Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Dear Roasterie Friends and Customers
Here's to a beautiful Spring and we hope that you are all making the best of it. No shortage of water here in the Midwest this year!
We've been busy...extremely so. I told a friend the other day that they're working me harder than when we started the company. We just have the perfect storm of a lot of projects, which you'll see here in a minute.
The kids remain a daily source of awe, inspiration, joy and happiness. Saying goodbye each morning remains the most difficult thing that I do each day. God knows that I love coffee...more each day...but it pales to the love I have for them; it's hard to describe to folks that don't have children. But it's the best part of my life and I didn't think life could ever get any better. Terry is 3 years old and has been at St. Peter's this year. Sophia will be 1 year old on July 3 and is "army crawling", screaming (mostly always happy) and jabbering like nuts. We spend weekends out in the country building trails, hiking and being gear heads. It's pure joy. And Carla is a great mom, of course.
We had a great staff trip to Costa Rica in January. Grace Mena, our gracious and longtime supplier there, created a perfect agenda for us once again. We saw every facet of coffee growing and even had time for some coffee picking and other contests. We also visited the two day care centers that we help fund and it was great for our teammates to see this first hand. They are simply inspiring. My host family from when I lived there as a foreign exchange student always joins us for a few days at the beach before we return.
We were home just a bit and then Normy and I were off to Colombia. Normy was a judge at the Cup of Excellence (COE) competition and I spent time with another dear friend and longtime supplier, Salim Janna. Before I left I told Nathan, our plant manager, that each time I travel with Normy, I find out something interesting that I didn't know about him...and I met him in 1987. Well, shortly after we met up in Bogota we exited the airport and saw a long line of taxis and Normy said, "I drove a cab once." I couldn't believe it...but he did, in Omaha and Council Bluffs early in his marriage. What a hoot!
We traveled to Huila, a province in the south, where we've been sourcing our Colombian coffee since 1999. In fact, back then it was often chic in the Specialty Coffee industry to mock Colombian Coffee as not being 'special'. But of course this was bull and for many it took the first COE competition to provide them the 'cover' to get into the Colombians. Thanks to Salim, our long term relationships with the farmers there are stronger than ever and we help by contributing to a day care/community center located in the middle of the region where we purchase our extraordinary coffee. It is beautiful and when you see the children, you just don't want to leave. They really stretch the dollars and have done an amazing job with the kids. (Our Colombian coffee is called Pitalito Estates if you've never had it and it has an awesome aroma, chocolate/caramel flavors and a long, lingering aftertaste).
Both of these trips provided a reprieve from the negative news here in the USA. It's not like there isn't hardship in these countries, too, but it's that they don't dwell on it. I think the focus is much more on the family and having a positive attitude toward life in general. To whatever one can attribute it, it was sorely needed and very much noted and appreciated. I've always tried to surround myself with strong, positive, optimistic people and I'm convinced it makes a huge difference.
We came back just in time for the St. Patty's Day parade here in Kansas City. It was a beautiful day and the team did a great job with our float. Terry (our 3 year old) rode with us this year and had a riot. Since green is his favorite color, he was in heaven.
The Roasterie Cafe
The Roasterie Café staff in Brookside is continuing to just do a spectacular job. Their staff is solid and happy, the place looks great, we're getting tons of compliments and their business is up significantly. Hats off to Carla and her two top leaders, Ric and Emily, for their great leadership. We use an independent company to survey customers and they are simply rockin' the house. New Rule: "No drama Obama"! They just decided that they have a great place to work, full of kind and friendly customers and that they really didn't want anyone bringing their drama and baggage to their store. So, just a couple of folks had to go be happy somewhere else and they took an already pretty cool place to work and hang out and made it even better. For the last 3 years, the rest of the company kind of felt like the Café depended on them; leaned on them. I would say that the Café is more than holding its own now and even leading the way in terms of a cultural shift. Their 'no victims' approach has fostered an atmosphere that you can feel the minute you walk in the door.
They'll soon be expanding, in two phases; phase 1 will focus on the addition, first. Then the inside will be completely updated and remodeled. Look for even more comfortable seats and two outlets per person! We've logged every customer suggestion and even added a few of our own. You never know...curbside service may be coming to Brookside; stay tuned.
And speaking of The Roasterie Café, it's that time of the year again! Kansas City Magazine is conducting its annual 'best of' competition and the Café staff and I would love to have your vote. If you feel so inclined, please just click the link below and then follow directions: http://citysbest.midwestluxe.com/. Thank you.
Normy and I took a trip to Iowa State to speak to an entrepreneurial conference there. We also spoke to several different classes and it was surreal to be back on campus, sitting in the classrooms, staying at the Memorial Union. This is where I had my first interviews for the CIA back when I was a senior there. I spoke to a couple of my professors and we learned a great deal from the students and faculty. I am uplifted each time I visit a college campus and always come away with the feeling that this next generation is going to do just fine.
Normy has always heard me talk about Denison, Iowa so much that he wanted to go through it on the way back to Kansas City. So, we took the scenic route and I showed Normy where I grew up...complete with the Donna Reed story and our "It's a Wonderful Life" water tower. My brother Brian met us and helped with the tour. If you could crawl inside a Norman Rockwell painting...that would be the Denison, Iowa where I grew up. I'm more grateful every year.
