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Book Summary: “Beans: Four Principles for Running a Business in Good Times or Bad”, by Leslie Yerkes and Charles Decker

A business parable, Beans tells the story of a coffee bar in Seattle. The authors describe four essential ingredients for success that apply to companies of any size: start with passion, hire good people, make the buying experience personal, and maintain a good product.

The 1st ingredient in the book is PASSION, and the idea is simple: you must have passion for what you do. Love what you do and do what you love. Work is about more than the money; it’s about enjoying what you’re doing. If you don’t, clients will know it…and that’s a problem. And no matter how much passion you have for what you are doing, if your clients don’t have a similar passion for your product or service, they’re not going to buy from you. So if they don’t have the passion, you have to create it for them. How do you do that? First, you must fully understand your customers’ needs and wants, and then you must over-deliver.

The 2nd ingredient is PEOPLE. Look for potential employees who first have passion and second have the right attitude and skills to do the job. Look for people who share your values. Hire people who are friendly and have a passion for life and other people. Hire good people, and let them work. Trust them to do the right thing. Tell them what you expect (the mission) and talk about goals for the week, month, year. Let them come up with ideas to accomplish goals. Good people become good employees…which lead to good customers.

The 3rd ingredient in Beans is to MAKE IT PERSONAL. Everybody wants to be a regular (remember, this is a business case-study about a coffee shop). They want to be recognized and appreciated. Corporate layoffs and "rightsizing" have resulted in a loss of employee loyalty, and there’s a direct connection between employee loyalty and customer loyalty. Customers are loyal when employees are loyal. When employees are loyal they act selflessly, thinking about what’s good for the company first, not about what’s good for them. Treat customers as friends first instead of customers…like on Cheers ("Norm!"). Encourage employees to engage the clients. When clients are connected to you, they are less willing to spend their money with a competitor. Really get to know your client: strengthen the connection; develop a relationship. Make their experience with you and your company personal.

The 4th ingredient is PRODUCT. People don’t pay good money for a bad product. Consistency of product or service (performance, quality, "experience") is critical. Bad product overrides good (even great) service and poor product will drive away good customers. Conversely, bad service can drive customers away from a good product. You have to get the fundamentals right. As the quality of the product rises, so does customer loyalty, then employee morale increases. The message for business owners: Be passionate about your quality, celebrate that quality in word and deed and your people will be passionate about their work. For employees, the message is: Be proud of your work and what you produce and your work environment will be more enjoyable.

So, in summary, to help drive success in your business or organization, the authors of Beans recommend that you hire the best people you can, allow them to be who they are, treat them fairly and reward them regularly, and instill in them a love for serving the customers. Then, the customers will come back faithfully.