Tea Industry Influencers Discuss Important Decisions

World Tea News asked tea industry influencers: What are the most important decisions you face daily as a leader in your organization?
Their answers are below. Well, I'm an organization of One - I'm self-employed. But my business is entirely driven by projects and partnering with people who need training - in all its many forms. My daily decisions revolve around how I can be more nimble and maintain an open willingness to try. In part, this is because the projects I work on are (sometimes shockingly) diverse and I simply have to be able to pivot. But it's also so that I can give appropriate counsel to clients. We know that our industry is being affected by big changes. All the time, faster than many of us can keep up. And it's not an event, it's a new way of life. Yet, we still need to be able to execute business and marketing plans that take all year to develop. I believe that work starts with the individual, at the leadership level. We must cultivate a personally earned, compassionate understanding toward these changes and mentor that to others. Maintain a flexibility of mind, open curiosity, learning ability, and work style.

—Suzette Hammond Founder of Being Tea, tea trainer and consultant

Where to spend my time, money, and focus. In our industry there are a lot of ways you can take your business. There are thousands of teas to choose from, millions of flavor combinations, dozens of brewing formats, and an infinite potential client base. Focusing your efforts to attract your demographic of client and doing what is needed to keep them coming back; even if it is a tea I wouldn’t personally drink or a brewing method I would never use. If your clients are asking for it, willing to pay for it, and they are your demographic, then do it. Have to remember you are in business to make money, not sell just what you like personally. You don’t have to be everything to everyone. Its ok to say no to a customer that will take you away from your core, or cause you to loose focus. A short gain could cause greater losses in the end.

—Scott Svihula Owner of Hula Consulting

At The Tea Spot, the precise questions we’re discussing here are the ones I contemplate and discuss with my colleagues daily, and in particular at the start of each new year. We have to make the best decisions we can on where to invest our time and money, with means understanding where the trends are going, and driving those which we feel are best suited for our brand. We’ve got an extraordinary team who’ve helped build and manage our business responsibly, so for the past five years we’ve been able to focus on choosing the right new opportunities for our business.

—Maria Uspenski Founder and CEO of The Tea Spot, author of Cancer Hates Tea

The most important on a daily basis revolve around people. Attracting, training and retaining people that love tea, our business and our customers is a focus that impacts just about every decision we make. This includes how we advertise for talent, properly bringing people onboard, training then making sure they have the knowledge and the understanding they are the face of our company. The other aspect is our customers: The focus is two fold: First, working to assure they get the service and products they want and expect, and listening and responding to comments, suggestions and complaints. Second, listening and actively soliciting input about their current and future needs. This is a major source of input for the development of new offerings.

—Tim Smith Owner of The Tea Smith

From a buying perspective how to maintain balance between quality, target costs and sustainability at origin and trying to get the most price transference back to the farmer. These four very intertwined and complex issues for buying require significant long term planning and most importantly the input and support of our partners at origin. It is our aligned and committed partners in the supply chain that allow Allegro to have balance amongst these issues.

—Kelly Amoroso Tea Buyer at Allegro Coffee

The International Tea Sippers Society is a consumer-facing project designed to connect with and benefit Tea B2B. My personal challenge is building that bridge and making the connection more beneficial to both sides. Consumers need more reasons to self-identify as tea drinkers and businesses need more affordable ways to tap into this pool.

—Babette Donaldson President of the International Tea Sipper’s Society, author, tea educator