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From the Publisher
Black out the trade shows, maybe Roasters Guild Retreat, possibly an origin trip. As you go through the annual routine, how often do you make room for something new? If your calendar is copied and pasted from year to year, it’s time to challenge yourself.
I did just that in 2014 and discovered why I need to make it part of my yearly planning. For the first time, I attended the Pacific Coast Coffee Association (PCCA) convention last fall. After 17 years in the business, it was strange to walk into an event and feel like an outsider. I knew a few attendees, but the majority of people were not only new to me, but it was obvious they were close with each other. That “outsider” feeling lasted about five minutes.
The event included social mixers, dinners, a half-day lecture series, a croquet tournament and a golf tournament. It definitely tilted toward the social end of the scale, and this is precisely why it works. Rather than being a clique-ish, exclusive clubby atmosphere, the event felt like a family reunion with plenty of room for the new in-laws. It was lovely to see the camaraderie; even competitors drank, joked and sat with one another at dinner. It was very personal, and for those who made a real effort, long lasting connections were forged.
I know many people will look at an event like this and think, “Croquet and golf, doesn’t sound like work to me,” and they would be right. The best business connections are made when business isn’t directly on the line, and those connections need time and space to develop. For me, at the PCCA it was the croquet tournament. I was able to spend several hours with a small group of people, talking about life, which of course includes coffee, but is not exclusively coffee. Friends made this way aren’t just the type that you say “hi” to at the next trade show; they are the type you invite to your house for dinner the next time they’re in town, and the type who will introduce you to their most trusted and valued business connections when the need arises.
Building deep relationships is a skill that requires effort, and success is tallied not by the number of Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections you have, but by the number of people who seek you out when they are in town, or need a favor, or have an idea they want to vet. Most people want these strong connections but don’t know how to start making them. My advice is to put something new on your calendar and bone up on your croquet.
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