Canadian Vending

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Coffee Trends: The Coffee Community


December 3, 2009
By Brian Martell

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We all know what it means to belong to a community. It could be the one you live in; the one you play in (the hockey community, for example); or the community in which you work (vending or coffee service). And with all community memberships there are privileges and responsibilities.

We all know what it means to belong to a community. It could be the one you live in; the one you play in (the hockey community, for example); or the community in which you work (vending or coffee service). And with all community memberships there are privileges and responsibilities.

We often know the rules of good conduct in the live and play communities we circulate in, but what are those that pertain to the commercial communities we work in? The more obvious ones relate to the internal obligations we have with our companies whether we are owners or employees.

Employees put in their best efforts to achieve the tasks demanded by the company and owners must practice good governance and maximize their efforts making the best decisions they can for the company’s well being and by extension those of their employees. Employees who deal with external entities to the company (purchasing with suppliers, sales with customers) are expected to treat these important partners with respect, honesty and integrity.

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But what about those external forces we compete with on a daily basis; how are we to act with them?

Competition is a good thing. It keeps us focused on always improving, inspires innovation and, in the long run, has the effect of weeding out the less efficient companies allowing their owners, managers and employees to pursue other interest to which they would be more suited.

As such, contact with your competitors should be limited to the commercial playing fields of your industry. In most cases, the only time competitors congregate together is during the examination of open tenders. That said they are a part of the community with shared interests.

Associations recognize this truth and try to persuade members to adhere to a certain level of moral conduct. Aside from putting buyers and sellers together in a traditional competitive emporium (trade shows), the greatest service an association can offer its members is the unwavering condition that a formally drafted and approved code of moral ethics, enshrined in the association’s constitution, must be followed to belong to the association.

Indeed, if judiciously enforced, the code of conduct becomes a value unto itself for the association as a recognized standard making membership that much more important for affected companies. Just as individuals in a society have the right to their political freedoms; companies also have a right to be protected from competition and business practices involving willful misrepresentation.

And while this may be a grey area, especially when faced with new forces from your competition, the lines are definitely clearer when dealing with customers and suppliers. Every one of us has been faced with a situation where we have been dealt an unfair blow but beyond legal remedy and potentially the industry grape vine, the consequences of acting improperly are relatively light.

I’m reminded of a recent trip to Atlantic Canada where a customer on one of the islands noted that in smaller communities, the knowledge of unethical
business practices will rapidly make rounds of the community, even amongst the fiercest of competitors. Left unchecked, commercial deception can have a profound negative effect upon all the businesses; especially in those smaller, limited markets.

But what of the larger centres where mendacity has a smaller effect on the local market, but a devastating one on the individual company?

We are often tempted as engaged observers to quote “caveat emptor” when it happens to one of our competitors, or take our lumps quietly when it happens to us if we are in a larger market. Often rationalizing that we’re older and wiser with a lesson hard learned, we tacitly allow someone else to fall victim.

Why?

Taking the issue legal or at the very least filing a formal complaint with either the BBB or the association to which the aggrieving party belongs, allows others to make informed decisions on whether to deal with them or not.

The great majority of companies in all industries deal honestly and fairly knowing that their reputation depends on it. As a bare minimum, the commercial communities in which they ply their trade owe it to these companies to call out bad behaviour if no remedy can be found between buyer and seller.

Be it a debt unpaid by a solvent company who had no intention of paying the bill when the order was placed, or a total disconnect between the products and services offered and what was delivered; as good community members we owe it to ourselves and our industry to draw attention to the few miscreants who tarnish industry standards.


Questions or comments? Visit Brian at www.heritage-coffee.com.