The coffee industry as a whole is a family business. It is one of the largest commercial commodities in the market and 80% of the world’s coffee is grown by small-scale farmers. I find it mind blowing to think that the world at large relies so heavily on small family farms responsible for growing, drying, and exporting the beans growing in their fields. How can these family businesses across the world remain so successful? Here are the three pillars of their success.
A Spirit of Service
Service is a two way street. It may be directed to a particular person, situation, or product, but it remains a gift that gives to the gifter as much as the receiver. The one serving and the served one benefit from the action in place. That is what makes businesses in themselves an act of service that carries social responsibility and a spirit of charity. Remembering this, is one of the core for a successful business. Once everything becomes about the numbers and not the people and service, the business looses its purpose. When the spirit of service is lost, it is replaced by negligence; and soon, there is no purpose to the work, the efforts, and sacrifices that successful families and businesses ultimatelyrequire.
The developed world has a reputation for being wasteful. We prioritize comfort and convenience over sustainability and resourcefulness. In the country and the remote areas where coffee farms are located, even people are a scarce resource. Being good stewards of the world around us includes valuing our communities for their unique gifts and work. Children often have some sort of jobs in the farms or they accompany adults through their jobs. This dynamic is what leading by example is all about. They become witnesses of the work ethic require to run the world-wide coffee industry, as well as witnesses of the community that carries the legacy and tradition of coffee around the world.
Families are a school of virtue. We learn right and wrong, appropriate behaviors vs, inappropriate, all from our families. Businesses require those lessons too. At large, business regulations are what keeps us in check, but at the coffee farms, it is the family dynamic that keeps everyone in check. Nature keeps everyone in check as well, as it isn’t possible to work after hours once the sun has set and the vulnerability of living in a remote place makes every member of this large production dependent on the love and care family members have for each other.
There is a unique beauty in multigenerational communities. Those social clusters in which children depend and learn from elders; while the elders never lose the vitality for life due to the children who never stop inquiring, demanding energy, and bringing joy to every small corner.
Family businesses can be a matter of controversy. Some are hurt by family drama, while others are empowered by family healing. Ultimately, successful families and businesses stand under the same pillars, a strong sense of service, stewardship, and responsibility. Both are a school in how we should treat people, goods, and the world.