Quality of Life in the Real World
We are born makers. We move what we’re learning from our heads to our hearts through our hands.
What does the Person to Person experience look like in the real world?
Throughout the book, we’ve built a narrative of Jake and his friends applying these concepts to build their own “quality of life world.” They’ve taken action toward stronger personal agency and forged deeper authentic connection with others. They’ve increased their financial freedom and ultimately, came to experience greater quality of life. Jake, Alex, Lana, Leon’s story is meant to demonstrate the various ways we can all begin to work towards an environment that prioritizes quality of life and sustainability over the toil for wealth, power struggles, and the pursuit of short term comfort at the expense of long term sustainability. Ultimately, we hope the story inspired you, piqued your curiosity, and led you to imagine the ways these ideas could play out in your own context.
But the story keeps going. We now want to lift our eyes from the fictional narrative, and instead, study reality.
This is the story of the first real Sovereign Asset and the first real collaborative, outside of our own partnership. The story involves a lush property in France, a coffee truck, a failed summer season, and two young men who—like Jake and Leon—wanted to start up something new, on their own terms. We had the chance to witness it firsthand.
From Theory to Real Life
In our book’s Introduction, we described how that special place in Ginoles les Bains inspired us to begin imagining what it might become. Like us, Joeri’s younger brother, Boris, who had been bouncing around the world, trying on different hats and jobs, is passionate about that region. After spending time in Canada training sled dogs and leading mushing expeditions for tourists, Boris had returned to his beloved region of southern France and began working as a barista in a resort. When the resort closed down, Boris moved to the large city of Lyon to get work as a bartender. He did not enjoy this work—he didn’t have a good relationship with his boss, and in his view, he had been given all of the responsibility, but received none of the credit. Besides, he missed home.
Boris was the son of one successful entrepreneur and the brother to another. He made up his mind to follow in the family trade and start up his own business in the Quillan region that he loved.
Pictured: Pierrick (left) and Boris (right)
Attempting the Traditional Start-Up Model
There was only one problem: “home” was a place where old people stayed and young people left. In spite of the lush vegetation of the region, it was a barren frontier for a would-be entrepreneur. There simply wasn’t much industry to tap into.
This did not overly concern Boris. He made up his mind that he would help revitalize the region with his new venture: he would start up a traveling coffee truck business that would serve deluxe cafes and cocktails as it traveled throughout the area. The truck would be elegant and hip; the drinks would be artisan; the aesthetic would be highly Instagram-able. He would help make the Quillan region cool again, and perhaps more industry would follow as people discovered its appeal.
Wisely, Boris decided to partner with his childhood friend Pierrick in executing his plan. Pierrick provided some needed ballast for the wind in Boris’ sails: he is conscientious, serious, practical, and has a good sense of administrative needs. As a professional rugby player, he also has access to an extensive network and could leverage that in multiple ways to draw more traffic to the Quillan region. Together, the two pitched their plan to investors in the traditional manner. They wanted the truck to be a place to celebrate life, to share and exchange new ideas and delights, to discover what’s possible—to provide people with a moment of real pleasure. They planned to take the truck in a crisscrossing route through the markets of the Aude river region, and also provide its use for private events, like birthdays, weddings, company meetings, public events, and trade fairs. At each event, their goal was to make the occasion feel more unique and special, using their truck, their vintage aesthetic, and their beautiful drinks.
They raised the capital to buy their first truck, and officially launched Au P’tit Plaisir—translated, “a small pleasure.”
The first summer was a great success. Boris and Pierrick put their all into the endeavor, working the lake front and markets in the mornings, and catering at special private events in the evenings. The truck was every bit as aesthetically appealing as they’d intended it to be, and Boris’ drinks were beautiful. The two young men also put their wholehearted effort into optimizing their customers’ experiences. They were charming, gregarious, and generated great word of mouth. It was a banner start.
Since they were paying back their investors for the first truck for a while now, they experienced that exploiting the truck gave them sufficient means and credibility to buy a second truck. They also decided to hire some employees to operate the second truck. However, at this point, the venture hit a road block. Although Boris and Pierrick hired good people and trained them well, the new hires functioned as employees—they didn’t operate as founders. In the truck Boris was operating, sales were nearly double what the other truck managed to pull in. The other employees didn’t feel Boris’ same passion to regenerate the region and felt no obligation to put in his same hustle.
Boris’ leadership style didn’t help. The only model he’d ever seen of a boss was that of a natural leader, who intuitively called the shots—not a team leader or fellow collaborator. He gave instructions, took initiative, put in a lot of effort, taking on almost all responsibilities, forgot to delegate, thus encouraged his team to become complacent and dependent. Soon it became obvious that team members didn’t equally invest in the collaboration and Boris and Pierrick became much more indispensable than they would have hoped for.
