The Cure For Exclusion Is Inclusion …Not The Turning Tables

by Kevin Daw
Posted On: 1/6/2020

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I’ve been writing this column now for many years, and it has dawned on me that a great many newer readers, and even a few older members of our industry, might have little or no clue who I am, or what I’ve done. I won’t bore you with too much detail, just a little.

My dad started off as a coffee salesman in 1950, and after attending a convention while on summer break in my teens, I fell in love with the energy, personalities and camaraderie that were present. I jumped into the business shortly after school. I pounded the pavement in route sales, sales, then on to route and sales training, and eventually management, (which involved route sales, sales, route and sales training, and a little management). I was involved with the formation of seven businesses, the sale of three, closure of three, and bankruptcy of one. I’ve been on two industry boards, spoken over a dozen times for five different associations, received a Supplier of the Year nod from NAMA, and was the youngest ever inducted into an Industry Hall of Fame. Why I mention all this will become clear a bit later.

I’m writing this on the anniversary week of 9/11. This makes me more nostalgic than usual, and at the same time, more pensive when pondering the present and future.

As many noted on the September 11th anniversary, when remembering back, one sentiment rang very true to me. There was an incredible change in all Americans. We suddenly had an enemy from outside our ranks. The incessant bickering of politics, rights, ineptitude and equality were all out the window as the nation realized, for a very short while, that we were all equal. Equal in our fears, our desire to see justice brought, and in our fellowship towards each other.

It was so special that it made the slow devolution back to infighting feel all the more dismal.

The Internet still was in its infancy then, but now can be scarcely perused without seeing something that will raise the hackles of the neck and get you far more wound up than desired or necessary.

People are still much better in person, thankfully. Discussions on how best the world can and should proceed into a brighter tomorrow can still be had.

Although some bickering feels unnecessary, there have been great strides made for equality in all facets of life, with women and minorities rightly gaining better treatment and greater opportunities in their careers. Good on them, and good on society for recognizing the need for such.

Ok, to my point. Several years back, while attending a NAMA event, I asked some folks what they were doing that evening. A few were attending the Emerging Leaders  Network event – a function not open to those over 40. I was around 50ish at the time, so doing anything with them that evening was out. The next night, I asked someone what they were up to and they replied they were going to the Women in the Industry event. Ok, again I didn’t qualify.

OVERCOMPENSATING

This felt wrong to me. Even though women early in my career were unfairly patronized, not treated equally, etc., there was never an event or gathering that excluded them.

I believed then, and still believe today, that this exclusion and separating of groups, while initially conceived with best intention surely, is not the best course long term for the betterment of anyone. Hear me out.

As a young executive, the minds and voices I wanted to learn and hear from most, were those with the most experience and knowledge gained from years of trial and error. The greatest part of becoming a Hall of Fame member was the ability to attend the annual Hall of Fame breakfast. I was the only under-40 mem
ber sitting at large round tables filled with the pioneers and very best industry minds existing at the time.

The young within the association ranks found each other, and there were certainly comparative age-related gains in knowledge, but that was usually achieved after show events wrapped up.

My point is that the effort to allow subsector groups exclusive events diminishes the ability of those within said groups to pick the minds and brains of a great many sources of incredible industry knowledge. It also diminishes my ability to learn from their great intellectual resources of knowledge in areas where I most need it.

Women often have a different business perspective that men should be working hard to absorb and understand.

Young executives see the future, and understand many modern mechanisms that can help achieve that future – knowledge that everyone needs, and that should be shared.

It appears what we’ve all fought for, a playing field equalized, has become just a reversal of the terrible inequalities of the past.

This exclusion hurts everyone, I believe. At a point in my career where I have the time, and the desire, to help mentor, evidently my mentorship is unwelcome. I won’t be attending the upcoming NAMA Show because of health issues, but I might have figured out a way if I believed that my attendance was more wanted, because I’ve always believed in giving back. It’s why I write these articles, and I hope my thoughts are at least considered going forward.

As always, may your cup runneth over, and the brew be exquisite.

KEVIN DAW is Head Coffee Buyer for Heritage Coffee Co. (London, ON, Canada), a private-label roaster serving the OCS/Vend, Foodservice, Specialty and Retail industries. A 39-year veteran of OCS, water delivery and vending operations, he has concentrated on coffee roasting for the past three decades.