I sit here debating which direction to take with this month's column, and with a slight sense of what I can only assume to be "writer's block." During the National Automatic Merchandising Association's OneShow in Chicago, I received a lot of feedback and congratulations for this column, from many folks I know and respect, and even one or two I have never met. The love was much appreciated, yet I now feel an even greater sense of duty to deliver to you a page worthy of your time and consideration. You are welcome to give me a performance update at the Coffee, Tea and Water show, come November in Dallas.
This year's NAMA show and convention was once again a wonderful, multifaceted smorgasbord of office refreshment solutions and trends.
Every year it seems that the cost/value equation of attending tilts ever further to the value side. Life and work are both moving at what seems to be an ever-accelerating pace, and to miss out on the industry's premier show is to miss out on what is happening now, and what is coming next at lightning speed.
As a member of the Coffee Service Committee, I get a good perspective on the thinking of the people behind the organization, and of its mission. We, as an industry, are in great hands. NAMA's staff knows that the association is only as strong as its value to its membership and they continually ask themselves, and industry members, how they can better serve and facilitate issue-solving and positive change in our businesses.
The recent additions of the Women's Industry Network and the Emerging Leaders Network show that there is an interest in making sure everyone has a voice and a wonderful experience during the event.
Two trends were highly visible at this year's show: single-cup coffees and micromarkets. Considering that I used to use a 64-fl.oz. plastic thermal cup (most likely originally made for soda) for my coffee, most coffee brewing systems have always been single-cup brewers, to my mind. Nevertheless, the trend towards a 6- to 10-fl.oz. serving of coffee brewed individually is here to stay, and ever-expanding.
The growth in the number of OneShow exhibits dedicated to OCS at NAMA's shows is definitive proof that there is a renewed buzz and excitement in our industry.
My personal favorite session during the show was the Industry Awards presentation and keynote speech on Thursday morning. Hearty congratulations once again to two dear friends who won awards this year, Brian Real of United Food Group as Allied Member of the Year for coffee and David Henchel, Corporate Coffee Systems (Westbury, NY), as Coffee Service Operator of the Year. I made sure to get to the session on time so as to honor all the award-winners, but I was equally glad to catch Lisa Bodell's keynote talk entitled "Be the Change." I'm not sure if that was a pun for the vending professionals in the room, but regardless, it was a very good speech and presented the audience with some solid "food for thought."
Bodell is a "futurist." I've been asked a few times since the show what that is, and I believe her illustration, a quote from Henry Ford, describes it best. He said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse." People can't envision that which has not been created. A futurist tries to help visionaries meet their utmost potential by drawing out and clarifying the vision needed to imagine what is needed that does not exist today.
I always try to get at least one solid take-away idea from these shows, and Lisa's exercise on rules is one I am going to try immediately. She suggested asking all employees to anonymously list two corporate rules that are either distracting, inefficient or outdated. You then take the suggestions and put them up on a board under different headings, including, feasible, unfeasible, immediate, long-term, etc.
I know my first rule for removing at my company would be our hair net policy, since when I wear one with my forehead, I look like a beluga whale caught in a shrimp net. Sadly, getting rid of that rule is unfeasible.
As she pointed out though, you will likely get a good list that includes rules that are not necessary any longer, and that do hinder progress and/or efficiencies. Think of it as a policy "spring cleaning" and you're on your way.
As a small business owner, I often wonder if we are not regulating ourselves into oblivion, as there are more company meetings these days that have nothing to do with actual production, and more to do with making sure all involved in the process are safer than a (choose one) Hells Angel at a Lawrence Welk concert ... a carrot at an all you can eat buffet ... a reservation at a cross-country skiing event in Las Vegas ... the dust on the jacket of a book entitled All You Wanted to Know About Northern Spain but were Afraid to Basque ...
Parsing out unnecessary or outdated rules and policies could add a little fresh air to your work environment and improve staff morale and effectiveness. Food for thought, indeed.
As always, may your cup run deep, and the brew be exquisite!
KEVIN DAW is president of Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private-label roaster serving the breaktime management industries. A 30-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past two decades.