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Coffee Write: ‘Alea Iacta Est!’


December 1, 2014
By Brian Martell

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Dec. 1, 2014 – We have many decisions to make in the course of the day
regarding the health of our businesses: some routine, some groundbreaking. As
our industry changes, it is becoming clear that larger decisions that will
impact the very existence of some OCS operators need to be made.

Dec. 1, 2014 – We have many decisions to make in the course of the day
regarding the health of our businesses: some routine, some groundbreaking. As
our industry changes, it is becoming clear that larger decisions that will
impact the very existence of some OCS operators need to be made.

Coffee, at the OCS level, has morphed from a kit of 500
beverages served in Styrofoam cups brewed in a Dip II and sold to office
managers to a highly complex system choreographed by the operator at the behest
of the human resources department looking to drive more productivity out of the
workforce. The evolution of our industry has brought us to a point where
barriers to entry are many and capital requirements are great . . . for even
one account. The customers and their environment have changed greatly as well,
with more being done by fewer staff, telecommuting happening more often, and
more ou- of-office options being brought in through upscale foodservice off
premises. 

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The extreme of “OCS Gone Wild” would be the great
experiments being done in the name of keeping talent and allowing them to be
productive at Google, Apple, HP and the other high-tech companies that anchor
Silicon Valley. That is not the reality of most businesses and likely will not
be any time in the future. Gourmet foodservice free to employees, recreational
amenities designed to keep employees on site and even the offer to freeze eggs
to delay families for female employees are not the daily realities most of us
face.  And yet it is becoming increasingly
more complex to service accounts who look at these examples as “what’s next.”

In addressing the changing tastes of the OCS market, many
companies will need to decide if they can make a business case for the added
expense associated with their geographical market’s demands. True, this will be
a big city phenomenon, but Canadians are one of the most urban people on the
planet. 

So what options are there? Over 2,000 years ago, a Roman
general was returning home after a successful campaign. He had powerful
aspirations but knew war better than politics and diplomacy. By Roman law, he
was not allowed to enter its territory as a general with his army and debated
what he would do before crossing the river that marked the beginning of Roman
domain. Julius Caesar famously proclaimed “Alea Iacta Est!” as he crossed to
Rubicon knowing he would be facing the battle of his life.  

“The Die is Cast!” has become the catchphrase of all who
make seminal decisions.  The beauty of
taking a stand in one direction is that it allows the organization, i.e., your
company, to focus all efforts in one direction to great effect. Focus x discipline
+ momentum = superlative results. The benefits are many when the leadership of
an organization concentrates the efforts of its people in a fruitful pursuit,
but it can be equally fatal to the company if that direction is a dead end.
Caesar was bang on when he invoked a gambling metaphor and perhaps that is what
most executives feel when trying to steer the company with imperfect information.
Consequently, we hedge by having many – and sometimes opposing – strategies but
these often lead to a division of energy and blurring of the target.

Right now, consumers’ expectations of coffee have gone
through a profound shift. The disruptive factors in this changing paradigm have
been evolutionary though the three coffee waves and revolutionary in the
proliferation of fresh-brew cup-by-cup cartridges. This disruption begets
uncertainty of the future, which begets opportunity. OCS operators are weighing
their options to decide on what to do for their businesses now and in the
future. Choosing the brewing options that will be your focus is secondary to
perhaps the larger question of service and culture differentiation.

How do your company’s core abilities that enable you to
deliver the new and existing brewing options to your customers’ satisfaction?
How can you hone your competitive advantages and then leverage them to achieve
the results you want? These are the real questions that, when answered through
thoughtful introspection, will allow you to focus your efforts to great effect
even when facing formidable competition. 

And like Caesar facing Pompeii at Pharsalus with a force
twice his own, focus, discipline and motivation will carry the day.

Brian Martell works at
Heritage Coffee as vice-president of sales and has 21 years of industry
experience. Brian has also been the recipient of three prestigious
awards: the Don Storey, Stuart Daw, and the Albert DeNovelus Customer
Service awards. Questions, comments, feedback, start a dialogue? E-mail
him at
brian@heritage-coffee.com .


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