The dust kicked up by the holidays has settled and the extra long roast days are, for now, in your rear-view mirror, it is time to look forward and think of what the new year might bring. It’s time for your New Year’s Resolutions. Of course, we have some ideas for you, revisiting a 2018 post on this topic.

Fire that Customer

You know the one we’re talking about. Everybody in your company knows who we’re talking about. Maybe their kitchen staff is abusive to your delivery driver. Maybe they are rude, demanding, and dismissive when ordering their coffee or talking to anyone at your company. Maybe they’re always a late pay and when you try and address the fact that they’re over 60, over 90 days out they use the opportunity to file a list of complaints about the coffee, about your staff, about how you’re not doing anything for them. Maybe they’re always talking about the other roasters that visit them and offer them better prices, free equipment, the moon. Whenever they make a mistake with their order, it is your fault. And … they buy 5 pounds of coffee a week (or whatever is “not a lot” for your company right now).  Just the mention of this customer’s name causes people in your company to groan.

There will always be the “problem child” here and there among customers. Sometimes the challenging customer buys enough coffee that you accept the trade-off (or so much coffee that you have no choice). But sometimes you do the math and find not only do they make everyone miserable all the time, but you’re not making any money with the account. In fact, working with that customer is a negative return. They buy too much coffee, then insist you take coffee back when it’s no longer fresh. They make your delivery driver wait twenty minutes for a check after insisting that coffee be delivered within a narrow window of time.

If you’re not willing to put up with this sort of thing for an account that provides no value to your company, you can simply stop accepting the behavior: No, we won’t take coffee back. No, we won’t send you more coffee until your account is current. No, we won’t be delivering coffee anymore, we’ll be shipping and yes you have to pay for shipping. Either the account will move on or become palatable enough to keep.

Or, you can fire them. If they are disrespectful and abusive to customer service staff, delivery drivers, account managers, this is really your only option (especially if all those jobs are done by one person). How you go about this will depend on the person you’re dealing with and the circumstances, but your goal should be an amenable, no blame break up. There are coffee roasters with a business model that allows them to absorb customers like this with little negative impact, usually larger roasters who have highly automated systems for low volume customers, systems that cannot be persuaded to place an order for coffee even if the previous two invoices have not been paid. It has been said that every coffee has a customer. Well, every customer has a roaster.

Tidy Up Your Accounts Receivable

Related to number the above, it’s easier to do the math if you’re doing the math, know who is paying late, and have a process in place to address overdue invoices systematically. We addressed this in a blog titled “Getting Paid.”


Create a New Blend

Don’t fear the blender! Once upon a time in the coffee industry, most coffee was blended and even coffee that was single origin may not have been labelled as single origin. Some blends served a particular flavor profile and some blends served the inventory realities of the roaster, that is, they absorbed whatever green coffee the roaster needed to use (or had available). This reflected an attitude among commercial coffee roasters, that coffee was coffee and it would do what it was told. An old joke that pre-dates the emergences of specialty coffee as a self-identified industry segment, but seemed to anticipate the rise of specialty went like this: “You can have any coffee you want as long as it’s Colombian,” or whatever was on hand.

Although blends have always been a part specialty coffee, single origin coffee grew in popularity among new roasters and this trend reached a point where some new roasters had no blends except, perhaps, for espresso. Some even used this as a point of differentiation with competitors, claiming that blends served no purpose other than masking inferior coffees.

Oh Baloney. Just because a specialty roaster might have a blend that serves a functional inventory purpose of obtaining flavors greater than the sum of their parts, doesn’t mean that specialty standards do not apply to the end product. And setting aside any inventory considerations, a blend is a whole new coffee creation for you to offer customers, a new story that is as much about you as it is about the origins.

Check out our two part podcast on blending here and here.

Buy Forward

Maybe 2019 is the year you start buying forward. Take a moment to revisit two Olam blogs on “Buying Forward” and “Forecasting & Credit.”

Organize Your Green Buying

Too often, business growth slows because the organization simply wasn’t prepared or structured for growth. For coffee roasters, it’s critical to have your green coffee buying ducks in a row. Take a moment to revisit articles on “Disciplined Buying” and “Spreadsheets.”

Be More Strategic

Another critical component to preparing for growth is moving beyond tactical action and taking a more strategic approach to looking ahead. Take a moment to revisit “Vision, Strategy & Tactics.”

Bring More Intention to Brand and Marketing

2019 is the year your marketing and brand management becomes proactive and purposeful rather than reactive and a coin toss among opportunities. Take some time to revisit “Restaurant Accounts,” “What Does Local Mean,” and “The Seven Word Marketing Plan.”

Whether you adopt any of these resolutions for your business, come up with your own, or just don’t do the whole resolution thing, we trust you are as committed to the success of your business as we are and we look forward to being a part of your 2019.


All photos by Olam