One of the most fascinating books about the coffee business has appeared ? it is the story of Coffee Nation, the pioneer of self-serve real-coffee machines in service areas and other high-footfall spots.
This concept went from a couple of corner shops to a business which was sold for £23 million... and then sold on for £59 million. The story behind it is now told in remarkable detail by the founder, Martyn Dawes.
There is a notable subtitle to Wake Up and Sell the Coffee, which reads 'how to start, build and sell a high- growth business'. The 'building and selling' are the important words ? this is not about managing a one-site geek-level coffee bar, but about look - ing to take a company to the heights.
"This is not an 'anyone can do it'," he writes, in a clear reference to the the how-to book that charted the rise of Coffee Republic. "Much of what is written about business relates to start-ups ? the journey to growth gets little coverage."
This is a such a detailed book that we learn many inner items which other entrepreneurs might prefer to hide ? we even learn the relatively low numbers of sales which were making the company work at the beginning. However, Coffee Nation's real coffee machines were soon, by Martyn's calculation, "generating 50 per cent of the sales of a typical cof - fee bar from two per cent of the space", and by 2001 they were selling three million cups of real coffee a year through Welcome Break service areas.
Throughout, Martyn Dawes contin - ues to investigate the lessons to be learned at various stages of the busi- ness, and each chapter ends with a kind of 'what I learned today' summa - ry of his experiences... but not in the schoolbook style which harms so many ?running a coffee shop? books, but with well-made points.
The story of his exit process is fas - cinating in itself ? the difficulty of it surprised him, too, and formed the basis of another entrepreneurial les - son, which he describes as 'the win - ner's curse... the founder's dilemma', or the 'having a cake and eating it' fact that one cannot sell a business and continue running it.