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September | October 2015

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From the Publisher

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One of my favorite board games is called Ticket to Ride. It involves placing a series of trains on a map, earning points by connecting different cities.

The initial strategy is straightforward: Connect the cities via the shortest path possible. Of course, during the execution of that plan, other players often force detours. This drives changes to the initial plan or, at times, foils it completely.

About now, you’re probably wondering what this might have to do with the business of coffee, and here’s the key: The players who usually end up winning the game have planned for change from the beginning, retaining the ability to adapt to the changing game as it evolves. Players who commit to a single path and only evaluate changing when forced to rarely win.

Right now, a number of high-profile changes are occurring in our industry. The Cup of Excellence is transitioning from 11 countries to six. Coffee Kids is in the process of a major restructuring. The regional barista competitions are evolving, and there are signs that the Specialty Coffee Association of America and the Speciality Coffee Association of Europe are merging. From the outside, it is difficult to tell if these changes are planned adaptations based on proactive, well-designed strategies, or if they are forced reactions.

Every company or institution has to make hard choices about where, when and how to invest limited resources. Companies that struggle often do so because they are investing those resources in reacting to forced changes, because the fear of losing has kept them at status quo for far too long. Recent history is littered with examples of industry leaders who neglected to make changes in their core businesses until it was too late to react. The Yellow Pages was once the world’s premier “search engine,” and Blockbuster dominated the home movie market. These companies never stood a chance because they feared losing more than they wanted to win.

The point of this column is not to evaluate or criticize the industry changes I mentioned above, but to encourage Roast readers to think about planning for change. It may be contingency planning for uncontrollable events; it may be expanding to create a broader base for growth, or contracting to refocus on core competencies. Consider what you are doing now, what you will be doing one year from now, and what you want to be doing in five or 10 years. Then consider what paths will allow you to connect to each of those destinations.

Warmest Wishes,


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