Friday, October 19, 2007

Grumblers, sourpusses, nay-sayers and other ne'er-do-wells...

In the coffee business you meet a lot of people, the overwhelming majority of which are really wonderful, upbeat and involved individuals. I think good coffee...artisan coffee...attracts those kinds of positive folks. But just like most anything else in life there also inevitably exists that small contingent of people who seem to feed off of negativity, who love to knock others down, and wish failure upon those who venture off the safer, well traveled road...where the grumblers would never dare go themselves. Even worse, in my opinion, are those people who are in business themselves and yet who seem to wish failure upon anyone who is also gutsy enough to lay it on the line by starting a new business.

It's a sad, pathetic way to bolster one's own ego and sense of worth, by knocking others down, and the fact that their success would surely also have a positive impact on everyone else's business, particularly in small towns where economic vitality is so much more precarious than in larger cities (three or four empty storefronts in a small town and suddenly you have what appears to be a ghost town, where nobody wants to shop).

Since opening Stumpjack Coffee I've been privy to a great amount of rumor, gossip, unsolicited opinion, back biting and just plain bitching. Practically none of it is worth the air it consumes in the telling. We've heard negative stories about just about every business person and/or person involved in the community from Two Rivers to Manitowoc, and the longer they've been around or the more prominent their business, the greater the number of critical stories there are. While there may be some element of truth to some rumors it is also apparent that there are also agendas attached to just about all of them, and those agendas are never positive or supportive. The most reliable truth I've found is that until someone does something directly confrontational or negative to you it is wise to simply and completely ignore or discount the negatives you hear about another business person...even if they come from a friend (people who I like and respect have had their own stories about others, which while perhaps true in their own specific individual situation do not necessarily have any impact or bearing on our relationship with those people).

People are people and even Mother Theresa and Ghandi had their critics (how pathetic is that!). This sort of gossip- and rumor-mongering is on my mind lately because we too have had to deal with it since we opened around a year ago...things have gotten back to us that "so-and-so heard this" or "so-and-so said this about you guys." Of the perhaps three instances I seem to recall, in every single case what was said was untrue and a complete fabrication. The most recent story is that I had a business and a lease for a business in Manitowoc that we had run out on, allegedly leaving the landlords holding the bag. Well, I've never had a storefront business of my own in Manitowoc (or Two Rivers before Stumpjack Coffee. Did do the typical home-based business thing for a little while), have never had a lease of any kind anywhere until Stumpjack (other than, of course, apartment leasing when I was in college), and have certainly never run out on any lease anywhere.

One wonders where this garbage comes from, how it originates and what the agenda is behind it. Did I unintentionally (or intentionally) slight or insult someone (that's, did someone get a bad cup of coffee here (definitely not possible), are they peeved because we got more press coverage one week than they did (that has actually come though we control the media), or are they a competitor just spreading lies (that too is a definite possibility), or are they bent because we had the biggest banner at some music fest (no, can't one could be that petty, self-righteous or short sighted...could they?...I know, rhetorical question).

Success, perceived or real, is bound to spark resentment is some people it seems. I believe that with achievement you will also create enemies, for whatever legitimate and illegitimate reasons (and when I say "enemies" I simply mean those who don't like you and talk smack about you, not necessarily someone who is "out to get you," although I suppose that might be the case in some instances). I'm fine with that...if you have an enemy or two it likely indicates that you are having an impact, that you must have some influence or importance in some enemies perhaps means that you haven't yet done anything of significant consequence or value. I would just prefer our enemies to be honorable and at least somewhat factual in their attacks.