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8:00pm EDT May 26, 2008
Greg Ubert was probably a childhood whiz at playing telephone.

His talent for communicating is tapped regularly as founder and president of CrimsonCup, a 22-employee consulting business that provides coffee, equipment, support and training to independently owned and operated coffeehouses.

Ubert says leaders who consistently explain their vision will lead the company in the intended direction.

“It’s not like I can say it once and be done with it,” he says. “What I have to do on a day-today basis is continually get that message out.”

Ubert’s business posted $6.4 million in 2007 sales.

Smart Business spoke with Ubert about sharing his message and teaching others to be successful.

Q. What steps can executives take to grow their companies?

People are No. 1. There’s no way that you can grow if you don’t have the right people on board. Is everybody at your company capable of growing the business?

And No. 2, are your employees branded right? Are you continually getting out the message of the brand: Who are you, and what do you do?

I don’t feel like somebody who’s had a business for 17 years; I feel like somebody who is continually learning. That could be No. 3. I’m not the most experienced person in the world; I’m getting better and better and learning new things each and every day.

Q. Why is it important to pursue continuous learning?

When I first started the company in 1991, I thought it was all about product. The next year, I met someone who put 20 people through the line and out the door in five minutes with an espresso-based drink in hand. It was my first ‘aha!’ moment in business.

At that moment, I realized there is much more to having a successful business than just having great products. That really changed the way I thought about business. I realized that we had to teach people how to be successful.

It wasn’t just having great products.

It’s about getting better and better each day. If you’re the same person today as you were a year ago, you’re probably not going to move along in any way. If I had said in 1992, ‘We know everything,’ we would not be where we are today or in this position for growth.

Q. How did you determine your company’s growth strategy?

We looked at our market segment. We became a consulting company because I realized that just supplying people the world’s best coffee was not going to make them successful. We teach others how to be successful in selling specialty coffee. They all fit under what it is that we do. While they may be different, the reality is that all of them need to be shown how to do better with their sales.

We’ve set up interview processes and other qualifications that people need to pass in order to become our customer because while we’d like to be No. 2 in the industry, that’s not a driving factor. We would get there better by having the world’s best customers first, and we need to do it one customer at a time.

Q. Why is it important for employees to understand the brand?

You need to promote a consistent message, and everybody needs to know it within your company because that’s where it all starts.

Then it goes to your customers. We’ve had to turn down a customer because they weren’t right for us. It doesn’t mean they’re a bad person; they just weren’t right for our brand.

When people understand they’re not just supplying a product or a service, they come up with solutions for us. And when your vendors understand who you are and what you do, they become engaged with you.

You can’t do it all yourself. You need everybody across the board understanding and living by your values. It’s being really clear with what it is we want to build. It gets back to the clarity of what we want.

Q. What one thing can prevent a company from growing?

Without a clear vision, even good people will be going in different directions. We want everybody in the same boat, rowing together in the same direction.

It gets back to the vision and where somebody wants to go. For that to be fulfilled, you have to have the right people who can understand that vision.

The vision encompasses values.

HOW TO REACH: CrimsonCup, (888) 800-9224 or www.crimsoncup.com