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by Rocky Rhodes

If Coffee People Ruled the Country…

Categories: 2011, SeptemberTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , Author:
Ask not what the cof­fee indus­try can do for you; ask what you can do for the cof­fee indus­try
John F. Reinhart

Have you ever pon­dered what it would be like if we ruled the coun­try? If you sim­ply put peo­ple from our indus­try, with our val­ues, in charge of con­gress and the White House, all of the right stuff would get done. (We should not be in charge of the Judiciary branch. We just shouldn’t!) The value sys­tem of most peo­ple I know from the indus­try pro­vides a basis for what would be a great plat­form as a polit­i­cal party. I pro­pose the fol­low­ing Planks for the Coffee Party platform:

1) Treat your con­stituents (cus­tomers) as if they have the abil­ity to make good deci­sions for them­selves and give them all the infor­ma­tion you can to help them. In the end it is their choice.
No one likes to be lec­tured to and no one likes to be treated like an idiot. In our indus­try we sup­ply a ton of infor­ma­tion and options so peo­ple can choose what is best for them. Educating our cus­tomers with facts about ori­gin, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, envi­ron­men­tal impact, and trade prac­tices shed light on impor­tant top­ics to us. Your con­stituents will decide if it is impor­tant to them and thereby drive your busi­ness in a direc­tion set by them.

2) A thriv­ing Supply Chain equals a thriv­ing econ­omy.
Perhaps in no other indus­try will you find the rela­tion­ship from the con­sumer to the orig­i­nal raw mate­r­ial man­u­fac­turer more openly real­ized. We under­stand the impor­tance of build­ing rela­tion­ships with our trad­ing part­ners and ensur­ing that every­one in the sup­ply chain suc­ceeds. If we look for short-term gains at the expense of oth­ers we ulti­mately fail. A good rela­tion­ship is one where the hard work of all par­ties is cel­e­brated with higher con­sump­tion and even higher profit mar­gin. With that in play, economies not only here, but abroad ben­e­fit from the mature sup­ply chain relationship.

3) Stupid bureau­cracy is stu­pid: So Change It!
The neat thing about being a cof­fee per­son is the inher­ent need to spend as lit­tle time doing inane men­tal exer­cises over stuff that does not mat­ter in the long run, and get­ting back to run­ning our busi­nesses and mak­ing cof­fee a bet­ter prod­uct. When gov­ern­ment and NGO’s try to tell us what is best for the indus­try by mak­ing rules and reg­u­la­tions that ham­per a good sup­ply chain rela­tion­ship we are quick to push back. (If I were pres­i­dent I would elim­i­nate the need to do purge roasts before run­ning organic cof­fee because that is stu­pid. But that may just be me!)

4) Bring your pas­sion to the party but check your ego at the cloak­room.

With the excep­tion of trade shows, when we get together we focus on our com­mon goal of bet­ter­ing our prod­ucts, part­ners and our planet. We don’t sell and don’t want to be sold. We don’t allow lob­by­ists at our events. Very few logos are seen. What we do have is a deep pas­sion for rais­ing the tide for all ships. Sometimes those of us that have strong opin­ions on a topic get louder than may be needed but it comes from the heart. There are a few that enter the indus­try think­ing ‘they know it all and should tell us how to do things’ but they are usu­ally pulled aside and have the ‘your approach is not going to work’ talk.

5) We can always do bet­ter but that won’t stop us from act­ing now in the best way we can.

The major­ity of peo­ple in the cof­fee indus­try have ‘the entre­pre­neur­ial spirit’ whether they have started their own busi­ness yet or not. Even the mid-level exec­u­tives of our larger part­ners treat their depart­ments as cre­ative and thriv­ing busi­nesses. As entre­pre­neurs we know that stag­na­tion is death, as are fool­ish risks. We are more apt to be “Ready, Fire, Reload” than “Ready, Aim, Fire.” We have learned that small com­mit­tees made up of the cream of that topic will move things faster than try­ing to put as many opin­ions in the room as pos­si­ble for ‘thought diver­sity’. I would love to tell a con­gress­man that if you don’t have exper­tise in the topic, go away and do some­thing else where your tal­ents are needed.

6) A weak link breaks the chain. Support those that need it with edu­ca­tion.

We have all seen the signs for ‘GOURMET SPECIALTY COFFEE’ over a pot of macadamia nut fla­vored cof­fee that has been left on the burner of the gas sta­tion cof­feemaker for six hours. This is a tough beast to bat­tle. We have decided as a party to share indus­try knowl­edge through­out the entire sup­ply chain so that infor­ma­tion can make its way to our con­sumers as to why that gas sta­tions cof­fee actu­ally sucks. We under­stand that qual­ity is a truly sus­tain­able model for all. We will invite the owner of that gas sta­tion to one of our events so they can under­stand the error of their ways. If they do not choose to change we will com­pete against them until they have to make bet­ter cof­fee. This real­ity check applies to each mem­ber of the chain includ­ing farm labor, barista and each step in between.

7) We empha­size respon­si­bil­i­ties over rights and improve what needs to be improved.

We don’t need a gov­ern­ment agency to tell us that we should treat our cus­tomers, ven­dors, and employ­ees with dig­nity and respect. We trade fairly with­out hav­ing to be told. If one of us does not act in this appro­pri­ate man­ner we will call them out rather than cover them up. It just takes one idiot to tar­nish our party’s name so we will throw them under the bus if they won’t change. If we all take respon­si­bil­ity for our own actions we will be acknowl­edg­ing and sup­port­ing the rights of oth­ers. We as a party need to tell this story bet­ter to our con­sumers so we won’t need a ‘mark’ to prove our good works.

This is a fun con­cept and could go on and on. The bot­tom line is this: Our indus­try (party) is made up of bril­liant, kind, entre­pre­neur­ial, thought­ful busi­ness peo­ple. We would run the gov­ern­ment effi­ciently and treat each other with respect. We would get the impor­tant stuff done as quickly as needed and do it for the bet­ter­ment of all, not just our­selves. And we would have fun doing it, as we are all friends in this com­mon cause.