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.

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