For years, I have been getting coffee each morning at Starbuck’s before work. Along with many of you reading this, I had contributed to making them the successful giant in the industry that they are. A few months ago while on lunch, I tried The Coffee Bean with someone because it happened to be her favorite. I can’t tell you enough how much it changed my coffee world! From the sweet aroma when walking in the door, to the service and method they use, I instantly loved their coffee! Now it’s not exactly on my way to work, and certainly much farther than Starbuck’s, but I don’t hesitate to make the extra time and effort to drive the distance.
Thinking about it, I realized that Starbuck’s was never my favorite coffee or my favorite coffee house experience but I kept going (the coffee was not bad but it wasn’t really worth the price to me either). Why? At first it was for the experience but then I went out of convenience more than anything else. Most people won’t go that far out of their way to buy coffee, you get into a routine and get used to the comfort of the familiar and the trend. If you’re a huge fan of Starbuck’s that’s not a problem. Or maybe it is. How do we know when something better is out there? If we always stick with our current coffee, how will we find the other, maybe smaller, place with better coffee at a better price? Sometimes we stay with something we’re not even totally happy with just out of convenience or habit. Obviously it’s even harder to consider alternatives when you’re satisfied.
Now you are probably thinking what is the point to this story about her changing where she buys her coffee? Well since I generally buy my coffee on the way to work, it wasn’t that hard to make the leap from my own experience to the workplace. How does any business decide who their suppliers should be? How do they know when to stick with their current suppliers and when to try out someone new? It seems to me there is a fine line between the security and continuity of the current and the possibility of the innovation and new ideas that other companies could provide. And not just other industry giants, like choosing between McDonald’s coffee or Starbuck’s but the smaller companies that aren’t giants.
I went to The Coffee Bean for the first time because someone else was going there – no coupon or advertising brought me in, which is often what happens in our business. A referral from another client or just a casual conversation can be the start of something. It’s easy to do when someone is going for coffee but maybe not as much when it means considering a new supplier. Change is hard, on many levels.
But my coffee experience showed me how important it is to try new things and to fight against this bias or reluctance to change (it also feels nice to help another business grow as well, one that certainly deserves the support). It can’t be constant but some amount of new needs to be part of a company’s supplier strategy. A blend of trusted, familiar suppliers and new, qualified firms can help ensure that you get the best of everything.
Keep your eyes open to possible "Coffee Bean" opportunities in your world; the chance to try something new or work with a new company. It may confirm that your current choice is the best one for you or you may find yourself with a new business partner providing a great product, a great price, or maybe both.
Corporate Outreach Manager