The Coffee Entrepreneur

The Coffee Entrepreneur extract

Espressology’s Instaurator has penned part two of his Australian life, focusing on his risk-taking business strategies and key learnings from practical life experiences. 

The Coffee Entrepreneur is about being a coffee entrepreneur and the dawning awareness of personal spirituality in Australia.

I wrote much of this while on a two-month holiday surfing in Indonesia. It was my first sabbatical in almost 24 years. I was burnt out and emotionally exhausted. I was running on empty and it showed. Even though I love arriving at our coffee factory, where I always enjoy walking around the factory floor before I go to my desk upstairs, I could see the signs that the fire in my belly that had fuelled my working life for the best part of 40 years was dwindling. It was not fair to my co-workers, who I sincerely brag are the best workers I have ever had the privilege to work with. And I wasn’t being fair to myself. I desperately needed an extended break.

An important business skill to learn is this: know yourself. Know your skills, your strengths, and your weaknesses. My old North Sydney Boys High School Latin motto is: “Vincit Qui Si Vincit”, which in English means “he conquers who conquers himself”. This is actually a rephrasing of a still more ancient proverb: “He who rules his own spirit is greater than he who conquers a nation.” But my struggle was different. I had been battling for more than 10 years to stave off bankruptcy and repay some huge debts I had accumulated in trying to remain solvent.

This book is not just about how to succeed in business. It is also about some of the pitfalls I have encountered and the mistakes that I have made while navigating life. Some can be avoided and some can’t, but they will inevitably pop up in everyone’s path in life, regardless of how successful the person may appear. Wisdom is the ability to recognise the pitfalls that we can avoid and to take action to dodge them. 

Even though I have invested the best part of the last 40 years of my life working in the coffee industry, my lessons can apply to any business or aspiring entrepreneur.

Every adult human on the face of planet earth is involved in business in some way or another, whether we acknowledge it or not. From the high-flying corporate executive to the humble, hardworking mother in a developing country, every one of us unavoidably has to make sure that we earn more money than we spend – or that we at least spend less than we earn.

The Coffee Entrepreneur It is our attitude to money that makes the difference. Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones once said something regarding money that was rather insightful: “If you pay too much attention to money, you never have enough, and if you don’t pay enough attention to money, you never have enough.” In other words, if we love money and are greedy, we are never satisfied and are forever greedy for more. Whereas on the other hand, if we are not good stewards of our financial resources, we won’t have enough to support ourselves. These are wise words indeed from a rather unlikely source.

The reality is that our internal attitude to money and our savings is what determines whether we use it for good or ill. It is not just greedy capitalist corporations that are the problem. Not all corporations are bad. Corporate businesses come and go. They wax and wane. Kodak, for instance, was once a global business behemoth dominating the photographic industry with 90 per cent of film sales and 85 per cent of camera sales in the United States in 1976. It didn’t adapt to the digital revolution in spite of inventing the digital camera in 1975 and in 2012, they filed for bankruptcy.

Apple Corporation started in a suburban garage and has become one of the largest corporations in the world, in large part due to one man’s vision, passion, force of will, and intelligence. Large corporations are just small businesses that have continued using their savings (profits) to good effect. And small business start-ups are often just individuals doing the same thing.

I have had the extraordinary privilege of growing up in Australia during a time of unparalleled prosperity. I have enjoyed incredible freedom. It is a freedom that includes the opportunity to turn a simple business idea into a concrete reality. I am extremely grateful for this. Anyone can start his or her own business freely and easily here. Anyone can begin a start-up business on their own. It is only our own personal fears and inhibitions that limit us.

So what is an entrepreneur? It is a French word that means undertaker – in the sense of undertaking a task. “Entre” in French literally means “between” so in another sense, it is someone who sees an opportunity that lies between gaps in a market. They then take a risk, innovating and creating something out of nothing to fill that gap. Entrepreneurs are opportunists and risk-takers, offering solutions to people’s needs.

The history of coffee entrepreneurs in my homeland is a very rich one. The earliest, best-known Australian coffee entrepreneur was E.H. Harris who brought his coffee to the Australian marketplace in 1883. There have been other coffee dynasties that have been built by enterprising risk-takers, including the Andronicus family who commenced their coffee business in 1910 in Sydney, and Horace Bennett, who began his coffee, tea, and cocoa importing business in Melbourne at the end of the First World War in 1918. Interestingly enough, we still buy very good green coffee from Horace’s grandson, Scott Bennett, more than 100 years after his grandfather started the business. Being a coffee entrepreneur can in fact be a wonderful heritage for a family if it is managed and handed down well. 

This article appears in FULL in the October 2019 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

This information is an edited extract from Instaurator’s book The Coffee Entrepreneur, available on Amazon, Kindle, ibooks, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo from mid-October.

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Image: Allan Yeh of Code Black Coffee

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