Gwilym Davies: Business Leadership Icon

I receive updates periodically on coffee news from Google, including but not limited to stories including the keywords “World Barista Championship,” and “World Barista Champion.” There are normally a half dozen or so stories per month excluding those immediately proceeding or following the annual championship. One article that appeared online today on CNNMoney.com / Fortune caught my attention for two reasons:

  1. The World Barista Championship and specifically 2009 World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies are mentioned in a story that has nothing to do about coffee; and
  2. The writer is making reference to Gwilym as an example cited by famed entrepreneur and writer Seth Godin in his most recent book “Linchpin.”

Read this:

Generosity isn’t simply nice behavior — it’s a genuine opportunity to set yourself apart in the minds and hearts of customers and employees alike. Idea entrepreneur and bestselling author Seth Godin argues that every business should commit “outrageous acts of generosity.” One of his examples: World Barista Champion Gwilym Davies has devised a “dis-loyalty” card for his customers. The idea: go drink coffee at his competitors’ cafés (all independent, quality-obsessed operations) and come back to his Prufrock Coffee for a free cup after you’ve gotten eight punches in your card. This is no gimmick. Davies is simply out to call attention to the best of his breed, to spice up his customers’ lives, and to raise the game for everybody.

How about that?

In April of last year, I cited the very same example to Specialty Coffee Retailer for their June article The Harmonious Brand, but from the perspective of building a strong brand, not revolutionizing business:

SCR: I’d like to present ideas that explain brand harmony and brand dissonance. Do you have any good examples of harmonious brands among the independents?

AH: One perfect example (and one that has received a lot of press) is Gwilym Davies’ Customer Dis-loyalty Card. Gwilym is the owner / proprietor of Prufrock Coffee in London and 2009 World Barista Champion, a man who can be arguably described as among the most genuine in an industry already known for many charitable and compassionate figures. In a move that is truly harmonious with his own love of coffee and the coffee business, Gwilym selected a handful of the best cafes in town -his direct competitors- and placed their names on punchcard for all of his customers to visit. After receiving a stamp from all 8, the card can be redeemed for a free drink prepared by Gwilym, himself. Is this a gimmick? Did he select inferior competitors in order to prove that his beverages are the best? No, he just wants his customers to enjoy better coffee. That sort of selfless honesty creates a strong brand message that is difficult to outdo.

In the year following meeting him for the first time at his Atlanta WBC championship, I had the opportunity to travel with Gwilym to India, Dubai and Russia (there may have been other some destinations, but it’s all a blur now) and am similarly inspired by his brilliance, passion and dedication to coffee. If anyone is deserving of icon status, Mr. Davies certainly has my vote.

I’ll have to pick up a copy of Linchpin and see what else Seth Godin has to say about Gwilym and becoming indispensable.

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