Local guy makes good: From Winnipeg to the World

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2017-07 Coffee News Guy photoHe doesn’t have a name—he’s just the Coffee News Guy—but you know him. His cheerful, waving self is in the front of the crowd at the top of every edition of every Coffee News, no matter the city, country, or language. He looks good in tan. He’s usually hidden someplace else on the front or back, too, and if you find him, you might win some tickets, or a gift basket, or a free oil change. At a trade show or a conference, if you find a Coffee News booth, you’ll be greeted by a 5’6” “life size” cut out of the Coffee News Guy. At other times, he’s standing in front of Coffee News home office in Bangor, Maine (US), where he presides over the largest franchise publication in the world.

The Coffee News Guy was born in the Winnipeg, Manitoba (Canada), a neighborhood of St. Vital, on October 22, 1988. That’s the day Coffee News founder Jean Daum published her first small, local edition from her home typesetter.

Many years ago, when Coffee News owner Bill Buckley lived on a Bangor street called Laurel Circle, a ten-year-old boy named Robby lived next door. “He was a good kid, a neat dresser,” Bill said. His father was a music teacher and they were very strict with Robby.

“So I came home one afternoon, and there was Robby, standing at that imaginary line between our properties, and not walking on Mr. Buckley’s lawn. ‘How’re you doing, Robby?’

“ ‘Oh great, Mr. Buckley,’ he said. ‘Well, I was wondering if I could ask you if you would autograph a Coffee News for me.’

“ ‘Absolutely. I’d be thrilled,’ I said. I take out Coffee News, put it on the hood of my car, and sign it to Robby, ‘Best of luck in your studies.’ Then I say, ‘Can I ask you a question, Robby? Why do you want my autograph?’

“Robby says, ‘In my class, I tell all the kids that I live next door to the Coffee News man and they don’t believe me.’ So he wanted my autograph to show them it was true.”

The cartoon version of the Coffee News Guy represents what Coffee News always has been about: he’s cheerful, he’s friendly, he’s funny. He offers a break from the rest of this complicated life and its difficult personal and public news, giving readers the brief distraction of interesting tidbits, quotes, jokes, and uplifting predictions about their own lives.

Next to the nameplate on every single copy of Coffee News, the Coffee News Guy stands in front of a happy crowd. At 29, he’s on the young side of our international family of publishers. Whether they’re in their 30s or their 60s, most joined Coffee News because they wanted to shift gears for their families, or as the capstone of a career that provided income but was personally draining. They like the flexibility and control that Coffee News provides. They can work with spouses and friends, be available for their kids or their aging parents, and—once a franchise is up and running—make a point of regularly scheduled time for themselves.

The Coffee News Guy knows all this. That’s why he’s smiling and waving. Welcome to the family. Enjoy.

Commitment Plus Connection Equal Success

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NguyenSLate last fall was slow for Scott Nguyen’s Coffee News of Northeast Indiana. He’d started one edition in June 2016 and another in October. They weren’t as full of ads as he wanted and he knew he needed to change the game a bit. “I sat down and made some goals,” he says. While selling ads, he’d noticed flyers promoting nonprofit events by different clubs and organizations. “You’d see flyers from four or five organizations—Rotaries, a downtown business alliance.” He got the idea of donating space to boost the community value of his editions, which would help nonprofits and demonstrate that Coffee News was committed to the area.

He learned that groups needing flyers typically went to the town hall, where a woman in the marketing department made the designs for them. They gave her a small stipend, then printed the flyers and distributed them at hair salons, in restaurant windows, and other places. “I realized it would be a good thing if I could highlight the events, too,” Scott says. “And that would mean less clutter in people’s windows.” So he walked into the town hall and told the woman, “I’m starting up this paper, and I have some space available that I’d like to give to the community.” She was happy to hear it and passed along his contact information to the nonprofits.

At first, he donated just one space, to see how it would work. Then in December, he decided, “Let’s start gambling.” Now he donates four spaces in each edition for family-friendly community activities—anything geared toward making the community better. The response has been great. Since January, he says, “it’s been crazy.”

With the sudden boom, he started asking around: “Why are people buying ads?” The clear answer was that Coffee News “didn’t look like a foreign object. It looked like, ‘Wow, this guy is highlighting the local community.’ ” One big area event features the arts and hot air balloons. “They partner up with the Visitors Bureau in the county,” Scott says. “They put hundreds of balloons in the sky, hot air balloons. So I was able to highlight that.”

