September 17

The View – 30 Years in Business

The Tortoise vs. The Hare


[note color=”#FFCC00″]Letter to the Editor

Hi Kerri,

Just finished reading Coffee Talk front to back and felt this was an informative and well written issue. (Aug)

The tribute to our friend Skip Finley with accompanying photos was heartwarming with a touch of sadness.

Rocky’s advice was right on and Sherri John’s point’s taken on Third Wave venturists. (folks that venture forth)


Dan Cox President, Coffee Enterprises[/note]

This August I celebrated my 30th year in business.

Anniversaries are interesting. They provide an excuse to reflect, to ponder, to judge.

I couldn’t help but take note of Samantha Novick’s article on page 8 of this month’s CoffeeTalk issue entitled “What I Wish I knew.” Her article came at a perfect time of reflection in my own career and made me consider “What I Wish I Knew” 30 years ago when I started my first business. It is a simple truth that sometimes we need to make mistakes so that we can learn from them. If we are smart, we mitigate as much risk as we can though in the process, so that we don’t lose it all.

In reading Samantha’s article I was impressed by so many of the quotes. Caroline Bell from Café Grumpy reminds us that we need to take care of ourselves and manage our stress and health. I also appreciate what Stephenson said about making sure that you have “a proper Board of Directors or advisers to help guide you.” I was very fortunate when I began the magazine back in 1994 to have some generous, dynamic coffee icons agree to help with my new magazine.

While my story seems to be headed towards a happy ending, I honestly don’t know how I survived the first 5 years, let alone 30! By the end of my column, I’m hoping to figure that out myself.

In 1987 I was a few years out of college and ready to take on the world. I was so excited, so confident, so resolute that I didn’t have time to even consider all lessons I’d have to learn.

If I knew then, what I know now, I might not have even tried. But thank God I didn’t quit. In retrospect I am very thankful that after failing hard the first time, I was given another opportunity. Specifically, I found a mentor who could teach me to be more conservative, more careful. I learned that you need a lot of energy and passion but that slow and steady wins the race. In short, early on I was the hare…until I learned it was better to be the tortoise.

So, my first bit of advice to the fresh entrepreneur is to ride that excitement, ride that confidence, ride that resolution for as long as you can. The hard truth is that you need to learn your own lessons in your own way.

With that said, here are 10 things I know now that I didn’t know 30 years ago.

1. You don’t know what you don’t know.

2. You don’t know as much as you think you know.

3. Surround yourself with smarter people than yourself.

4. Asking for help is NOT a sign of weakness.

5. Entrepreneurs don’t sell…they evangelize.

6. Tenacity paired with a little bit of insanity is a good combination.

7. Take ownership of your decisions whether they are right or wrong.

8. Don’t panic. Every problem has a thousand solutions.

9. Don’t be the hare. Be the tortoise.

10. Failure is not permanent.

As the publisher of CoffeeTalk I have seen a lot of companies come and unfortunately, I’ve seen many of them go. I have a special place in my heart for startups because I’ve been there. I remain appreciative to all those that have helped me, and in reflecting over my past 30-years, hope I can pay homage to my mentors by continuing to pay it forward each and every day.

Because of what I’ve learned, I realize that even in my settled years, I need to keep pushing forward, adopting and adapting to new technologies and to ask myself each day how I can reinvent my publishing business. To this end, we recently launched a new online Webinar training series which will evolve into an online training library and also be developing an automated digital marketing/client engagement platform for small-to-mid sized café owners.

Thank you to everyone, and there are a lot of you, that I’ve learned from over the past 30-years.

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