March 14

Roasters Rock

Roasters Rock Monthly Column

When you wake up in the morning, you are faced with choices, influences, and responsibilities. For many, the sorting out of these things requires a shower, followed by a cup of hot coffee. People in the coffee industry are no exception to this reality, but they tend to go about setting priorities in a different way; they consider others, as well as themselves.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

When deciding what is important to a coffee person, they consider God, family, self, and ‘the greater good.’

GOD: Finding some way to connect to your spiritual self brings a sense of calm. Whether it is prayer, meditation, or some other method, you build a solid core set of values with which to vet decisions.  These values shape the goals and frame the actions taken.

FAMILY: If you have a spouse, children, parents, or siblings, you probably want to look out for them. (At least some of them!) Coffee people tend to be in solid relationships because they are caring people. There is a burning desire to take care of those closest to you. This reality also shapes the day’s priorities.

SELF: Coffee people are also fiercely unique individuals that like to be independent. They know that by taking care of yourself, you can accomplish a couple of key things:

1)    Nobody else will be burdened with taking care of you.

2)    You can truly take care of others and make a difference when your own well-being is solid.

“It is one of the most beautiful compensations in life, that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

The above three areas of importance are fairly obvious for most people living a thoughtful life. Coffee people however, have one additional area that makes them distinctly special.

THE GREATER GOOD: By embracing God, family, and self, the industry professional is able to see a broader picture, and they see that the industry itself needs help, too. A greater good for these people involves caring about the entirety of those in the supply chain; from the growers at origin to those that need the coffee to start their own day. There is a recognition that without each other doing well, all will suffer. Conversely, if the supply chain is thriving, then the world and the individual thrive as well.

So the day gets planned, priorities set, and the morning coffee is finished; the coffee professional sets forth to change the world. But for some, things just don’t seem to go as planned. They need one final ingredient to make things work: BALANCE.

”I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
—E.B. White

If balance is not achieved in goal setting, then it can result in unintended consequences. Some examples of coffee people’s great intentions gone bad:

1)    Giving too much
Charity to others should be a core value. Balance however, dictates that you can give more to others if you are healthy, wealthy, and wise. Give until it hurts, not until it damages your ability to give the next day and the day after that. The unintended consequence might be becoming the person needing the charity of others, thereby creating a compounding negative affect.

2)    Offering to pay TOP DOLLAR for the best coffee from the farm
On the surface, a farmer that gets top dollar for the 90+ coffees should be happy. In fact, done incorrectly it can have the unintended consequence of damaging the overall profit of the farm. Be strategic and inclusive of the desires and needs of the farmer, and make sure you don’t move the defects in such a way that the bulk of the crop is worth less in value than what is gained by selling a small amount at a super-premium.

3)    Over-servicing the customer
Have you ever had a terrific barista that gave ‘extras’ to all of her customers only to quit and then have customers disappointed that the freebies were no longer available? Customer service is supposed to give a consistent and positive experience every time. To do too much can have the unintended consequence of customers going somewhere else.

“CEOs hate variance. It’s the enemy. Variance in customer service is bad. Variance in quality is bad. CEOs love processes that are standardized, routinized, predictable. Stamping out variance makes a complex job a bit less complex.”
—Marcus Buckingham

4)    Looking at wealth as ‘unfair’ to those that don’t have it

Monetary wealth is not a measure of anything except the amount of money that someone has. Sometimes it is earned, sometimes inherited. Either way, it’s their money, and their choice on what to do with it. You have the same choice and you get to control your values. Knowing your own values will allow you to reconcile being wealthy and caring and fair in whatever way is comfortable to you. Even if ‘the wealthy’ gave all of their wealth away, it would not change poverty. In fact, it might have the unintended consequence of creating a ‘welfare state,’ which is far more detrimental to the rise out of poverty.

“It’s no disgrace to be poor, but it is not a recommendation either!”
—Zig Ziglar

So wake up, shower, grab a cup of coffee, and prepare to change the world. Coffee people can, and do, make a difference every day. Look out for yourself, your family, and seek a higher guidance to know the balanced way to help the industry. The INTENDED consequences will be wonderful.

Rocky Rhodes is an 18 year coffee veteran, roaster, and Q-Grader Instructor, and his mission now is to transform the coffee supply chain and make sweeping differences in the lives of those that produce the green coffee. Rocky can be reached at rocky@INTLcoffeeConsulting.com as well as RockR@CoffeeLatinAmerica.com

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