His third edition, which he started this May, was successful, “right off the bat.” With every edition, he learns new things and tries to do something different with each one. For his first edition, he says, “Honestly, it took about 16 or 17 weeks to get my first inquiry. For the most part, it was just me on the ground, pounding pavement.” This was in the area where he grew up but, he says, it tends to be conservative and Coffee News was completely new. “Dekalb is known for classic cars, and to introduce something new was a challenge. We knew folks, and that helped. And time. I think I probably sold out in January of this year” about seven months after starting. Last fall, he began a second edition. “And in the first week, I got two inquiries. The last edition was in the spring, just real crazy. The day I laid it out, I had three inquiries.”

Besides donating space, Scott is committed to keeping local advertisers, not chains. How to target different consumers was something else he learned. “With my first edition, I wanted to be everywhere—McDonalds, Subway—and I would get bummed if a place like that wouldn’t carry it. But with my third edition, I realized there are lots of restaurants. If McDonalds won’t carry it, that’s not a big deal. But I have to get into all the sit-down restaurants.”

Steuben County, his third edition, is in an affluent tourist area. He thought, “Let’s go where all these folks who have money are likely to spend it.” Subway carries his other two counties, but not that one. “I wasn’t stressed out about it because all the other restaurants were saying yes. When people called me, they would always say, ‘Man, I see your newspaper everywhere.’ And I never got that from the other two, not right away.”

Scott also made four months his minimum ad buy. “Three months go by so fast,” he says. “The longer the better. It gives you more time to build relationships with your clients.” He visits each client every other month. They often don’t even talk about the ad. “I just get to know them, the family. It’s never really about the paper. It’s about relationship.”

His advice is common among publishers. “You’re a brand. People are going to look at you first, and then buy. First you have to sell yourself.” Over the years, he’s worked in many different fields, from coaching college soccer to owning a truck-cleaning business, and he has acquired lots of people skills. “I always try to find a way to connect. That’s just really key. You have to find a way to connect.” Another piece of advice is to get involved in groups that have “spheres of influence.” He says, “This is important and will help you get noticed much more quickly.” But he suggests first doing your homework to assess each group’s impact on the community. Scott is a Chamber of Commerce member in each county he serves, and is involved with a Downtown Coalition, and Rotary and Elks clubs.

So far, Scott’s commitment to his communities and his ability to connect are working just fine.

How to Handle Skepticism

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Coffee News® and the Habitat for Humanity ReStore: Part 2

In the initial sales call, after you have had a chance to exchange basic introductions, potential advertisers will want to know the answer to some basic questions and may offer some of their views or experiences on advertising, in general. This is a key opportunity to learn past experiences and personal successes or failures of advertising for them. This client asked two questions and made one statement. The first question was about the effect of digital and social media on Coffee News® advertising, and the second question was how could Coffee News® help her business. But, before I could answer, the client stated emphatically that she has never advertised and does not have an advertising budget. She said that the current sales volume is enough to remain profitable, but sales had been trending downward in the past three years. At some point, the operation could begin to lose money. But, she was, at least, open to ideas on how to reverse the annual sales trend. She added that she did not believe in advertising!

download-2The client is skeptical that advertising works and is even more skeptical that Coffee News® can work for her. The classic response in sales when confronted with skepticism, is to offer proof. What did I have for proof that Coffee News® works?

Without any attempt to change her mind, I responded slowly and carefully to her two questions, much as a college professor of advertising might respond. I could see some acceptance in her facial expressions and comments, but stopped short of trying to influence her mind about advertising. The best source of proof that Coffee News® works is to show her copies of our local editions, filled with lots of local advertisers, all containing phone numbers for the businesses. I encouraged her to call each one for a testimonial. Then I showed her ads from clients who had advertised, continuously, in Coffee News® for many years, even one who started in our very first edition 22 years ago!

We ended our first meeting after an hour and a half and returned to my office. As I paused to debrief the sales call in my mind, I suddenly realized I had made a huge mistake. Why had I not taken some ad samples from around the country from publishers who had sold ads to Habitat for Humanity or ReStore? I called our print shop and immediately received 15 ads currently running in our publishers’ editions. Had I done this before the meeting, I could have given her 15 examples of great ads purchased by her own associates in other communities in other states. What a positive message it would have given her! Not only that, but it would have eliminated the need to answer her two questions or respond to her negative feelings about advertising. I could have said, “Don’t take my word for how advertising works, check with your associates around the country. Ask them why they are advertising in Coffee News® and if they feel it is working for them.

downloadI emailed her the 15 ads to review and will catch up with her again at Rotary, soon.