Managing the hours was also problematic. Legally, employees are limited to the amount of hours they’re able to work in a given day. In order to work the lakefront in the morning, employees needed to get up early; in order to work the special events in the evening, they also needed to stay late. In between, they had time off. This schedule had never felt problematic to Boris or Pierrick who were living and breathing the business. But to their employees, giving up their entire day felt like too much to ask. One early hire quit almost immediately. Replacing him wasn’t easy: they could offer no guaranteed compensation, no insurance, and not much of a successful track record to convince people to get on board. Soon they realized that there’s a big difference between hiring employees and recruiting like-minded colleagues. Although new employees were appealed by the so called freedom of the coffee truck, they soon found out that it brought a lot of responsibilities with it as well, which they seemed to experience as stressful. Daring to take initiative wasn’t a given for everyone apparently.
That’s when our paths intersected with Boris’—and our own theories suddenly had to reckon with reality.
Shifting to a Collaborative
Boris came to us ready to vent. He shared about his struggles with the employees: the lackluster sales, the half-hearted effort from the new hires, the legal complications posed by the hours issue.
With our minds full of the Core Design Principles, we tried to help Boris understand the human element of his struggles. “Building a team is more than just grouping people together,” Pim explained. “You need to align on a shared identity and purpose. People aren’t robots—they have a mind of their own, with their own interests. If you want people who will put their hearts into the work, you need to find people who genuinely want to be part of this.”
Joeri pointed out, “Whether they work more or less, they earn the same amount. They have no incentive to put in effort.”
As we talked through the problems and shared more about the Core Design Principles, Boris expressed interest. He also started to realize that his approach as an authoritative boss wasn’t helping generate buy-in or engagement among his employees. They weren’t thinking or advocating for themselves; they were simply following instructions at the minimal requirement. This problem is not uncommon in France; the legal system— which nearly always favors employees in litigation— poses almost an institutional impediment to people taking ownership and personal responsibility over their work.
Boris and Pierrick’s challenges struck a chord with us. For the last two years, we had steeped ourselves in theory about how we could use the Experience Center to help bring greater quality of life to the real world. Boris and Pierrick were trying to achieve their own quality of life in the real world, but were nearing the breaking point. All of us needed to move toward a new way of thinking—and we needed each other to get there.
Boris and Pierrick were intrigued and excited by the collaborative tools we recommended. Joeri helped the two young men get set up with a new fiscal and legal framework: they converted the trucks into Sovereign Assets, held by the Quality of Life World Foundation. They also changed their “articles of association” legally, so that Au P’tit Plaisir was an entity where people joined as co-founders. This allowed them to go and look for like-minded colleagues – aka Collaborators instead of employees. They attracted people willing to persevere, people who would get creative, people who would take initiative when confronted with the inevitable hurdles posed during a collaboration, such as resolving conflicts. People who would take agency as problem-solvers, willing to show up as a whole human to their collaboration—something which is often hard but leads to continual growth.
The former employees left—either of their own accord or at Boris’ request, without much complaint. Boris and Pierrick reconfigured their ideas of what kind of person they were looking for: not an employee who showed a basic ability to follow instructions, but a teammate, a collaborator, a co-founder who would catch their vision and throw their heart into the work. These people would have the work status of being self-employed, and operate as colleagues.
One candidate was obvious: Melvine, Pierrick’s girlfriend. Melvine had already gotten herself involved voluntarily by taking on the role of their social media promoter. They brought her on in an official capacity to lead their communication and design.
But there was still the issue of who would run the second truck. After a long search, Boris and Pierrick finally found Nicolas. Nicolas is an experienced bartender, used to the craft beverage business. He is driven by the same values as the other three; he possesses a team spirit, the desire to satisfy each customer by offering them a moment of discovery, and he is passionate about his job. After a few months’ barista training with Boris, he was put in charge of running the second truck for events in the nearby city of Narbonne. Like the other members of the team, Nicolas is self-employed, an entrepreneur, and an active collaborator of Au P’tit Plaisir.
With a new team of colleagues now assembled, the group entered into discussions about their shared identity and purpose; they also began codifying some of their values. Here are a few principles that they all wanted to rally around:
- To satisfy customers with expert service
- To use and propose high quality products
- To favor local and/or fair trade
- To invite customers into an adventure, filled with sharing, discovery, and novelty
- To embrace proximity by traveling to customers
They also spent time forging their collaborative partnership using some of the self-awareness tools we’ve described in the book. They did real time coaching with us as they confronted new questions or challenges.