I stopped on Avenue "C" and told Normy a story about delivering papers. All the boys had a paper route (at least the older 4!) and I used to help my brother Pat when I was in 4th grade. There were 9 houses on the other side of Avenue "C" that were a long way away from the other part of the route and I would do those for him. I delivered them 3 times a week and he paid me a quarter a week. We used to wait for the papers to come off the press and in the winter it would be freezing. There were often breakdowns and we'd have to wait to get our papers. If we went into a nearby café, we'd have to buy something; hot chocolate was a dime and I almost never would break down and buy it. The paper routes, like working on the farms, helped shape our work ethic. Oh, I could write a book on the things that shaped our work ethic.
And speaking of papers, what about the demise of newsprint makes people feel happy or giddy? I've heard so many jokes about it but it makes me sad. The smartest people I know are big readers...books, newspapers and magazines. I love my Kindle but it will never fully take the place of newsprint. And when newsprint does go away, who's going to originate all the news that the websites simply repurpose? If it's 'everyone'...wow, imagine the ridiculous urban legends on the internet now...and people actually believing them...in charge of writing the news? Hopefully the reporters will find a way to migrate over before it's too late.
We have relationships with a number of college and universities and are launching a scholarship program this Spring. We piloted a test with Johnson County Community College and it has been extremely well-received so we are expanding it to all colleges and universities that we do business with. Basically, it's pretty simple; we take a % of the revenue we do with the school and rebate it for scholarships. While there are no strings, we hope that it's going to folks who would not otherwise be able to attend college. If it were not for Pell Grants, I would not have been able to attend...or it would have been a much, much tougher route. If you know of a college or university that you feel would be a good match for The Roasterie, please tell them about us.
Nathan continues to lead us towards ISO 9001certification. ISO 9001 is an extremely detailed quality assurance program that is very process-driven. It's all about extreme customer satisfaction and getting your processes in place in order to deliver this. The unintended consequence, thus far, is that it's really increased our internal satisfaction. While initially the meetings and the detail can be nearly dreadful, once the processes are in place it's incredibly powerful and builds confidence, big time. We still have a lot of work to do and we'll always focus on improvement but the payoffs already have been significant. We're much more efficient, we're continuing to cut costs and quality is increasing across the board, in everything that we measure. And, believe me, we are measuring everything. Indeed, this is a major turnoff for many companies who don't proceed with it as it entails an extraordinary amount of work; tedious on the front end. But, if one is successful...and we will be, it provides the structure and processes for a nearly bulletproof delivery of quality. Now Nathan has taken it to the Café and they are laying the groundwork as the roasting plant has; and I believe that this has also helped with their success.
The work continues on our new website and we will launch on July 1st. It is an extraordinary amount of work and detail and we're blessed to have such a great team. Our friend Ethan Whitehill and his staff at Two West are helping us streamline the process to make it as simple and sweet and possible. There will be many, many more features and simplicity will rule the day. Form will definitely follow function...I have to suspect that a few of you have been stuck in those maddening loops (like voice mail!), where all you wanted to do was buy something or ask a quick question. Well, we're doing our best to make it easy to do business with us. Oh, we do have some great specials right now! Check it out at http://www.theroasterie.com/.
We'll also be doing a much better job with all the social media in the coming months. While I'm good for a twitter or a blog now and then, we've just not been very attentive in this area of media. In fact, Salim helped me set up a Facebook page several years ago and I've never been back on! And I honestly don't know when I'd even fit it in. But if there are other ways in which you would like to communicate with us, please just drop me a line. It's not for lack of interest...we just have a lot going on!
It's been a little slim during this quarter in the book department; the kids are killing me! Sophie doesn't sleep as late as Terry, and now I can't stay up as late. I did read "Success" and found it to be a good, fast read; I would throw in "Sense of Urgency" (I don't need any help in this department!) and "Purple Cow" into the same bucket as well...good, fast reads worth the time. "Egonomics" was my favorite business book of the last few months and I highly recommend it. I'm reading "Making It Stick" right now and while I'm still not half way through, I would definitely recommend it; very, very powerful and convincing.
Finally, reading "The Last Lecture" really impacted me, as it did millions of others. In fact, as I write to you tonight, all I can think about is the surgery one of my best friends in life is having early tomorrow morning. We've been best friends since middle school and he had a tumor on his appendix that exploded. It was malignant and so it created this horrible mess in his stomach that needs to be cleaned up. It's the first time that I've had to deal with something like this with a close friend and it's been very difficult. We're praying like crazy for him and as a believer in prayer, I'm sharing this with you in the hopes that you'll add him to your prayers, if you are so inclined. His name is Jim Svoboda and in addition to being a terrific coach and positively impacting young athletes, he is the epitome of a great human being.
We topped off a grueling week last week with the Fleetwood Mac concert at the Sprint Center. I had not seen them since 1980 and it was spectacular! If you're a fan, go see them if you have the chance. Now "Go Your Own Way" is one of Terry's favorite songs and he 'air guitars' it...left-handed. Not sure where that comes from!.
End of This Journey
We absolutely appreciate you and thank you for your support. We are in the middle of a lot of exciting projects and while we don't live with our heads stuck in the sand, we do choose the road of confidence in the future and focusing on the opportunities in front of us. We are grateful for your continued support and wish you the best summer of your lives. Normy is still doing tours every Saturday at 9:00 A.M. at the roasting plant and he'd love to see you. We get many groups during the week, too, and you're always welcome.
Thank you from all of us on your Roasterie team!