Leadership In a Time of crisis

In my time of owning and running a company, I can hand on heart say that there has never been a more crucial time for agile, sound leadership, than now.  After nearly 13 years of slowly and organically growing my business and this year putting my foot on the accelerator to scale and grow globally, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine my new reality was one purely focused on survival.

We have the first specialty coffee roastery in the Middle East and internationally recognized as the leaders in the region for our product, our knowledge, and our holistic approach to the F&B sector.  We have got where we are today ethically and with integrity, our team are incredibly skilled and loyal and our coffee suppliers at the base of our business are now friends and partners in our growth.

There is no need to dwell on our F&B industry as a whole, other than to acknowledge elements of it were stretched to breaking prior to the Covid-19 crisis, and that it was overdue for a total overhaul.  Overnight we had to switch from a predominantly B2B supply company to a B2C end user, essentially loosing 95% of our trade while facing mammoth logistical challenges with increased volumes of smaller orders.

My business partner, Matt Toogood and I made some important decisions in the early days of the crisis, as we tried to ‘guestimate’ how long the piece of string was that we had to have these new processes in place.  Our main responsibility was to keep the business viable to survive, we looked at ways to reduce expenses, negotiate rent deferments, speak to our bank about extending our STL financing, we spoke to our suppliers and paid them, we made improvements to our online ordering and delivery systems.  We have received all our green coffee beans, our stock for what was to be a year of growth, and this will become our life blood.  We do not have investors and we have no debt, so each day I am grateful that we took a slow approach to our growth and didn’t lose track of our dreams or goals for the future.  We have moved our training to a virtual interactive platform and seeing amazing response from people, as they have more time to reconnect with the food and drink they enjoy.

We have tapped into our Endeavor SME network and had mentoring sessions with advisors and specialists in fields like digital marketing and logistics.   We have been open and clear with our communication to everyone; our coffee suppliers, our team, and our customers.  We had to reevaluate our tone of voice and our messaging, as we acknowledged the importance of our sense of community.

Our people are one of the main reasons our company was successful and growing in a saturated market and we felt an almost paternal responsibility to care for them, we are all in this together and everyone relies on each other to survive this.  We also prioritized strengthening connections and symbiotically beneficial relationships with the right companies, and the right people, to ensure we could ride out the rest of the year and be ready to trade again once restrictions eased.   We used it as a time of reflection to end some relationships that didn’t serve us or didn’t share the same core values we looked for.

It has been a time of inner reflection, time has slowed somewhat and allowed us to work on, not in our business, and I sincerely hope all the improvements we have made, will actually make us stronger when we come out of this.