There's an old saying that If you don't know where you're going, you're going to end up there. I would add the corollary that, as a company, knowing who and what you are is every bit as important as knowing who your customer is.
Our company motto at Brown is "To elevate the coffee experience at every turn." But that only addresses the customer-facing side of the equation. What about the company-side of it?
The above diagram is a look at how I have determined what is most important when selecting our core product: coffee. As most of you know, we do coffee at Brown, and not much else. So what we do--what we are, if you will--had better be clear, and we had better be very, very good at it. You know that other saying: "Good; fast; cheap: pick any two." Well, we're not trying to create a fast experience, per se; and we're not cheap. So we'd better be good at our core product. Really good. I would say world class good. The coffee experience at Brown should blow you away every time you visit us or interact with our product.
How then do we achieve that? By breaking "good" down into the segments that create good for ourselves and our customers.
- DELICIOUS. If it doesn't taste good, what's the point of continuing doing it? Honestly. I'll never understand coffee companies that don't zealously and extensively try to educate themselves on what objectively makes coffee bad, and thus what objectively makes coffee good. (Yes, I believe there is an objective "good taste" to coffee. But that is another story for another time.) In short, make sure your consumable product actually delights the tastebuds of your customers. That's how I define Delicious.
- SUSTAINABLE. Most of you know I'm not exactly the tree-hugging hippy-dippy type. Thus, I don't mean "sustainable" in probably the same way as is the kind of current pop culture understanding, whereby we make sure we're all drinking from compostable cups (even though they impart a terrible taste to the coffee); or that we transport our coffee from its origin on donkeys to save using fossil fuels, etc. What I do mean is that I personally visit every farm or mill we do business with and personally get to know the folks on the ground there, observing how they produce their product and whether it is done reasonably, with respect for the people they employ and for the environment in which it is produced. In other words, are they good people, good neighbors and good stewards? This more often than not will be the foundation of good coffee. If you don't see those kinds of things, you probably also won't consistently see delicious coffee coming from that place. But if you do see it, you can reasonably define that as "sustainable" in my book.
- TRANSPARENT. It's currently fashionable in high end coffee for coffee companies to publish the base price they pay farmers/producers. I don't necessarily have a problem with that; but that's is not exactly what I mean by transparent. What I mean is being upfront with our buying practices and sharing as much information as the customer wants to know about each coffee itself should anyone want to engage us and ask about it: how it is grown or processed. What its growing elevation is. What the people are like who are producing it. How Brown's premiums are helping the community the coffee comes from take care of those people. How our customers can help in any of projects we are part of in those producing communities. And so forth. We're an open book in that arena (and, I would humbly brag, pretty knowledgeable all the way down to the barista level); which means you can learn just about anything you want about coffee from us. That's pretty good transparency.
You can see that these three things have plenty of bleed over. Hence the Venn diagram. You can also see that they are not all weighted evenly. One is clearly higher than the others. One is clearly below the rest. It's not that these things are more or less important than the others. It's that we choose to emphasize certain important aspects of the coffee we buy more than other important aspects of the coffee we buy. In other words, if they weren't important, they wouldn't be on the diagram. But even on the diagram, we value each aspect slightly differently.
That is how I view our commitment to coffee at Brown.