by Lisa Blanton and Norman Froscher

It’s now 2020 and, as the year implies, it’s time to think about vision. Is your vision 20/20 or are you constantly thinking in hindsight? Are you thinking and acting strategically? Is your vision being impaired by blinders? In this rapidly changing industry, we must be able to adapt and change on the fly … or we risk being left behind.

Sometimes we feel like we are being bombarded from all sides—by the carriers, the carrier stores and their affiliated partnerships, Amazon, online retailers, and even our own clients who are demanding more and wanting to pay less. These things seem like obstacles and, with our vision cloudy, can catch us off guard. But sometimes these aren’t obstacles at all, but rather opportunities! How do we correct our vision to 20/20 so that we can see genuine obstacles and opportunities and adjust accordingly?

First, we have to be forward thinking and our management style must encompass this. If we start each day, week, month, and year without a vision and a plan, we will fail. Certainly, there will be times where it seems we’re doing nothing but putting out fires, but if that is our modus operandi, the fires will win.

Let’s start with the easiest and simplest increment of time that we can strategically plan for: the day. Do you have a to-do list for the day when you come to your store? It’s helpful to actually write to-do items down. Physically writing down the list is beneficial in several ways: breaking down tasks into manageable chunks makes them easier to do; it helps you prioritize which tasks need to be accomplished first; crossing them off as you do them provides satisfaction and builds momentum to keep getting the items done. These can be simple tasks like ordering supplies, making schedules, or planning a social media post, or more involved tasks like signing up with a new supplier, reaching out to a neighboring business to cross-promote, or rethinking product and service pricing. Having the written to-do list also makes you accountable and makes it easier to delegate certain tasks.

The next increment would be the week. At Espresso Mail, many weekly tasks are recurring for us and some of them overlap with our daily to-do lists. They include our cleaning schedule, coffee roasting, and retail rearranging (while we don’t move everything around weekly, we definitely move several of the counter impulse items and swap spaces for greeting card racks). We change our chalkboards, which we’ll end up posting on social media at some point during the week.

Monthly, we schedule a team meeting at the first of the month. During this meeting we go over the goals for the month and recap the success of what goals we had for the previous month. We also set our local charity for the month that we support with our tape tip jar. Each month may also have a different holiday and we set our plans on how to market for it. We also focus on a specific service, which is tied to our team goals, and we will promote it to our regular guests and drop-off guests.

Our quarterly and yearly vision goals are usually interrelated as well. Each year, we set a goal to add, subtract, or modify five to six services per year. Some of these are bigger goals. Last year, we decided to add wide format printing. That’s a goal which required a larger investment in time and money. Not all of our yearly goals can be achieved at once, so we break them down quarterly. One of our annual goals last year was to bring in a few different vendors for retail items. Because we’re a seasonal store, we waited until the beginning of the fourth quarter to bring in the items. One of the simpler goals that we set for last year was to evaluate services or vendors that weren’t performing to the level we wanted them to. We changed one vendor, added another, and modified what we got from yet another (which is why you can now get a Brazilian single origin coffee at the store instead of a Mexican).

We’re now formulating our plans for 2020 so that our vision is strategic and forward thinking. One of these goals is to attend the 2020 Visionary Summit in April in St. Louis. These industry events are inspiring, educational, and fun. We want to make certain that our vision for our store is always 20/20 so we endeavor to make to-do lists, set goals, and be adaptable and flexible in our industry and community. We encourage you to do the same.

Lisa Blanton, when not working her full-time job of keeping Norman in line at Espresso Mail and handling the accounting and financial aspects of the business, has an additional full-time accounting job in the private sector. She’s an advocate for AMBC and genuinely likes helping other stores. Her favorite drink is our frozen charcoal mocha.

Norman Froscher and his wife Lisa co-own Espresso Mail in West Palm Beach, Florida and Norman serves on the AMBC Board of Directors as Director of Engagement and Board Vice Chair. When he’s not packing, shipping, or printing, he’s looking for a good cup of coffee or espresso, which makes it really convenient that he has a coffee bar in his store. #NormanKnows

This article was originally published on page 8 of MBC Today Volume 22, Issue 1 (January / February 2020).