With more than 60 years of history, it's safe to say that the team behind American Coffee Services knows a thing or two about the industry. For decades, the Cleveland, OH-based company has served local Ohio businesses with upscale office coffee products, equipment and service. Led by President Bill Levine, a 30-year veteran of the industry, products and services are provided through three channels: Office Coffee Service, Hospitality Coffee Service and its first aid division known as Atlas First Aid and Safety.
It's all about firsts
Coming from the vending side, Levine admits he was motivated to make the move after observing the growing value of the OCS industry. "Our OCS division was making more money than our vending business," he remembered. "That’s what prompted me to get into the OCS industry."
Since joining American Coffee Services, he has spearheaded a lot of firsts, which he says have differentiated the company from the growing marketplace.
"We were the first company in Midwest to do Keurig and single cup," he said. "We had the foresight to meet with Keurig Green Mountain, they showed us the process and we liked it. Then we pioneered it in the market, which is what initially separated us."
Since the beginning of his tenure in the OCS business, Levine has observed a heightened sophistication among coffee drinkers, which he says has provided additional opportunities to get creative. "Starbucks changed the world greatly as far as coffee is concerned," he explained. "They sold to the world that you should be drinking an outstanding product. Millennials continue to drive that really well."
With 24 full-time employees at the Cleveland headquarters, Levine says that the team has remained around the same size over the past several years. He credits the knowledge and efficiency of his employees for keeping operating costs low and output high. "We like to consider ourselves as a lean, mean, operating machine," he said, emphasizing the importance of cost efficiency as the price of doing business in the OCS industry continues to rise. "It's a fantastic team who can handle a lot of business."
A numbers guy
Levine's number one piece of advice for those hoping to make it big in the OCS business is quite simple: Know your numbers. "I think anybody who is going to go into the OCS business or really any type of business today has got to have a very good understanding of numbers," he advised. "Numbers drive business. You can have all the bells and whistles in the world, but anyone who is going to be successful in just about any industry needs to have a pretty good understanding of important things like gross profit margins."
Understanding the actual process behind the products sold is another important factor, especially in the coffee business. Levine advises taking the time to visit roasting facilities in order to understand the processes that go into making good products.
And, Levine doesn't forget to have a little fun. "I'm really pleased to be a part of it all and have made the break into the industry," he said. "I hope to be in it for a bit more time."