Canadian Vending

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Coffee write: effective partnerships

November 1, 2013
By Brian Martell


Nov. 1, 2013 – Brian Martell emphasizes that effective partnerships can easily be built through face-to-face conversation. He describes the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association's (CAMA) annual trade show as the perfect venue to develop a relationship with industry members.

Nov. 1, 2013 – The dictionary definition of “association” could be the congregation of like-minded individuals for a unified purpose. Trade associations are formed and dissolved based on the cohesion or divergence of the ideas that brought industry members together.

The feel of associations across all industries has changed dramatically as our media franca (the internet and other instantaneous electronic media) has allowed us to access more information than ever before. Associations that have relied heavily on the power of information when it was expensive or difficult to access have had to re-define their value added proposition to entice members.


As a result, many associations have turned to advocacy as a means of maintaining relevancy. From a financial point of view, revenue streams derived from dues based on members valuing the work done by the association to promote the industry tend to ebb and flow depending upon the perceived threats or lack thereof.

In our own industry of OCS and vending, most of the advocacy has been done regarding government policy as it pertains to the Royal Canadian Mint and the Bank of Canada (the arm of government responsible for the issue of bank notes). When nothing is happening with policy manifested through these two entities, our vending and OCS association (CAMA) tends to fall off the radar of most operators.

Indeed, the strictly OCS operators often don’t get caught up with the thrust and parry of CAMA’s dealings with the government as it really doesn’t affect them. Unlike the U.S., which constantly has government lobbyists going to Washington or their state capitals on behalf of the vending operators (usually over tax laws), Canadian vending operators get worked up when there is a change in our currency (which seems to have been in a constant state of flux since 1987).

So given the relatively peaceful affairs with the government on the advocacy side coupled with a large cohort of purely OCS operators in CAMA, what other relevance does the association bring to its members in the form of value added benefits?
Every year, hosted at different cities of our beautiful nation, CAMA brings all of its vendors to the industry under one roof.

Yes, some have said that trade shows have become anachronistic since the advent of instant information, but successful businesspeople recognize that dealing with one company over another is more than a question of defined parameter satisfaction.
The simple calculations that can be made through sales telemetry do not fully grasp the essence of what businesses are all about.

In our industry, we are almost exclusively B2B unless you’ve opened a storefront counter to the public. Businesses need to mesh to get the best value out of them and often the website rubric “About Us” has more to do with platitudes than the core values embraced by the owner. If we count all the ways we communicate electronically, (phone, e-mail, Skype, texting, fax, BBM, IM, etc.) almost all of these methods leaves out a core source of communication that cannot be replicated through media: the non-verbal communication we give through face-to-face conversation.

Earlier it was stated that business relations are more than facts and figures. And while it is true that we need metrics to measure our KPI’s (key performance indicators), businesses are made up of people who have to make the best decisions possible for the good of the company. Gathering information can be costly and filtering out noise or out-and-out misleading information is onerous.

Why not gather that information through more than one facet at a time?
The beauty of trade shows is that it allows operators to communicate on a multifaceted level with vendors and potential vendors to see if not only the parameters of what is required can be met, but if the culture of the vendor’s company is a match for their own.
This is much harder to do by surfing a site, exchanging e-mails or even over the phone.

What better use of an operator’s time if there are multiple vendors in one room and the travel time between “appointments” is actually measured in seconds?
At the most recent CAMA show in Vancouver, I observed one of the few operators in attendance from Ontario methodically visiting every vendor. He was introducing himself and listened to the salespersons’ presentations.

Yes it took discipline, and from another angle he mentioned he was there to support the vendors as much as they were there supporting our industry with their hard earned dollars invested into the show. But it was telling that this man is also one of the most successful operators in his market that recognizes these shows offer more of an opportunity to get to know the players in our industry on a more profound level.

With that understanding, great businesses are built on a foundation of effective partnerships (with both customers and suppliers) that share common values.

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

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