is our vibe. And we want that not only in our corporate office, not only in our warehouse but also in our shops with boots on the ground. Our goal is to bless, refresh and create a Mini-Vacation for our guests. Really, it’s that simple, but also, I think the biggest piece of culture is how you treat people. That starts from the top, and if the owners are kind and create a culture that is centered around our values and blessing our guests, it will be reflected in the experience we provide not only to the people who come into our office but to every guest who visits our shops. We make decisions based on the question, ‘does this Bless Our Guest?’ If we remember what drives us, what is our why then we’re always going to have a great culture.
LEDA: How have you established your culture to be what it is today?
KB: I think this starts with the leadership. I’m a firm believer in promoting from within. When it comes to our shops, I want to give a 16-year-old a pathway for growth. It’s rare for us to hire a manager from outside of the company to come in and manage this team. Why would I not choose someone who has already grown from a newbie all the way up the ranks to be a manager? The respect is already there. I believe this creates a great culture because our team members and our managers have years of experience within our company, which means they have bought into the culture. I also think it’s very important how we respect one another. Conflict in a corporate office is something that can’t be avoided, but how do we treat each other when we have conflict? Do we speak respectfully to each other, or is it ugly? How we want our teams to work starts from the top. We ask ourselves, “how can we grow our brand, create new ideas, and resolve conflict in a very professional kind way?” Unkindness is not tolerated within our office.
LEDA: Your teams in the shops and in the office are tight-knit, and all have a great rapport with one another. How do you maintain that?
KB: I try hard to pour into all managers within our franchise system while they are here in Lubbock for training. However, the shop will always reflect the owner or owners’ vibe. If the owner has a stingy heart, that shop reflects a stingy heart. If the owner is kind, friendly, flavorful, and fun, that energy will be reflected within the shop. I believe leadership is influence. Leadership is an example. Those are the two most powerful tools that a leader has. How you do things is how they will do things. More is caught than taught, always. So, you do have to mop the floor every once in a while; it doesn’t mean you have to do it all the time. It is crucial for your crew to see you are going to be right there beside them.
I just recently had all our Lubbock managers over to my house for dinner. I genuinely care about my managers, and if I can pour into them and tell them that I love them and that I care about them not only as a person but as our management team, they’re going to replicate that down the line.
LEDA: How has your company’s culture evolved since its inception?
KB: I like this question because it’s kind of like, to me, our corporate team is like a body, and the culture – the soul –will never change. I may age, but my values are always the same. We have to continue to grow. We can’t ring up things the way we used to ring them up on a POS or fax things over, it’s all on an app now. So, we have to evolve in those areas and advance the brand in that way. But the values? Those can’t change. Our company must evolve to grow, but the core of who we are, our soul, stays the same.
LEDA: What are you most proud of with the culture you have created?
KB: I mean, it’s the people for sure. My managers aren’t going to stay at Bahama Buck’s forever, I know that. But when you go out, and you see an Avalanche Crew member or manager that moves on and does great things, you can’t help but be so proud. My fondest memories are hearing how much that first job meant to them and what they learned. To me, this whole thing is about how we have impacted the lives of our people or influenced their decisions. We get a front-row seat to watching them grow. We do have an influence on people. And I just hope that we leave a good influence on people’s hearts and minds.