2011

If Coffee People Ruled the Country…

[quote]Ask not what the coffee industry can do for you; ask what you can do for the coffee industry
John F. Reinhart[/quote]

AHave you ever pondered what it would be like if we ruled the country? If you simply put people from our industry, with our values, in charge of congress and the White House, all of the right stuff would get done. (We should not be in charge of the Judiciary branch. We just shouldn’t!) The value system of most people I know from the industry provides a basis for what would be a great platform as a political party. I propose the following Planks for the Coffee Party platform:

1) Treat your constituents (customers) as if they have the ability to make good decisions for themselves and give them all the information you can to help them. In the end it is their choice.
No one likes to be lectured to and no one likes to be treated like an idiot. In our industry we supply a ton of information and options so people can choose what is best for them. Educating our customers with facts about origin, certifications, environmental impact, and trade practices shed light on important topics to us. Your constituents will decide if it is important to them and thereby drive your business in a direction set by them.

2) A thriving Supply Chain equals a thriving economy.
Perhaps in no other industry will you find the relationship from the consumer to the original raw material manufacturer more openly realized. We understand the importance of building relationships with our trading partners and ensuring that everyone in the supply chain succeeds. If we look for short-term gains at the expense of others we ultimately fail. A good relationship is one where the hard work of all parties is celebrated with higher consumption and even higher profit margin. With that in play, economies not only here, but abroad benefit from the mature supply chain relationship.

3) Stupid bureaucracy is stupid: So Change It!
The neat thing about being a coffee person is the inherent need to spend as little time doing inane mental exercises over stuff that does not matter in the long run, and getting back to running our businesses and making coffee a better product. When government and NGO’s try to tell us what is best for the industry by making rules and regulations that hamper a good supply chain relationship we are quick to push back. (If I were president I would eliminate the need to do purge roasts before running organic coffee because that is stupid. But that may just be me!)

4) Bring your passion to the party but check your ego at the cloakroom.

With the exception of trade shows, when we get together we focus on our common goal of bettering our products, partners and our planet. We don’t sell and don’t want to be sold. We don’t allow lobbyists at our events. Very few logos are seen. What we do have is a deep passion for raising the tide for all ships. Sometimes those of us that have strong opinions on a topic get louder than may be needed but it comes from the heart. There are a few that enter the industry thinking ‘they know it all and should tell us how to do things’ but they are usually pulled aside and have the ‘your approach is not going to work’ talk.

5) We can always do better but that won’t stop us from acting now in the best way we can.

The majority of people in the coffee industry have ‘the entrepreneurial spirit’ whether they have started their own business yet or not. Even the mid-level executives of our larger partners treat their departments as creative and thriving businesses. As entrepreneurs we know that stagnation is death, as are foolish risks. We are more apt to be “Ready, Fire, Reload” than “Ready, Aim, Fire.” We have learned that small committees made up of the cream of that topic will move things faster than trying to put as many opinions in the room as possible for ‘thought diversity’. I would love to tell a congressman that if you don’t have expertise in the topic, go away and do something else where your talents are needed.

6) A weak link breaks the chain. Support those that need it with education.

We have all seen the signs for ‘GOURMET SPECIALTY COFFEE’ over a pot of macadamia nut flavored coffee that has been left on the burner of the gas station coffeemaker for six hours. This is a tough beast to battle. We have decided as a party to share industry knowledge throughout the entire supply chain so that information can make its way to our consumers as to why that gas stations coffee actually sucks. We understand that quality is a truly sustainable model for all. We will invite the owner of that gas station to one of our events so they can understand the error of their ways. If they do not choose to change we will compete against them until they have to make better coffee. This reality check applies to each member of the chain including farm labor, barista and each step in between.

7) We emphasize responsibilities over rights and improve what needs to be improved.

We don’t need a government agency to tell us that we should treat our customers, vendors, and employees with dignity and respect. We trade fairly without having to be told. If one of us does not act in this appropriate manner we will call them out rather than cover them up. It just takes one idiot to tarnish our party’s name so we will throw them under the bus if they won’t change. If we all take responsibility for our own actions we will be acknowledging and supporting the rights of others. We as a party need to tell this story better to our consumers so we won’t need a ‘mark’ to prove our good works.

This is a fun concept and could go on and on. The bottom line is this: Our industry (party) is made up of brilliant, kind, entrepreneurial, thoughtful business people. We would run the government efficiently and treat each other with respect. We would get the important stuff done as quickly as needed and do it for the betterment of all, not just ourselves. And we would have fun doing it, as we are all friends in this common cause.

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