Should You Become a Coffee Consultant?
People are often asking me “I want to become a coffee consultant. How do I do that?”
I want as many people in our industry to be as successful as possible. So please, in no way is what I’m about to say implying that I want less people to be coffee consultants.
Just as I advise most future cafe owner to delay their plans until they have most of the skills they didn’t know they needed to run a business, I caution the same thing about people who think they should be “coffee consultants” because they believe it’s going to be this wonderfully easy lifestyle.
Reality check, It’s HARD work! Very rewarding, but not the lifestyle most people expect it is. And unfortunately, people who are getting into business without knowing what they’re doing, are looking to hire the best they can find for the little money they can afford, and it’s usually a local barista from their local coffee shop.
That barista will happily takes the job because, well, it’s extra pay and they feel important.
If you’ve been approached to “consult” for someone wanting to open a cafe or roastery and you’ve never had your own business, you should consider turning down the job.
“But Lee, they just want me to work on the coffee program, not the whole business.” I hear you saying.
Sure. But the coffee program is an integral part of running the business and if you haven’t got insight into what it’s like to manage cashflow, negotiate terms with suppliers, teach and build a buying and selling philosophy and SO MUCH MORE, I’d dissuade you from taking that client’s money and steering them in the direction of someone who can.
If you’re thinking about taking a client like this on, you should, at the very least, have been involved in being the opening store manager of many different types of cafes or roasteries for at least a decade before you’re guiding someone else how to do it.
Why is this so important?
Because consultants have to be able to see the blind spots that clients have and point out the unintended future challenges they’re going to experience as a part of the consultation.
Also, as a consultant, you’re required to have a network that your client can tap into depending on the terms of your consultation.
And finally, this is important because your client needs to know your unbiased response to their questions based on the vast knowledge base and experience you’re supposed to have from your wealth of experience in failing and finding success doing the same things your clients are asking you to do.
This doesn’t just apply to cafe and roastery consultation. It applies when someone approaches you about “coming up” with a bottled cold brew for them. Do they want you just to come up with a cold brew recipe or a figure out how to create a bottled beverage? They’re two VERY different consultation situations. You need to be able to advise them about food safety laws, shelf stability, packaging, labelling, storage, and SO MUCH MORE.
There are far too many people out there who have worked as baristas for 3 years and are how calling themselves “coffee consultants” without understanding the ramifications their lack of knowledge could have on clients and their businesses.
Similarly, there are far too many cafe owners out there who have contacted me and told me that they wasted money on people calling themselves “coffee consultants” (usually after winning a coffee competition) that didn’t really know what they were talking about or, simply copied SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures) from companies they’d previously worked for and tried to pass them on as their own work.
If becoming a coffee consultant is something you’d love to do, thats awesome. To do that, you’re going to have to be an legit expert at what it is you’re planning to consult in. The only way to do that, is to WORK AT YOUR SKILLS till your an expert and study it intensely from all angles.
That should take you 10 years.
Then, when you’re ready, your work will speak for itself.
Watch/listen to episode #106 of The Daily Coffee Pro to hear what more I have to say on the subject!
This article was written by Lee Safar @leesafar - Founder of MAP IT FORWARD and Elixir Specialty Coffee, and host of The MAP IT FORWARD Podcast. If you’d like to better prepare yourself for becoming a cafe owner, and are unable to afford a consultant, we recommend taking our online webinar, presented by Lee Safar and Elliot Reinecke “Navigating a Successful 10 Year Career and Business as a Cafe Owner” which includes a detailed career and business map to help you understand the trajectory of your career and business flow. Click here for more details. For details on hiring Lee Safar as a consultant for your coffee business, connect though social media @leesafar, @imapitforward or our the contact page.