Yesterday, Dean Cycon of Dean's Beans wrote a guest blog for this column on "Starbucks' Dirty Little Secret". The blog is worthy of some followup, as well as some additional information that Dean shared with me about their corporate philosophy.
Growth is good for a company, right? Growth = more moneymaking potential; this seems like a no-brainer from Business 101. Yet here we see Starbucks killing 600 stores created during the company's feverish expansion at the end of the last century. Dean's Beans is growing slowly, but steadily, expanding its customer base and exploring strategic partnerships with like-minded vendors.
Our student information system vendor (X2 Development Corporation) has grown very quickly in the last year; on the one hand, I'm thrilled because I know that this growth means that a truly outstanding product will be around and supported for years to come. However, when I call for tech support, I no longer see immediate fixes or get developers directly on the phone. Instead, my support is triaged by first-line techies, just like every other company.
It really comes down to managing sustainability and business opportunities with business ideals. X2's slogan is "Exceptional Software. Extraordinary Service." Their software gets more exceptional with every release, but they are rapidly adding and training tech support staff to still be able to provide extraordinary service to their growing stable of school districts.
Similarly, Dean's Beans was approached by Trader Joe's, a grocery chain specializing in organic and natural foods. Seems like a natural fit and an easy opportunity, right? Here's a few words from Dean, though, on why this deal went awry:
When Trader Joe’s first came to the East Coast, we received a call that they were looking for an organic coffee. We returned the call and said we would love to send them samples and tell them about our unique business model that respected quality, the farmers and the earth. The response? “We don’t care about that. What’s your lowest price?” I responded that we were the lowest price organic/fair trade coffee in the country, but Trader Joe’s needed to understand how we did business, how we worked directly with the farmers for economic, ecological and social development. Not interested, we just care about price, came the reply. I told the gentleman that if they didn’t care about who we were and how we did business, then we had no interest in doing business with them. End of story.
Most of us work with small vendors or contractors at some point. The question is, what happens as these vendors grow (or fail to grow)?