Cut Any Expense You Want But Don’t Dare Take the Coffee Away!
(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
I had a lunch the other day with a friend of mine who was just elected to be the managing partner of a mid-sized enginnering firm. Being the good manager that he is, he’s been reviewing the firm’s books to familiarize himself with how things operate. One thing took him by surprise.
“Coffee,” he said to me, shaking his head. “Can you believe that last year our firm spent close to $100,000 on coffee?”
I believed it, and I told him a hundred thousand dollars seems like a lot! But I also gave him some advice: for God’s sake, don’t take it away.
Ah, the good old days!
Today, it’s all different. There are different machines to make different types of coffee. There are flavors ranging from spiced gingerbread to hazelnut cinnamon roll, and no I am not kidding. There are pods and cups and French presses. There are six different kinds of sweeteners and seven different kinds of milk (let’s count them down: whole, 2 percent, 1 percent, fat free, flavored, half-and-half, artificial creamer). You can grind up the beans right there in the office. And don’t even get me started on the different types of tea.
It’s just coffee. But it’s madness. It’s expensive. It’s over-the-top. But for God’s sake: don’t take it away!
That’s because this isn’t about coffee. It’s about your employees. Gourmet coffee, no pun intended, is a perk. People work hard and they want the perception of treating themselves when they take a break. Most of us really enjoy the experience of creating a special, gourmet cup of coffee (or tea) to reward ourselves for a job well done even though we know in our hearts that we are just average people doing mediocre things. The break-room isn’t just a place to sit, have a smoke and complain about your aching corns. In today’s workplace, the break-room is equipped with refrigerators filled with bottled water and energy drinks, bins of healthy snacks, TV monitors showing CNN, posters with motivational sayings, foozball tables and ergonomic furniture designed to reinvigorate our weary souls.
In my travels, I have visited corporate employee break rooms that would make the typical small business owner faint. I’ve seen sushi chefs, endless vats of candy, wine and cheeses, hot and cold breakfast and lunch options, cereal containers and waffle makers. Taking a break at some companies is like having breakfast at a Marriott Courtyard…all day.
These are big companies. If you’re a small business you can’t afford this, but the important thing to remember is that your employees believe this stuff is important. They value their little pleasures. It makes the day slightly better and their jobs slightly — just slightly, mind you — more palatable. These little perks go a long way and once you offer them you best not take them back unless your company is facing dire financial straits. My friend is soon to take over the management of an engineering firm and you can’t get any more boring than that. Offering gourmet coffee is a small expense to pay to keep his people just a wee bit happier.
So, for God’s sake, don’t take the coffee away. Raise your prices a penny or two to absorb the costs or take a few less pennies in profit. Over the long thaul, you’ll get payback.