Skip to navigation

Part 4: FETCO

FETCO was a very small company at the time. They were computer illiterate, and customer/service/support dysfunctional. As far as service and support was concerned they needed, without exception, everything. But they really built great products. They couldn't sell. The "opportunities" were again great.

As National Service Manager, I didn't have a phone for 3 months. I didn't have a company computer for 6 months. I didn't have benefits for over a year. The only computer in the company was on the chief engineer's desk. He was also the owner. He also had payroll on it and nobody could touch it. Only a limited paper trail existed on equipment, sales, or parts. The existing paperwork was almost devoid of details. The inserts packaged with the brewers were printed and written by the engineer in AutoCAD and industrial font. His accent appeared clearly in print. "When making brews mostly do this." It was almost funny. My "opportunity" allowed me a clean slate to build the complete business system of my dreams.

First, I brought in my service agents list and started making deals with my trusted agents to be on the first factory authorized service agent list. The old list was 5 handwritten phone numbers on the back of a folder marked service. I eventually listed all my known. The list agreements showed our current and potential customers that FETCO was on the map nationwide with parts and service.

Before I arrived, all parts orders where filled by translating the part description to the engineer or production manager so the part could be pulled from production. To support the new service agents, I gathered parts sales and engineering drawings to understand again which parts were weakest and needed to be on hand. My immerging part number list included each machine the part was used in. I printed both sides of each page. Opened from one direction it was in sequential part number order to get costs from mechanical drawings. From the other direction it was alphabetical to get the part number and cost from a part name like "Heater". This became the first FETCO parts list.

I translated all the engineers AutoCAD files into .DXF files and incorporated them into a monstrous 100 page Word document. The Document included; Theory of Operation, Service Quick Reference, Electrical Configuration & Brewing Efficiency, Electrical Drawings, Mechanical Drawings & Parts List, Installation Check List & Using the Site Survey, Brewer Operating Procedures, Warranty terms and Procedures, Master/Recommended Parts Lists for Shop and Truck, and Finally Sales Literature. This Word doc. contained everything known about FETCO products. I created every single file, list, table, and/or modified every graphic. I formatted and published the document on my printer 20 at a time. This was the first FETCO Service and Training manual. It has been used continually since 1995, almost 7 years now after my leaving. I traveled all over the country giving training classes using and delivering this manual.

In addition to the big manual, I produced a relational database application in Access, to record specifications of and track every machine produced. I back loaded it with 5 years worth of sales. From this data base I published sales reports to show all equipment sold to any customer. I developed a model number coding system to identify the electrical configurations on sales orders. I published separate packages for Sales and Production. The production version being more involved included engineering drawing numbers, QC parameters, and sticky labels with the appropriate wiring diagram to be placed inside the cabinet of the appliance.

I modified and published my site survey check list so sales people would be reminded of every important question needed to fill out a sales order and get the equipment installed unerringly. I also produced a brewer specific reference chart to select the proper capacity brewer based on the number of people that can be served. This helped sales people recommend the proper unit. It was also presented to FCSI members whenever possible.

During this time I was continually tinkering with the units. Solving problems and suggesting changes. I introduced grinders to FETCO. Grinders became relevant to the Chief Engineer when I showed how I could change extraction rates with brew time. I introduced him to the replaceable brew time orifice. Combining time with grind changes I demonstrated the effect they have on flavor and extraction. I showed sales how to make changes at SCAA roasts and volumes. By getting the engineer to use real coffee when testing, I showed him dry grounds under his favorite sprayhead. I solved innumerable problems encountered, not because I was smarter than the engineer/owner, but because he doesn't like talking to customers, service people, or even our own sales people. I interpreted everything when appliance issues appeared. I gave every factory tour during my tenure as well.

Even though I was only at FETCO for three or so years I brought them into the 21st century. I helped them retain their only real customer, Starbucks, with a leap forward in professional support. The leap made FETCO a modern equipment supplier with national support. Other customers released their reservations and started buying in ever larger numbers. FETCO didn't appear to be a back woods company anymore. Sales even purchased a real booth for trade shows giving up the table and skirts. And a huge copier was purchased for publishing. I even introduced them to and lobbied for the hire of the current head of Sales Carolyn Mork. I knew Carolyn from her time at American Metal Ware and believed she was the missing link to unprecedented sales success. It was a hard sell to her. FETCO had a reputation. Without the changes I made, she would not have considered the move. When she accepted, I felt Fetco's success was cast in stone. She helped me get onto the Technical Standards Committee of the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA). Then the promise to become FETCO owner in some fashion was withdrawn. They had half a dozen computers, double the sales force, a web site, wall to wall documentation, and a new service manager I hired, when I left as Director of Equipment and Training. The new and first director of Marketing and I left to form my company, BMG Holdings LLC

Continue on to part five...

Table of Contents

  1. Lanier Business Products
  2. Continental Coffee
  3. Quaker Oats
  4. FETCO
  5. BMG Holdings LLC