Friday, March 25, 2011

Profiles in Passion: Making your passion a reality

It takes a four-part process to make major changes in one’s professional life:  having a passion, creating a vision, developing goals and taking deliberate action steps towards those objectives. For one local business owner, following that process launched him into an entirely unfamiliar industry. 

Randy Austin, owner of the Dancing Mule Coffee Company, had an auto body repair shop since before graduating college in 1989. After 22 years in the industry, he was frustrated and needed to make a change. “I was searching for something I was passionate about, a business I could open, create,” recalls Randy. “I’d developed a passion for coffee and coffee preparation over the years, so I started playing with coffee, going to trade shows and learning more about the business.”

Thus, his vision was born: to create an inviting coffee shop where the coffee is good, the people are friendly and where he could make a difference in the community. “Lots of people underestimate the need for a passion for the product itself. If your goal is to make money and not to be passionate about the product you’re providing, I don’t think you’ll be very successful.”

Passion and vision alone cannot make a business, though. One of Randy’s first goals was to develop a deep understanding of the product. “There’s a lot more that goes into a coffee business than what meets the eye,” he explained. “Lots of people take too lightly the need for product knowledge.”

But before he could start a new business, Randy had to first sell his auto repair shop. “The whole process [of selling a business] is intriguing: putting it up for sale, marketing to potential clients…The earlier you start with the end in mind, the better.” He officially sold the auto repair shop and opened the Dancing Mule in 2009.

He said that there were some things he hadn’t even considered about the business before working with his consultants. Considerations span from creating an atmosphere that fosters a community and social interaction to purchasing the right equipment, down to the smallest mixing utensil. Another great consideration was the name. The title “Dancing Mule” comes from a legend of the origin of coffee with an Ozarkian spin (read the entire story here) 

So, Randy made the change from auto repair business owner to passionate coffee connoisseur. “We think coffee shops should be fun, not have an arrogance, indifference or stuffiness,” explained Randy. “It’s great to be focused on product quality, but we encourage interaction with customers.” Randy’s philosophy still stands true as he works to grow his business each and every day . His passion, vision, goals and actions have changed his life.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Do you remember Smitty’s Supermarkets? The story lives on.

Why not work at something you love? 

I just finished reading a book about Smitty’s Supermarkets founder Clyde “Smitty” Smith.  What jumped out at me most was Clyde’s passion for the grocery business.  Even as a teenager Smitty was fascinated by merchandise and cash trading hands on the sales floor.  He talked his way into his first grocery job in a small town in Iowa by offering the proprietor, Keith Rushing, into a trial period so that he could prove his worth.  He went on to more than prove his worth.  Rushing took Smith under his wing and became a life-long friend and mentor eventually helping Smith find and start his own store. 

Smith got that first job in 1936. He tried several other career options only to return to the grocery business in 1946 when he opened his own store.  From that one small store he slowly but surely built an empire of market leading stores in Iowa, Arizona, and Missouri eventually opening the country’s first combined grocery and retail space Superstore in 1962.  At the height of their existence Smitty’s was the largest private employer in the state of Arizona.

Over time we get good at what we do or practice repeatedly.  If you are working in your area of passion vocationally and you leverage your strength, you will invariably do amazing things.  These kind of people not only tend to be happier themselves, they tend to make major contributions that positively impact others as well.  I was a benefactor of Smitty’s passion for the grocery business.  

Before I was a coach, I owned a janitorial supply distribution company.  Smitty’s set very high standards for cleanliness and sanitation making then an ideal client for us.  Over the years the Missouri stores became one of our best clients.  Partially because of the help I got along the way from Smitty, I was eventually able to sell Springfield Janitor Supply and now am able to live out my passion vocationally every day in my coaching practice. 

So here is the bottom line.  Why not work at something you love?  You will be happier. You will not want for motivation, and you will end up having a bigger impact on the world around you.  Sounds like a win-win scenario to me. 

For more info on the Smitty’s story read the article in the March 28th, 2011 edition of the Springfield Business Journal reviewing the book Pioneering the Superstore a Retail Revolution-The Story of Clyde”Smitty” Smith.