I once heard Scott Bedbury, former SVP of Marketing at Starbucks (and once Worldwide Advertising Director at Nike, so yeah knows his stuff) describe how the now iconic coffee company first honed in on their legendary marketing strategy by thinking about the place a cup of coffee has in our society. Not simply a cup of hot brown liquid, but as a centerpiece around which creativity, study, and debate blossomed. That realization gave birth to the comfy couch, fireplace-having coffee houses we enjoy today.
Whether it’s to give advice to a budding entrepreneur, get advice from a mentor, or connect with colleagues, on average I’m probably sitting down for a work-related coffee at least three or four times a week.
And every cup of coffee has the potential to be worth a million dollars.
I’m fortunate to have been involved in growing three companies, selling two, and helping a number of others innovate along the way. I’m not super-smart or better than the next person (trust me), I’ve simply recognized the single most instrumental factor to success is this: over the years, I’ve developed a network of great people who I can call on to help, and critically, to help me help others. And I've lived the effect that a network of good people can have on your business.
The truth is, to succeed in business you need passion, creativity, hustle, smarts and luck. You also need a broad network of people to help you navigate potential pitfalls, see big opportunities, and accelerate execution so you can do what’s required faster and better than the next person. Cultivating that network happens exponentially: when you add value and connect with a good mentor or give back to someone, it leads to the next valuable connection.
And great people lead to great outcomes.
In sports, champions know that there is always someone training to take your spot; the same is true of business leaders. From Bill Gates leaning on Warren Buffett to Sidney Crosby trusting in Mario Lemieux, everyone at the top of their game looks to surround themselves with people that can help them achieve or maintain that leadership position. And once you’re fortunate enough to achieve success, it’s hard to not enjoy paying it forward and being part of another’s achievements.
The most valuable thing any of us have is our time so let’s be honest; spending all your time meeting people for coffee wouldn’t be too productive (not to mention the sleep deprivation and jitters). The key is to ensure value is created at these meetings and always be respectful of the time you give and take. It’s not a bad thing to politely decline, it’s not worth your time or theirs whether the person sees it or not. When it’s hard to tell in advance, but the person comes referred from a good source then take the meeting since somewhere down the line good things happen when good people connect.
Unlike freshly roasted coffee beans, that value-creating cup you just enjoyed has an insanely long shelf life; in most cases the positive results won’t be realized for years. And that’s part of the magic in how this works. As one great connection leads to the next, the network itself gets more valuable and every new connection opens doors to new opportunity.
Over every cup, I try to leave the other person happy that we met. If there’s anything my own history has taught me it’s that everyone from an aspiring entrepreneur to a Fortune 500 CEO has some project they’re unsure of, or has hit a snag in the road and a fresh perspective might help.
There is nothing more gratifying in business than to have had a hand in helping others along their path to success, and those leaders who offer their time and connections usually tend to receive back much more than they expected in return. I'm living this reality now with fantastic leaders giving their time to help our new company Penny move smarter and faster in the right direction.
When I first started chasing wild ideas I wasn’t a coffee drinker. It was about me and my team in our little office trying to change the world. It didn’t go so well because the wall I sat across from was fresh out of ideas. I’ve since grabbed more coffees than I can count, forging authentic connections with amazing people. A few of those cups ended up being worth millions, giving some well-deserving people financial freedom and happy lives, others sparked charitable causes that will help countless others, and some were just pleasant times with good people.
It turns out that those Starbucks geniuses were on to something. So go ahead and hit up your favorite coffee house for a cup of joe, tea, or whatever your beverage of choice may be. You just never know how valuable it could be.
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