The People Business

Yes, the people business. Let me tell you about 2 young guys in Indiana who started a business, a coffee truck business, back in 2018. Guy and Damien, two buddies just out of University. They had an idea to set up a coffee truck business. A coffee truck with all the correct permits to cover all the popular locations. 

The boys set up a coffee truck business. Such an exciting moment. What the future holds.

They borrowed the capital they imagined would be adequate. They planned their start-up and even got a small grant from the local Chamber of Commerce.

Meeting Poppa Joe

Joe and his coffeePoppa Joe. Everything you would hope for in a mentor. Please note the grey hair;)

It was here they met Joe. 

Joe was in his sixties with a sharp mind with a wealth of experience.

I’ve got to say from the outset that Joe had never been in the coffee business, but he had been in business for 38 years. Sold his business and was semi-retired, doing voluntary counselling for the C of C. 

Over a few coffees (what else) Joe took an interest in the boys’ endeavours. To cut a long story short and over more coffee, the boys ask Joe to help them set up the business. In particular, future planning.

After going over the plans and forecasts, Joe noticed the numbers were optimistic. Joe suggested the outcomes they were planning might not be realistic. They discussed many scenarios and Joe was correct. With the numbers adjusted the entire plan seemed to come alive. 

They didn’t realize it, but Joe had just become their mentor.

After an inordinately long time for the boys to get started, they opened in the spring of 2018. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Joe had a hard time controlling their eagerness to rush in. Instead, he guided them in getting a complete understanding and vision of the plans for the business, step by step. They left nothing to chance. Every scenario discussed and thought through. Adjustments made, and the business took flight. Remember Joe had no experience in the coffee business. 

Open for business

The business opened and things went to plan pretty much as Joe and the boys imagined they would.

After the first anniversary, the business was a success on anyone’s terms. All the time Joe was on hand to make sure the boys were working the plan.

Things were humming. 

They were building a client base, and each month’s revenue exceeded the last. Joe suggested they create a Trucking Coffee Club for customers who loved their coffee and were more than happy to get deliveries for home events and offices for business meetings, etc.

They did free coffee sports events tipping competitions and had silly names for each day of the week. Like “Misery Monday” and “Thank God Is Friday” and Wednesday became “Hump Day” They were having fun, and the customers loved it. They made a concerted effort to know most of their customers’ first names. They collected contact details when appropriate.

When they heard one of their customers was off sick, they would reach out to them even to the point of sending a get-well coffee pack.

They served what was considered the best coffee in town.

 Each coffee style had a different quirky name. For example, a long black was called a “Long Tall Sally”. A macchiato was “The Italian Job” and on it went. In summer, they bottled their own iced coffee, “The Chill Pack”.

They encouraged customers to come up with new quirky names for different styles of coffee. They kept a record of the customers’ favourite coffee styles. A small thing but a large point of difference. None of this happened by accident. Everything was according to the plans.

They knew each customer’s coffee of choice. This was also part of the plan. 

They sent out newsletters, birthday wishes and wedding anniversary greetings. They kept a record of the customers’ favorite coffee styles. 

They bought another truck and created more happy customers. 

In the people business

Joe instilled into them they were in the people business, not the coffee business. The Trucking Coffee Club grew to a website, and it wasn’t long before they employed staff just to manage and maintain the online Trucking Coffee Club demands.

They moved forward at a good pace. Joe pulled in the reins when needed. Joe was now a paid consultant. The boys called him Poppa Joe. He was part of the team.

The best-laid plans….

Who predicted a global pandemic? No one. Now they are in the boat up the well-known creek with everyone else.

In 2020, the global pandemic was impacting the entire world. Businesses shut down and went into isolation. The coffee business virtually ceased operations overnight. The trucks were moth-balled and the boys with Poppa Joe’s guidance and experience went into survival mode.

The 'Trucking Coffee Club' changed everything

The Trucking Coffee Club became the saviour. Yes, some staff had to be temporarily stood down, but not for long was the hope. The Trucking Coffee Club BOOMED. The boys delivered customers’ favorite coffee, bagged coffee beans and ground coffee all delivered to the customers on demand. They struck deals with coffee machine providers, sent out coffee recipes to make life a little easier for their customers. 

happy customersThe Coffee Club BOOMED. The boys delivered customers’ favorite coffee, bagged coffee beans and ground coffee all delivered to the customers on demand.

The initial idea for the boys was to create a coffee truck business, but it turned into another business… and the reason they survived was because they were in the people business. 

People from all over the state and beyond wanted online deliveries. Poppa Joe always said they were in the people business.

people groupPoppa Joe always said they were in the people business.

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The upshot of this story was, not only did the boys survive they flourished. The laid-off staff were re-instated from their own homes and they set up the  communication. They had zoom meetings every weekend and the vibe and energy jumped through the screen. 

The laid-off staff were re-instated from their own homes and they set up the communication.

Poppa Joe was the key. As the pandemic eased the boys moved forward with modified plans and with Poppa Joe’s experience they franchised the trucks and became the supplier of the products. They formed a leasing business to give budding entrepreneurs a low-cost start. They understood clearly they were in the people business.

a multi-faceted business

Here we are now and Poppa Joe and the boys know what worked. Their business now looks nothing like they imagined it would. Not in their wildest dreams would they have dared to believe this was possible. They started a business with an idea and much enthusiasm and created a multi-faceted business still growing and still creating opportunities pushing the boundaries.

Did they have failures along the way? You bet they did, but they always had a contingency plan to cover the situation. All this was because of meeting Poppa Joe at the Chamber of Commerce. 

valuable lessons

There are several valuable lessons here. First up they were fortunate to get a mentor on board at the start. Even though they didn’t realize what the fairy godfather Poppa Joe was doing. 

The second valuable lesson. They listened.

Next, they got a clear understanding of what the people business is. You are never in the coffee business or the widgets business or the whatever business. You are in the people business.


Hidden opportunities mask themselves in many forms. 

The boys met Poppa Joe at a Chamber of Commerce event. 

Never stop looking for the break. Was it a lucky break or divine intervention?

Remember, nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. 

When you have a well-defined goal with a well-established time frame, the goal comes looking for you as fast, or maybe faster than you progress toward it.

I changed names and locations to protect the privacy of the boys and the business. Poppa Joe, who might that be?


I’m sure if you have a customer to satisfy… you are in the people business.

Is all business the people business?

Never forget this.

Experience isn't the best teacher, experience is the only teacher.

Confidence comes with experience