I was at an airport a couple weeks ago, when I had the pleasure to meet Robin Sharma, author of the bestseller "The Monk who sold his Ferrari". I hadn't read the book, so I bought it. One of the tenets of Mr. Sharma's book is that happy people are people who achieve, and the happiest people of all are those whose achievements benefit others. If one sets high goals and works to achieve them and the result is of benefit to others, one becomes incurably happy. I decided to get involved in the coffee industry 22 years ago because I thought I could make a contribution. On one hand, coffee is a very important business in developing countries like Costa Rica, because, even to this day, the industry is still mostly in the hands of small and medium size farmers, coffee helped build the country as we know it more than any other economic activity. However, Latin American coffee farmers face cycles that result in short periods of high coffee prices followed by prolonged periods of low prices. This can result in their inability to cover production costs for several consecutive years.
In my economics research, a lot of quantitative analysis produced an obvious conclusion — coffee producers needed to move a few links higher on the value chain to free themselves from the "straight jacket" imposed upon them by the variability of international coffee prices. This was the proposition that transformed Café Britt into the world's first company to roast coffee in a coffee-producing country for the express purpose of exporting it as a finished product. Our initial Britt team was motivated by the conviction that we could transform the way coffee was marketed, eliminating the middlemen and going straight to our customers with a gourmet finished product, hence the slogan "From the plantation to your cup." If we were successful, we could offer many coffee producers an alternative — the means to sell their gourmet coffee for prices far above international levels. In this way, Britt became the first coffee company to link the producer directly to the consumer. That sense of giving back was a strong motivator to work hard and persevere. We'd test new business models, discard the ones that didn't work well and embrace the ones that were most productive. From my conversation with Mr. Sharma and from what I'd gleaned from his book it became clear to me why I'd spent so many years working for a small company without losing that sense of fulfillment. I've been motivated by the sense of responsibility and enthusiasm that comes from increasing the benefit for our customers and for all those people whose work complements our own. In our annual “Christmas media luncheon”, I recently shared these ideas with approximately 80 Costa Rican journalists who have covered our development at Britt over the last 15 years. My coworkers at Britt´s Annual Party also heard me talk about my sense of gratitude that came from working with a team that achieved goals that benefited others.
I also talked about how in my travels to our countries of operation throughout the Americas, I've witnessed a general sense of disenchantment with the political system among our Britt colleagues. Costa Rica is no exception. I've perceived a growing disconnect between the needs of the population and the interests of governments and political parties. Some surveys indicate that people have lost much of the confidence they once had in their political leaders. They feel deceived and, consequently, have lost hope that the future can be better than the present. In the midst of pessimism, I've asked us all to reflect on the phrase, "But it is not this day," which is part of the battle cry of Aragorn of Arathorn in final clash of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. I then combined the lesson of "The Monk who sold his Ferrari" with my own experience of achievement and happiness at Britt, to drive home the fact that today more than ever it’s time to act for the benefit of our communities. Today is not the day to throw in the towel! I'll leave you with the words of that now classic battle cry as a rally for these trying times and as a call to give back in 2013. I wish you all an exciting new year, full of meaning, and contribution. A year in which we find ways of passing unto others some of the blessings we have received in our lives.
The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien, as interpreted by Peter Jackson in the third movie of the trilogy: “The Return of the King”.