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Romancing human relationships

February 14, 2013
By Brian Martell


Feb. 14, 2013 – In his first blog, Brian Martell of the Heritage Coffee Company reminds us of the importance of engaging relationships.

Editor's note: Canadian Vending and Office Coffee Service is pleased to welcome
Brian Martell of the Heritage Coffee Company to our blog team. Brian
will be blogging once a month and encourages your feedback.

Feb. 14, 2013 – Do you remember those excitingly awkward moments in your first “real” relationship? Trying to do the right thing, always guessing what your girlfriend (or boyfriend) was thinking and, yes, a little terrified that you would mess it up? Some of us are still with our first flame, but the vast majority has moved on to other relationships, some resulting in marriage, kids and bigger responsibilities.

As I write this, I’m inspired by the young fellow at the pharmacy who is perusing the card section looking for that perfect Valentine’s Day card for his sweetheart (he was four days early, so it must be love). "Should it be funny, should it be romantic? If only I could get into her head and figure out what she wants!"


Instead of a once-a-year thing where we try to impress with words of affection, candy, flowers and a special night out, the wise couples know that the key to a good marriage is twofold – effort and good communication – and the two are intertwined. So what does this romantic missive have to do with coffee? Well, not a lot, unless you are in the coffee business and are selling it or buying it from someone.

In the opening lines of Anna Karenina, Tolstoy famously wrote, “Happy families are all the same, unhappy families are unhappy in their own special way.” Well, it turns out that human relationships, whether romantic or commercial, are subject to the same rules. The more we know, take interest in and actively LISTEN to our customers, suppliers, employees, and peers, the better we are able to make our businesses work. In the coffee world, this extends to not only keeping up with what is going on with our customers (what’s their pressing issue of the week?), but also with what’s happening in the larger coffee world that will affect their businesses now or in the near future. We all send information on the ICE – New York coffee market (and those who read it often liken it to reading a horoscope), but what are the opportunities or risks besides the undulations of bulls and bears?

Our industry is more than 500 years old – it makes the auto industry look downright embryonic – but the coffee industry operates in the 21st century; the age of information. It’s true that good communications make for good relationships, but choosing the how, what, when and why are the marks of a good communicator; one who will have successful relationships. Our ability to reach out to anyone has become so multi-faceted (Facebook, Linkedin, e-mail and the good ol’ telephone, to name a few) that we can get lost in the media and lose touch with the quality of the message (my apologies to Marshall McLuhan; I never did get the “medium is the message” bit). With so much competition for our eyes and ears, it is easy to get lost in the noise. So like the young fellow at the pharmacy about to get his Hallmark message of affection, we also need to communicate well . . . and just like him, that means we need to listen well.

Comments, questions, feedback? Let’s start a dialogue. Please e-mail Brian at, or leave a comment below. 

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