After identifying their shared purpose, transforming their legal framework, and building a preliminary Collaborative Agreement, the Au P’tit Plaisir colleagues started to explore some of the new tools concerning personal growth, collaboration, and finance. They did a modified version of a Contribution Session, based on their budget’s allocation for salaries. After discussing their relative effort, the colleagues came to an agreement on what each person would be paid, according to percentages. They also sketched out a plan for how future payments should be dispersed if they ended up bringing in more than what they forecast during the summer season.
The shift worked—and then some. Au P’tit Plaisir was able to expand, opening a store-front roastery and boutique in September of 2020 called “La Fabrique,” while continuing to run the trucks. They also conducted an RFI in the Person to Person model to invest in a coffee roasting machine. Each new asset—the storefront business, the roastery, and additional equipment—was put into the Quality of Life World Foundation and made a Sovereign
Asset. After getting trained as roasters, they were able to launch their own coffee brand in 2020: La Fabrique Torrefaction, translated simply: “The Roasting Factory.” In keeping with the environmental sustainability requirements for SAs, the roasting process occurs via an electric roaster, powered by locally-produced solar energy to minimize the impact on the environment.
They brought on another new colleague to run their storefront: Alison joined the P’tit Plaisir adventure as a colleague and thereby adopted the values and commitments they formalized in the collaborative agreement. She welcomes customers, advises them, and directs them to the product that suits them. Through the customer relationship and the products offered, the focus is again on creating trust with their consumers, sharing transparently who took part in the chain to create their coffee and products.
They also sought to strengthen the Person to Person connections made possible by their business. Now roasting their own coffee, they began collaborating with the farmers and importers of the coffee. Boris, Pierrick, and their colleagues made a point to research coffee farms and get to know the producing farmers by name. Melvine introduced them to their customers and social media followers online. One post on La Fabrique’s social media page from 2021 announced:
Guatemala has made its entry to the Factory and what a joy for the taste buds!
This cafe is produced by Renardo Ovalle in la Bolsa, a farm that lies in the heart of the Huehue Tenango area. Renardo’s farm has obtained many prizes for the quality of its coffees.
This is an exceptional coffee with notes of plum, almond and floral flavors.
Feel free to come and taste it at the Factory!
#guatemala #coffeetime #coffee #huehuetenango #torrefacteur #occitanie #coffeegram #quillan #aude #frenchtorrefacteur
The La Fabrique boutique and roastery.
In providing these introductions, the colleagues are sought to connect customers directly with the person who produced their coffee, making each purchase feel more meaningful. The group is now seeking to further invest in product traceability and coffee quality. Boris, Pierrick, Nicolas, Melvine and Allison have also made connections with other businesses who shared similar values of quality of life and environmental sustainability. Products from these businesses are featured in their storefront boutique, such as Peruvian salt, Matcha tea, and ethically-made coffee tumblers, all of which align with their focus on high quality products from companies with shared values.
These Person to Person connections have been good for business. Connecting directly with farmers and producers has helped them control the quality of the products they offer and lower their production costs. Their boutique and its array of products are a trendy stop for visitors. The La Fabrique brand has become sought out by grocery stores in the region for their high quality, attractive reputation.
Maintaining their own connections has also remained important for the colleagues. Although they’re now spread out around the region, they meet together several times a week. At these meetings, they exchange ideas, discuss operations, and conduct commitment sessions. They also conduct monthly Contribution Sessions to determine who should get paid what amount. When one of them has an “off day,” there’s freedom among all of them to discuss how they’ll cover for that person. This collaborative framework has helped all group members to feel passionate about their work and the vision of Au P’tit Plaisir. They feel an equal stake in doing what’s necessary to make their collaboration thrive.
Boris, Pierrick, and their fellow colleagues are achieving what they set out to do: they offer exceptional products with a history, which bring together producer, roaster, and consumer. They are working alongside people who share their passion and vision for the work. They are connecting with companies that create more quality of life. They are investing in assets that serve the earth. Their activity is helping to bring new youthful energy to the Quillan region, increasing its appeal to new industry. They also continue to hone their own Collaborative Agreements with one another, and therefore continue to grow as people.
It hasn’t been easy. There have been plenty of challenges, and there continue to be. However, this early collaborative has found the Person to Person tools sufficient for dealing with those challenges—and as a result, they’re thriving.
They are doing what they want, in the place they love, with people they care about, while generating greater quality of life for others.