In the late 1950s, Coffex was founded by an Italian family, who were responding to a lack of authentic coffee needed to satisfy the appetite of the large post-World War Two influx of Mediterranean-born migrants.
Thanks to a life-long habit, I’m up early – if not with the sun, then not far behind. A quick breakfast and straight to work by about 7am to open up the offices and prepare for the day’s work, which is highly varied.
My primary concerns are the company’s quality product and profitability, which involves keeping a keen eye on how we are faring in a highly competitive market. So my first port of call comes with the sales department’s daily reports, where I monitor the activity in detail from staff here in Melbourne, but also in our other centres – Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth, Mildura and New Zealand. Depending on what is happening in those centres, I contact most of the state and regional managers, either individually or in a group email, both to encourage them and to anticipate problem areas. In total, we have 75 staff.
Our most important areas cover Sales, Accounts and Servicing. We distribute roasted coffee and ancillary items to local, interstate and international clients, including Malaysia, Dubai, Singapore and China. This is a huge leap forward from Coffex’s early days, which just catered for a localised market, to see the breadth of the organisation’s coverage today, providing for patrons across the globe who appreciate our excellent coffee blend. Coffex is the Australian distributor for La Cimbali, the Milan-based company that is a by-word for excellence in espresso machine manufacture. Coffex handle repairs and upkeep of machines. Ensuring that this department of Coffex functions smoothly and efficiently makes up a significant part of my day because, although you can delegate and be assured of the department’s competence, if anything goes wrong, the problems inevitably come to the MD’s desk.
The coffee business is about beans, which we source from many countries, but, as a long-time accountant, I’m used to another form of bean-counting as well. So I have daily conferences with all managers in the morning, watching outlay/expenditure and sales figures. The food service market that comprises cafés and coffee shops is a highly competitive one. This means that I have to hit the ground running every single day, ensuring that I meet and greet as many of our clients as possible.
In the afternoon, I liaise with present and potential patrons of Coffex. I have found that having the MD act as support for our sales staff can often make the difference between bringing a possible customer on board or being grouped as just one of many companies tendering for business. It’s not just a question of sales, it’s the personal touch that shows clients that the whole company is involved in supporting them.
The promotion of Fair Trade coffee is an area that has my strong support and I have a specialised unit that is focused on this segment of our production. In 2013, we took part in the Tertiary Access Group Fair, showcasing our Fair Trade coffee to Australian universities’ buyer groups.
Other meetings in the afternoon can involve the Research and Development department, which has a laboratory dedicated to refining blends and single-bean products. This is a new initiative in which the staff not only experiment with existing and new beans but also travel to the places from where Coffex sources its raw materials: African nations, Latin American nations as well as Papua New Guinea.
We are currently rebranding and upgrading the Coffex visual identity, so at the moment I am meeting all kinds of talented people who are in charge of re-branding all sorts of material. This exercise calls for a fine attention to detail, getting things right because our brand identity, especially the packaging, is the most obvious facet of our public persona and a key driver of sales at the retail level with household consumers.
My role involves plenty of travel, and not just locally. Each month, I try to visit all the other state and New Zealand offices; sometimes to meet new clients, major and minor; at other times, to see problems at their source and propose solutions; and always to stimulate and encourage the staff, which outside Victoria is smaller in numbers and can feel isolated from the main hub of operations here in Brunswick.
At my instigation, we have added a small café to the showroom of our Dawson Street Head Office and Roastery, which will allow new customers the chance to enjoy the taste and rich aroma of our freshly roasted and brewed coffee.
Coffex stands for ‘coffee excellence’. My aim and actions focus on ensuring that the company stands at the forefront of sourcing and roasting both specialty and single origin coffee blends in this country. Our combined professionalism in these areas enables us to cater for both the traditional as well as the sophisticated palate.
As my day ends at about 7pm, I feel satisfied to realise that the main point of difference between Coffex and its competitors is that, whilst we have the capacity to supply many high-end and blue chip clients, we are still able to provide personalised, individual customer service to smaller customers and cafés.