Friedman thinks there is a great future in refreshment services, largely on account of new technology. “I love technology,” he said. “I love data and I like making decisions based on hard facts and not on impressions. We're not relying 100 percent on a route driver's impression of what he sees in the field.”
Friedman thinks there will be a place for satellite-based global positioning systems and for remote machine monitoring in vending. “There's no doubt about it. It's a big part of the future of the industry,” he said.
Justin Howlett, 28, director of sales, john conti Coffee Co., Louisville, Ky.
EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree in communication at University of Louisville
ROLE MODELS: Father and mother, Joseph C. Howlett III and Cynthia Howlett; John Conti; and public relations college professor William Thompson
LONG-TERM GOAL: To be an industry leader
BIGGEST SURPRISE: Customers' emotional attachment to their coffee
OTHER CAREERS CONSIDERED: Real estate investing
ASPECT OF THE BUSINESS MOST LIKED: Drinking the coffee
Justin Howlett remembers meeting John Conti as a child while visiting one of the company's coffee shops. “He's a local celebrity,” Howlett said of Conti, the founder of the john conti Coffee Co. “When I was a little kid, I had the honor to shake his hand.”
Little did Howlett know at the time that he was destined to find a career path working at Conti's company.
Howlett didn't have firm career goals when he attended the University of Louisville as a communications major several years ago. He knew he wanted to be involved in public relations, but he wasn't clear on what specific role he would play or in what industry.
Howlett's first job out of college was selling insurance. He found that he liked sales and educating people about ways to help themselves, but he wasn't completely fulfilled in the insurance industry.
He then took a sales position with a facilities services company. He again enjoyed selling, but he didn't like the fact that the sale was largely price driven.
A return to his roots
Howlett then came across an opportunity for a company he had been familiar with as a child, the john conti Coffee Co., the Louisville, Ky.-based coffee roaster, retailer, and coffee service provider. The job was for category manager for coffee service.
This position suited Howlett well since the sale was more quality driven than price based. He particularly liked the company's long-established catch phrase, “The best coffee in town.”
“That value added sale has been my specialty,” Howlett said.
“Our trademark is the best coffee in town,” he said. “I'm a coffee evangelist, spreading the good word about quality coffee. The John Conti name is very well known in our region.”
Howlett was highly successful in his sales position, and in less than a year, he was promoted to director of sales.
Specialty coffee creates new excitement
This is an exciting time to be in coffee service due to the popularity of specialty coffee. “The coffee industry is exciting,” Howlett said. He likes meeting with customers and he particularly enjoys it when customers appreciate his products.
While the coffee industry has come a long way in improving its reputation in recent years, Howlett said he is still challenged to overcome price based objections, but it's a challenge he relishes.
He also welcomes the chance to encourage accounts not to cut back on coffee when they are looking to reduce costs. He points out the important role that coffee plays as an employee morale booster.
Technology benefits the industry in different ways
Howlett is also glad to be part of the coffee industry as new brewing technologies emerge. In addition to brewing technology, the company is also introducing better information systems, such as laptop computers for its account managers.
He noted that the company offers continuing education to its management employees.
Howlett has been most surprised by the emotional attachment that people have to their coffee, which for a coffee service company, is both positive and negative. It's a negative if the customer isn't using your coffee, and a positive if he or she is.