Coffee Again

Intelligentsia-Chicago, IL













Again on my coffee quest. Intelligentsia is a prominent name in Chicago coffeeland. Doug Zell has created a niche in the Chicago marketplace based on his coffee and coffee drinking  philosophies. And he also got his start at Peets Coffee in California.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune highlighted why Intelligentsia stands out among coffee roasters. Several key points:

  • Coffee is more than fast food….is’s a culinary experience.
  • Coffee once a commodity product….now something of meaningful value.
  • Coffee bean origins are now important for roaster and suppliers.

The article didn’t state Intelligentsias sales….only that they have 159 employees and roast about 10,000 pounds daily.

I did get the sense that do coffee(and tea) very well.

And a quote from Doug Zell:

 ” If the coffee is great, there is no need to add anything.”

It’s About Experience

A Nice Exchange

In our daily activities we encounter people. In the business/organizational environment we always encounter people. Encountering people is easy for most folks….though it can difficult for some. Relating is a great skill and makes a transaction/presentation/sale a good experience.

Here’s three examples from the past week that created a good experience.

+ A FoodQuest venture to a country hamburger joint (in Bunn Level!). A brief exchange with the folks who flipped the burgers. It wasn’t just the food….it was the total experience that made our FoodQuest fun.

+ Stopped in the local Hallmark store. Selected the card. Rang the little counter bell. Bantered with the sales associate for 30 seconds. A simple purchase became a pleasant experience.

+ Another restaurant experience at Tommy’s Deli. A nice Chicken Bar-B-Q sandwich made even better when Tommy comes over and asks how we liked it and goes on to say that he Bar-B-Q’s the chicken and makes everything that goes on it. A very nice sandwich….even better with Tommy’s banter.

My FoodQuest buddy and I were talking on the way back from Bunn Level. The gist is that when we were consulting….the best startegy was to adapt to the folks we were working with. It wasn’t one size fits all.

The first thing was always to relate to the client….the people who we were to spend time with. That made the project a much better experience.



Lost Business

Over the past year, we began several home remodeling projects. Some we completed….others yet to be started.

I would think follow-up is as important as making the initial sales call….yet few of these folks have done it….and by not following up they lose business.

Certainly most of these sales people want to close a sale and move on. They believe they don’t have the time to waste on phone calls or note writing.

All they have to do on the inital follow-up is to ask the potential customer if they do want a follow-up call….if so make them…if not move on.

In our family business, we made follow-ups after the sale….we should have made follow-ups after each sales encounter (asking permission to do so).  By following up diligently….I bet we could have converted many presentations to completed sales.


Stage 2 Companies

SciQuest + Peter Millar

These two companies are headquartered in Cary, NC. One reinventing itself after dot-com and the other focusing on a very selective market.

Both are led by CEO’s who seem to know that each company has a clear prurpose….and both are fairly substantial in sales.

SciQuest is a software and services company that helps science type companies buy products and services on-line. 2009 Sales were $36 million with 160 employees.



Peter Millar is quite different. It sells high-end clothing in over a thousand stores. 2010 sales are expected to be more than $30 million with 30 employees.

I don’t know if these two companies will reach $60 million sales. Yet, each knows its market and customers and sells products that are needed and/or wanted. Businesses like these are where economic growth develops….both good stories on market positioning.

Postscript: While Peter Millar has performed well….it does not have a guarantee of customer satisfaction. For the perceived quality there should also be a strong guarantee….often an intangible that some businesses neglect.


Mr. Mustard

Mount Horeb (National) Mustard Museum

I’m always intrigued by quirky businesses. The National  Mustard Museum certainly qualifies.

The National Mustard Museum is home of the world’s largest collection of prepared mustards — over 4,100 jars, bottles, and tubes from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.

“The Mount Horeb Mustard Museum began when its founder, Barry Levenson, started collecting mustards on October 27, 1986. His beloved Red Sox had lost the World Series to the New York Mets that night and Barry was very depressed.”

An integral part of the museum is all the mustards that Berry Levenson sells….it’s a museum and a business.

The real clincher is their catalog….well done and entertaining.

After examining the world of mustard….one discovers there’s more to mustards than the classic yellow mustard.

Undercover Boss 8


Rick Arquilla, President and COO was this weeks UB. UB 8 revealed a personal side of Mr. Arquilla and the stories seemed to reflect that.

An interesting statement was UB 8 saying:

“I’ve let this company down”

This was during his visit to the Des Moines, Iowa manufacturing plant. There was uncertainty about whether Roto-Rooter would outsource the products and close the plant….thus morale was low. The end result….UB realized that by not communicating to the workers and…. I suppose to plant management, that he had let those folks down. The decision was: no outsourcing.

It seems all of these UB’s have gained a different and better perspective about  the folks that make their businesses work.

I trust that these new perspectives….prevail!