Author Archives: Hugo

Coffee, Sex & Doing the Business …

I have been on my travels in the last 6 weeks and thinking of my trip am reminded of a brilliant comment a Brazillian made to me ;  

Coffee is like Sex …. Everybody wants it but not many know what good is! 

Businesses spend a lot of time and energy extolling the virtue of their coffee. Its always exceptional quality, can be hand selected, roasted, brewed and is usually always better than the rest.  

The truth is that it is generally mediocre and the main reason for this is that the operators and resellers of every kind simply don’t invest enough time into their coffee service or solution.

Probably the number one thing that all of us selling coffee need to focus on is that it is a business …… and we have all heard somebody sometime say that any business has to sell something and to do that you need to know your product and know your customer. Wise words indeed. It is probably not that surprising then that most coffee salesmen (and that is probably you!) don’t heed those wise words. Many are selling coffee and know very little about it and even less about how to prepare it properly. 

Coffee is most likely the biggest margin product you will sell and so should command a significant part of your planning and execution time. To make good profits you need to hook and addict the customer with a fantastic tasting product and that means that you have to control the brewing factors.  Don’t know what they are or how to do this ….. then get hold of a good coffee supplier and ask the right questions. They are out there … but you have to do a bit of homework to find the good ones!  

More on how soon ….. 


Who are you doing it with ? ….

Its easy to make this point, and I realise like many things we all know the adage that ‘Show me your friends and I’ll tell you what sort of a person you are’, however, it is very difficult to convey the profound meaning of it and in the business of coffee like many others it is a fact that ;

You are your customer/client list.

Call it many things ; Selective sell, 80/20 rule, Individualisation, PR strategy, Focus, Niche , VIP or (God forbid) Key Witness Account the bottom line is that You are your Client portfolio. You are professionally defined by who you do business with.

So make your customer list count. Spend time planning it. Take great care deciding who. And be prepared to say No. Those businesses who grow by acquiring the wrong type of customers are never going to become great. Think about how this very obvious strategy can apply to your business …. yes its about location and taste and quality and service and on and on but your secret weapon can be serving the right people …. every £1 is not equal …


The biggest dirty little secret in business

Reading the brilliant Jack Welch tonight on Candor which he calls “The biggest dirty little secret in business” in his bestseller ‘Winning’, I realise just how very important this idea is in the coffee business.

Just focus for a minute on the exact meaning of the word from the Oxford Dictionary ;

1. Frankness or sincerity of expression; openness.

2. Freedom from prejudice; impartiality

It strikes me that many potentially very good people at all levels and in all sectors of the coffee business let themselves down so much because they fail to communicate clearly and withhold what they really think for all sorts of reasons and it is absolutely damaging to their business.
It is only the very good operators that want to know the truth after all how else are they meant to be in a position to fix it. Too many people want to avoid conflict and just make life easier.

How many times

  • have you told the waiter that your meal was fine when it as poor?
  • that you were happy when you were not?
  • that your coffee was good when it was dreadful?

Better still

  • how many swear by Fairtrade and totally misalign behaviour?
  • completely miss sell a solution to an inexperienced buyer?
  • fail to warn a colleague that they are wrong?

Welch says people who are not candid do not look at the bigger picture. They are actually destroying trust. Without candor everyone saves face, and the business lumbers along. The status quo is accepted. Fake behavior is just a day at the office … and he is so right. I have seen so much of this over the years.
The people who are straight talking are often labeled troublesome. These are the very people that you need in your business. They are the very people that will drive the culture of quality and innovation that every successful enterprise craves. In coffee particularly it is critical to find those people who will take responsibility for quality – every time.
All of us, whether employees or owners, have to understand that its always always about the people first – and if they have that rare ability of candor – then you are on an absolute winner working with them.


Saying “No”

I spent an infuriating two hours with two people this morning cupping, tasting and preparing coffee at my taste rooms. I sort of knew what would happen and in hindsight I should have said ‘No’ to the meeting which was a waste of time (except that I tasted a fabulous Ethiopian Yirgacheffe). They were not potential customers and wanted to extract as much information as they could for their own benefit without giving anything back. I suppose I expected to get some information return.

It made me think that I tend to admire people who can say “No” and mean it, even if it is not what I want to hear. At least I know where I stand. Unfortunately not everybody has that ability to be clear. To a salesman like me ‘maybe’ or ‘let me think about that’ – anything to buy time so that you will go away – is part and parcel of the job and we can get very good at reading the signals which of course is an important professional skill when trying to close deals.

But my point really is that in business we have to be able to prioritise well and if we are clear about saying ‘No’ people can build that all important trust and respect for each others time and expertise. They will know where they stand and it allows them to move on to the next stage of a decision or outcome quickly.

There is nothing more infuraiting than the person who says he will do something and then intentionally does nothing – a kind of benign neglect. There is no intention of delivering and they are secure in the knowledge that the longer you have to wait the less likely you are to succeed.

So top tip for today – just say ‘No’ to these people. I am going to read this blog myself now!


What would you do if you lost your best customer? …..

…… so what are doing to keep them ?

Most of us know that we need new customers …. in fact, most people devote the vast majority of their time, money and energy on acquiring new customers and all but ignoring existing business … a huge mistake.

There are only 3 ways outside of new business to grow ….

  1. Increasing the average spend
  2. Increasing the amount of visits/spend
  3. Increasing the loyalty or life of that customer

Lets take average spend as £3 (a tall cappuccino and a muffin in Starbucks would be £3.34). If I have 100 customers a day then my turnover would be around £100,000 p/a.

  • If I can increase the average spend by only 50p I would add another £15,000 …. and just think of how many ways you could do that.
  • If I can get 10 customers a day to come back again an extra time a week I add another £9,000.
  • If I can increase the loyalty of an average customer from 12 months to 15 months I add another £25,000.
  • Do all three together and double turnover and its much easier because these people already know, trust & like you – and we all buy from people we like!

As you can see, increasing each one of these – or all three – by a small amount produces dramatic results. So, in addition to acquiring profitable new customers look for ways to grow your business using the customers you already have and focus your marketing activity directly at them.

You have to be thinking the business bit all the time …. because now you have mastered the quality bit … your coffee already tastes great … doesn’t it ?