Life’s too short for bad coffee.
Over the holidays I had some time to catch up with people I don’t get to see that often. I hope this year I do a better job staying connected so that catch-up isn’t as needed.
One morning I met with a friend at a coffee shop near her house. Truth be told she could probably walk there but I don’t get down that way often and wanted to try that place. As coffee shops go it was about a C, nothing that would make me run back. The coffee itself – the original purpose of a coffee shop – was a B. Not bad.
My friend and I were chatting away – she’s an incredibly intelligent person and easy to talk with – when she mentioned that she had to go out to get good coffee. I raised my eyebrow a là John Belushi.
“Whaddya mean?” I inquired.
“You know. I can never get good coffee at home” she said.
I stared, puzzling. “The best coffee I get is at home” I parried. “I don’t like many coffee shops because few make coffee as good as mine” I went on. (Perhaps now you see why people don’t have coffee with me that often…)
My friend explained she had the best coffee machine with a digital timer and so on and so forth. “Where do you get your beans?” I asked. At the grocery store. “What about your water?” Bottled. Bad.
You see, as every coffee aficionado knows the only two things that really matter for great coffee are freshly ground whole beans – the best you can find – and good clean fresh water. Using a $10 French press, or when I need just a cuppa my $5 Bialeti, I make the best coffee I ever drink. Its not the equipment, its the ingredients. I sent my friend some very good beans after the holidays and at last report she was quite happy if not a little jazzed from the increase in caffeine.
As we start another year in the office its time for you to check your ingredients. Too many of you are demanding the best results, lowest cost, highest efficiency and greatest creativity while using lesser talent. Refusing to pay the going rate you save a few dollars on salaries and benefits and then realize tremendous loss on the throughput side. So you tighten the screws even more, take away a few more perks and then things are truly awful. You just can’t figure it out.
But its not rocket science. If you keep running with turkeys, you will never fly like an eagle. Never.
I know, I know: harsh words likening people to coffee beans… But I’m not really. I’m talking about raw ingredients. It doesn’t matter how much technology you have, how cool your office space is or how dress-down your culture is: if you don’t have the right people you will not win. Without the right beans and good fresh water you will not enjoy surreal java.
Yes, you can be an also-ran, you can play follow the leader at the second tier, and yes, you can mimic others for years and act like you’re really trying. Yet, without the right talent you will never win. Until you build a culture and reward system that attracts and retains A-players you will never win. In every field, in every age, the only sustainable advantage is talent. If you don’t go after the best – and do everything you can to engage (thus) keep them – you will not win.
It is that simple.
So. I now enjoy a good cup of coffee and hope you will too, and perhaps you’ll reflect on the value of the raw ingredients in your business. Theres no secret: to end with the best you’ve got to start with the best.