The Story Behind Coffee Talk 3

There are three reasons for writing about how Coffee Talk 3 came to being. Before getting into that, what is Coffee Talk 3?

Coffee Talk 3 is the third in a series of events that have brought the Vancouver, Washington-area coffee community together for a discussion covering the market, industry trends and strategy.

I talk and write all the time about strategy. In fact strategy was a fundamental if not considerable part of what became Coffee Talk 3. This time around there was a special component – a collaboration. I want to highlight a special team member and his awesome mom and dad. And third, this is a behind-the-scenes look and accompaniment to the event this past week. Here is hoping the reader comes away with an appreciation for what goes into bringing about a community event.

Collaboration

My friend and former classmate at University of Portland’s MBA program, Shruti Chatterjee, and her husband, Ratul, have an infant son. Kiyan was about 3-months old when Shruti and I met for coffee and began discussing Coffee Talk 3.

Kiyan was as much a part of the team as Shruti and me.

Shruti inquired about the two previous Coffee Talk events I had put on earlier in the year. My next one was coming up. I had some ideas about what I would do for it. Regardless, Shruti was interested in being a part.

Shared Interests

Coffee Talk 3 would build upon what I took away from Coffee Talk 2 – cafés’ relationship with customers was changing. For the better or the worse was not for me to say. The topic was compelling as was a way to build upon it.

By my luck, Shruti had a business idea for a café essentially founded upon customer relationships!

She has a vision for one day opening a café in her home country of India; only, she was unfamiliar with café operations. Her participation in Coffee Talk 3 would, I figured, gain her exposure if she was more exposed to café operations.

How about sitting down with café owners to discuss their challenges and aggregating their feedback into fodder for discussion at the actual event?

Thinking of myself, I welcomed help with the programming. I knew I would learn from collaborating with Shruti. Lastly, Coffee Talk 3 is another in a series of piloted ideas for Rehr Consulting.

Side Interest

Shruti was interested in getting out, passionately expending effort on strategic planning and learning and building out the café concept with which she’d been mentally toying for a few years.

From my perspective, I’m going to risk outwardly embarrassing Shruti. She’s smart. Really smart. I very much wanted to work with her and learn. Nothing for nothing, a talented person said she wanted to support my program – SIGN HERE! And, Shruti was willing to provide perspective on Rehr Consulting’s successes and failures. That meant a lot to me. I knew our result would mean a lot to our café colleagues, too.

Coming together as a team required another teammate. So far as I was concerned, Kiyan was welcomed for any and all planning meetings. In fact, I told Shruti so. There’s no question, no hesitation. If Kiyan’s inclusion meant the advantages Shruti could bring to the entirety of planning, then of course he was welcomed.

Anyway, babies cry. That’s what they do to communicate how they feel

Again, from my perspective, Kiyan was welcomed at all meetings. Why? According to me, he had all the good ideas! That notwithstanding,

Babies are hard work. They just are. And they operate on a different schedule. As such, the planning schedule Shruti and I arranged changed a number of times – tardy starts, interruptions, last-minute cancellations, postponements.

I don’t know why I chose to write the phrase, because I don’t believe any of us actually said it. That’s not actually the point. Nevertheless, I asked “What can I do?” to accommodate? What a simple question. Everyone (figuratively) used it. Everyone benefitted. All of use could argue his or her case, including the café owners and residually, their staffs, etc. I believe I benefitted the most.

Instead of the inherent constraints, I looked at the irreplaceable advantages. That’s why I am so thankful to Shruti and Ratul (and Kiyan, too!) for their sacrifice to help me help the coffee café community in Vancouver.

The Goal

The goal in my mind was paramount. If Shruti collaborates with me, then not only will I be more successful in my project, but we both can benefit. That, my friendly reader, is either called win-win or a no-brainer. Forgive some technical terms from a Strategy Consultant. They mean I should do this.

Same As Meeting Socially

Back in 2016, Shruti and I had taken a negotiating course together during our MBA programs at University of Portland’s Pamplin School of Business. Of course, we had similar professors, too. We were connected on LinkedIn on which Shruti wrote me back in early-April.

After some brief catch-up over messaging, I learned Shruti had had a baby in December. We decided to meet up for coffee.

In my calendar invite, I wrote:

Again, Shruti, if you’d like and/or if it’s more convenient to bring your son, then please do.  (If you do, then I’ll be pleased to meet him!)  Also, if you need to alter the day/time/place, etc.–even if it’s at the last moment–then that’s OK.  ‘Life with a baby…  Just let me know, OK?

Considering Collaborating

I will risk embarrassing Shruti here. She is smart. Really smart. And, like any other collaborator, she has experiences and skills and competencies that are at the least different than my own.

Specifically, she showed interest in supporting my Coffee Talk 3 event. The event (held this past week) would be the third in a recurring series that brings together local coffee café owners to discuss the market, industry trends and strategy.

Shruti has an idea about starting a café in her home country one day. She’s got training and visibility into all aspects of doing so except the operations. Would there be a way to gain exposure by helping plan the event?

Strategic Collaboration Begins

At first, I was unsure of how she could get involved. I told her that I would get back to her. In my mind, I knew it would be great to collaborate. I just wasn’t sure how everyone could benefit – café owners, Shruti, and me.

When the idea struck me, it just made sense. 2 MBAs. Consultations. Discussing operations. Two-on-one consultations to observe, analyze, and aggregate would serve my interests. 2 MBAs would be extra value to café owners. In doing so, Shruti would gain exposure to café operations. and, on June 11, discuss business trends with the group.When the idea struck me, it just made sense.

The results were outstanding. And, if given the opportunity to revisit the decision to collaborate with a mother of an infant son, I would easily decide the same.

I would do it again – same way, same everything. It is more than possible working with a woman with an infant. It is smart. It is productive. It is results-driven. The variable is not the baby. The overarching variable is empathy – is the empathy ON or OFF in the mind of the person(s) without the baby?