This week, I had the pleasure of experiencing one of Indy’s many new craft coffee shops. Quill’s Coffee is on the first floor of an apartment complex, hidden back in a cozy corner of an otherwise generic building. Behind the counter, the familiar face of a friend of mine, Ross Bemis, welcomed me.
Ross is the type of person who always greets you pleasantly and makes your coffee remarkably. His Instagram is filled with images of his latte art and his documentation of what looks like a very intimate relationship with coffee.
Yes. With coffee.
It’s easy for me to become fascinated with people who love what they do. In Ross’ case, I found a fascination in the amount of passion he puts into what I consider to be a very quick and temporary experience—Not to mention, one that in the end he doesn’t even get to enjoy. He just hands it off and hopes for the best.
Ross greeted me with three bags of coffee beans, three small mugs, some spoons and a pitcher of water. Another employee and a curious patron joined us.
“We’re going to do a cupping today. In a cupping, we remove all the variables we can to experience the essence of each bean in its most basic form: A hot cup of unfiltered coffee.”
We went through the process of grinding, steeping, smelling and tasting (read: slurping) the coffee. Ross explained what we were looking for at every step of the way, and we shared our thoughts and discussed the experience in our group.
After our enlightening project, Ross joined me for lunch, where I picked his brain some more about his significant other.
“I practice with every single drink I make,” he said. “The entire act becomes very theatrical, like putting on a performance for the person whose drink you’re making. People love to see someone who knows what they are doing put the utmost amount of care into every detail of the process, down to the delivery and presentation of their final product.”
He was speaking my language, and I was loving it.
“I really love teaching people the process, from customers to coworkers,” he continued. At this point our food sat waiting in front of us. “It’s so important for people to see how your actions along the way affect the end product. With every training I do, no matter what the skill level, we taste our mistakes.
“Once, my trainee’s thumb slipped into the espresso puck before we poured the shot. I made us taste it. It was awful. But those are the most important parts of doing this over and over. Taste your mistakes. That’s the only way you’ll know how you directly affect the end product.”
He moved his plate around and gathered his knife and fork, preparing to dig in to his burger.
“You know, each time I pull a shot of espresso, I’m critiquing every step of my process. I’m always striving for what we call our ‘God Shot.’”
“Your God Shot?” I asked, though I was sure I understood the gist of it. I just wanted to make him dive into it and watch.
“The God Shot is the thing every barista is striving for.” His burger sat untouched, listening to the story, too. “Every good barista, at least. It’s the shot where every single variable, every single detail is perfectly in line. No mistakes. Nothing. Your water quality is on point, your beans are perfectly roasted, your pressure, the timing, all of it.”
He stopped to pick up his burger but set it back down.
“I’ve never pulled my God Shot, but I try with every single drink.”
He continued describing his ambition for this elusive shot the way I imagine a hunter describes his prized kill. And as he did, the connection between what Ross does and what we do every day at work became more and more apparent to me.
What we do for our clients is what Ross does with every single drink he pours. We identify variables, we work with the best tools, we try our hardest to make every experience for our clients the best they’ve ever had. Every project is our opportunity to pull our very own God Shot.
And we often make pretty good drinks. Drinks we are proud to hand off and wish well.
But let’s be honest: We have tasted our fair share of mistakes.
Just as a thumb slip or bad water quality can kill the entire experience of a drink, so can weak content, shaky timelines and flaky execution ruin an entire campaign. But we taste them, and we learn, and we show up again the next day to do it even better.
When we work with clients who challenge us to test the variables, and when we can perform at an innovative and risk-taking level with clients who trust us, we get closer and closer to singling out the things that can make that campaign as smooth and balanced as the perfect cup of coffee. The type of product that make your audience come back time and time again.
We eventually ate our food, and as our lunch came to a close, I had to ask Ross the question that was on my mind above all.
“So, with all that said, why do you put so much passion and practice into something so temporary? Something that you never get to enjoy yourself?”
He seemed really puzzled at the question and said nothing for a second. Then, with a look deeper than himself, he said, “There is nothing temporary about creating an amazing experience for someone. If I do everything I can to perfect each detail of what I do for someone—if they receive a drink that I put my heart into—I have created an experience that could last forever for them.
It may just be a few minutes they spend drinking that latte, but the care and the quality—that one experience—is something that has the potential to change them for a very long time.”
Every campaign we produce is temporary, but it is so refreshing to know that our team puts in the care, quality and effort demanded by an experience that could change the life of the people it is meant for forever.
So, yes, we can complain that no cup of coffee is worth $4. But someone like Ross serves way more than just a cup of coffee. He serves up a performance, a professional, personal and passionate experience that I will gladly pay for and return to time and time again. And it is our goal to make sure that our clients can say the same.