How Do You Take Your Coffee?


BIG lessons for small businesses…

There are some luxuries in life that we definitely can’t do without.
I don’t pretend to be a coffee connoisseur.
But I do like my coffee.

Although you’re more likely to find me drinking instant.
I’m not a fan of grinding beans. Or cleaning out the cafetiere.
I’ve got my coffee habit down to no more than three a day, and before noon.
Switching to a green tea in the afternoon for the gradual comedown.

I wonder how many of you remember when coffee chains starting sprouting up all throughout the country.
Or do you remember when bookshops starting selling coffee?
You can now browse books and get a snack. Similarly, if you want a coffee, you can also get a variety of food options.
It’s strange to think that buying anything other than a book from a bookshop was once outlandish. Or that the British love affair with tea is almost eclipsed by our love of coffee.

There’s a lot we can learn from coffee shops and how business owners can make small changes now for a greater result later on.
There is no one secret to a successful business and it comes down to a few factors, such as

Hard work…
Experience. Lots of experience…

…and sometimes a combination of the above.
But there’s more!

If we were to drill down further, we’d see how it was done.
Here are a few characteristics we see from successful business owners that we work with…

woman enjoying coffee

Be consistent. Not perfect.

Whatever it is you do or want to do, make sure to do it well. Repeatedly.
If this sounds like too much effort, then running a business is not for you.
Chasing 100% perfection in every single business transaction will burn you out. Aim high but expect 90%.
Brand loyalty is a thing of the past now – your customer base will look to save money where they can.
This also means they will walk past ten other competitors to get the best. Don’t be one of the ten.

Sales +1

As mentioned earlier, you can now buy a coffee with your book.
Have you noticed that opticians also sell a variety of additional eye tests, as well as hearing aids?

It’s because they will never make enough money to pay the bills from initial sales alone. For a coffee shop, coffee may be the prime motivator for customers coming in, but they must leave with multiple sales if the shop is going to be successful.
Look at what you offer and if there is the potential to offer a similar service that a customer or client may find useful.
Lockdown lessons have shown us how even traditional face-to-face businesses have adapted. We can do meetings online and you can order food subscriptions to your door, or return items you’ve bought online via a thrid party company.
New ideas can reap new benefits.

Don’t take on too much though…

You might think that a wide assortment or an extensive product range will give you the competitive advantage you need.
If you end up offering far too much, it will only confuse potential clients. Get your core product(s) right first before you add on anything more.
Every item you add to the assortment creates many multiples of management effort (costs) and mostly without adding anything to the revenue streams or customer experience.
And if you’re serious about growing your business (something the Finance Minister admitted that Scotland needs help with) is that you will need to delegate tasks. And by that, we mean pass control over.

Price it right

Price according to what customers think is value, not according to accounting determined markups.
Why is it that opticians charge an arm and a leg for a pair of glasses but you can buy them online for a lot less?
They know that there is the inconvenience of not being able to try on there and then in a particular style.
So don’t add mark up your entire business, but price line by line according to customer expectations and what the market will bear.

Understand the market

Getting traction in a competitive marketplace is vital.
You will need to have a clear understanding of how to get customers to initially give you a go and a plan for keeping them returning and referring you to their friends and family.
Customers and clients will come to you for a variety of reasons than just wants and needs.
There is the escape from a stressful office, the chance to maintain or grow a relationship, a place to get away to do some reflective work, a chance to engage with someone at a particularly lonely time, or as a place to do business and reach an agreement. Understanding the needs you are really catering to will help you better construct your offer and make decisions that keep your customers returning and so maintain success.
Also note that a bit of friendly competition never hurts. McDonalds needs Burger King as people want options (!)

Don’t get comfortable

If everything’s going smooth then it could mean that you’re no longer taking risks or have a goal to aim for.
The moment things start getting to easy is where business owners get complacent and don’t take calculated risks.

Be the face of the business

Some businesses can still carry on and succeed with a non-present owner.
Yours however will need your care, attention and engagement. Especially during the first five years.
Customers or clients expect it, and staff are more productive if the boss is in, getting coffee for the team or is just taking care of the business.


Probably worth mentioning why I haven’t included high traffic location on the list.
The reason is that it doesn’t necessarily work for coffee.
If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that you can still survive provided you have an online presence.

If you ‘take away’ anything from this article ‘to go’, remember…

Passion. You start a hobby, an activity or a job not because you want to start a business. It’s because of a passion. If you love what you do, great.

Your aim should be to have a product or service that is better than any other nearby.

Don’t act like you’re in a particular business sector or field – remember that you’re in the ‘people’ business. Without customers or clients, you won’t last long.

Mine is a large cappuccino with an extra shot of espresso if you’re buying…