Joe On The Job Guest Column -- Geoff Paul, Excelso Coffee & Tea

"The key to success is a willingness to learn," said NAMA board member and former president of the Georgia Automatic Merchandising Association (GAMA), Geoff Paul, one of the industry’s most successful leaders. Through his varied career he has experienced everything from start-ups, where, as he said, "you come up with an idea, and it’s completely up to you to make it happen," to larger and more established firms where more things need to be managed and requires many more layers of detail. 

Paul began his career at Coffee Shoppes of America, which was subsequently sold to Standard Coffee in New Orleans, La.  Later, he moved to Atlanta and joined Ashton Coffee, and today Paul serves as president of Excelso Coffee & Tea in Norcross, Ga. He also serves on NAMA's Coffee Service Committee and has served as the Chair for the NAMA Coffee Service Summit. 

Paul says he is fortunate because in office coffee service (OCS) operators typically spend more time with decision makers than their counterparts in the vending channel, an aspect of the business he truly enjoys. He values the importance of meeting people who know they need to make decisions and helping them get to the right answer.

Paul attributes much of his success to the help and guidance he received from his mentor, Charles Shaw, who was always willing to listen. He still remembers advice that Shaw would frequently offer, “I know you feel strongly about this today, but let's wait 24 hours to see if you still do.”

Paul and his wife are also very involved in their community and dedicated to helping those in need. He and his wife have attended the same church in Atlanta for three decades and for many years spent every Sunday evening visiting prisons, sometimes speaking to as many as 20 or 30 male and female inmates. The firm also provides jobs to disabled workers who help the company repackage coffee, some of whom have been with the company for more than a decade.  

A member of NAMA or its predecessor for more than 20 years, Paul says that it’s important not just to join the organization, but to understand how critical both the NAMA OneShow and the CoffeeTea&Water events are for success. According to him, while they were formerly buying opportunities, today they are learning opportunities and those who miss out will be left behind. 

Paul adds that today, NAMA is spearheading thoughts like never before, making members think.  And with the organization’s sweeping research underway, members will have data that will deliver a new national focus. He thinks that with the retooling of the organization there has never been a more exciting time to join, and urges younger people especially, to join so they can observe first-hand the maturation of the industry.

Paul is a graduate of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., and holds a degree in speech.