Russell Coffee Service President Townsend Russell says the variety of the office coffee service keeps him going from day to day. After years of working in the vending industry, Russell opted to start his own OCS business after several of his existing customers complained about the lack of quality options in Northeast Florida and how frustrated they were with their OCS operators.
“The fact that my wife absolutely loves coffee helped tip the scales,” he added.
One of the things Russell likes about the OCS business is that there is always something to do, allowing Russell to be hands on. “Anytime I feel the need to do some physical work there is always a pallet that needs to be unstacked or a machine to be reconditioned,” he said.
Learning From Mistakes
The OCS business has not always been kind to Russell. He recalls making a ton of mistakes ranging from hiring mistakes, sales mistakes, financial mistakes, operational mistakes and product souring mistakes.
“We nearly tanked our company in the early years on terrible advice from our banker,” Russell revealed. “Now, as a result, I stay far away from anything that resembles debt.”
Paying bills immediately upon receiving a delivery has proven to be essential to Russell’s business routine. “We have a flush bank account and we buy all our equipment with cash,” he said. “As a result, it really changed our decision making and our balance sheet for the better. I don’t have the stress and anxiety of what if I can’t make the next payment, or worse when will the next collector call. We can’t grow as fast as we could but we know if the next 2008 hits tomorrow, we will be just fine. We get discounts on just about everything because we are negotiating on how to pay faster, not stretching out terms.”
From the beginning of his OCS career, Russell has admired the myriad of machines and products in the marketplace. “Our industry is strong,” he said. “Our customers are doing well financially. They are not panicking and cutting costs at every corner.”
With a combination of commodities staying low, fuel staying low, unemployment being low and morale being high, Russell predicts a strong near-term future for OCS. “I see it staying strong for at least the next four to eight years,” he said. “The business environment is operating very optimistically with a pro-business President Trump.”
Advice For Newcomers
With the industry so strong, Russell advises those aspiring to start their own companies to consider purchasing an existing operation. “I know a ton of operators are viewing right now as a good time to sell,” he said. “And, in my opinion, the immediate future looks good so it’s worth the risk of acquisition. I don’t think we are at the top of a bubble.”
For those not in the position to purchase an existing operation, Russell suggests starting small. “It’s going to cost twice as much as you think and it will take two to three times longer than you think,” he said. “But enjoy the ride. Owning your own company is incredibly fun and often terrifying.”