Selling advertising is a process of building a long-term relationship and building trust.

 

Bill Buckley, President
Coffee News®

Networking at the Rotary Club

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download-1Coffee News® and Habitat for Humanity ReStore

Recently, while attending a Rotary luncheon, I noticed a member of our chapter who I had never taken the time to get to know. Unless you arrive early and stay late, you continually miss these people on the way in or out. The same goes for members of your church and parents at sporting events. You see people you would like to meet, but never can quite connect.

I was determined to meet this person, so when the chapter president “rang the bell” ending our Rotary meeting, I directly approached her and reached out to shake her hand. My opening line was, “I have seen you many times at our meetings but have never gotten to know you or understand what you do.  She got it, and said, “So, you just want to meet and learn what we do!”

“Yes! What does your schedule look like for later in the week,” I asked?

downloadWe met on Friday at 9AM in her office. It turns out she is the general manager of the local Habitat for Humanity and a ReStore recycling operation. For the next 45 minutes, she told me about her education, dreams, life philosophies, places she had worked and how she ended up in this position in Bangor, Maine. She should write a book.

The core of her operation is raising money to build modest homes for families who struggle to own their own home or need remodeling funds, that local financial companies will not finance. Her market is very thin. The inventory for ReStore comes from local community donors looking to replace household items during remodeling or decluttering, as we call it. It’s like shopping in a second-hand shop where you can find everything from artwork to microwaves to grandma’s mittens! I was thinking, second-hand Rose got her start here!

It was fascinating to learn so much about a place we had driven by for years! I felt guilty for not knowing. Up to this point, the subject of Coffee News® had not come up, and I was determined not to bring it up unless she asked about Coffee News®. After all, I had asked for a chance to meet her and learn about her business. She finally did ask for my Coffee News® elevator speech and I obliged with the usual history and our worldwide growth, etc.

It was a great first meeting!
Bill Buckley, President
Coffee News®

Let’s Make a Deal: New Ideas on the Path to Success

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Steven_HermanBefore becoming a Coffee News publisher ten years ago, Steve Herman worked in television broadcast, production, and sales for 25 years. And he learned a thing or two about how to approach reluctant advertisers. Many people have declared print a dead medium for quite a long time. When potential advertisers tell him this, Steve offers them a deal: “Can I prove to you that print works?” he asks. They’re intrigued. “I would like to offer you a free ad,” he says. “Absolutely free. But there is one catch: I get to write the ad.”

“What are you going to say?” they want to know.

“I’m going to say that you’re out of business”

That alarms them. “You can’t say that!”

“So I tell them, ‘Well, if nobody reads it, what are you worried about?’ Nobody’s taken me up on that offer so far,” Steve says, laughing.

He owns six editions in and around Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plus one seasonal and one he calls a mini-edition of only 400 copies. When a friend moved to Brandon, just outside of Sioux Falls, the friend asked him to start an edition there. Steve objected. “My key operating statistics say I need 50 locations and 1,500 papers. I don’t think you come close to that over in Brandon.” But Steve offered his friend a deal. “If you’ll help me and if we can get to 25 locations, I’ll print it.” His friend agreed and they got started. “Lo and behold, I now have 40-plus locations in Brandon. It doesn’t support a large print run, only 450 copies.” But it’s a small community of about 6,000 people. So, to Steve’s way of thinking, 450 papers in an area that small is comparable to 1,500 in a larger area. “They like it and they support it. It’s a little bit less advertising than I get in my other editions. But people are interested in it. And now it’s been around a long time.”

In nearby Okoboji, Iowa, he runs a seasonal paper for fifteen weeks every summer, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The lakeside town has a full-time population of 6,000 people that swells to 100,000 in the summer.

When he started his first Sioux Falls edition in December 2007, the nearest Coffee News was 237 miles away in Minneapolis. “Most people in Sioux Falls had no idea what it was,” he says. They embraced it. Steve decided to put his early energy into distribution, rather than sales. “I say you’re selling an empty bag if you don’t have distribution. Put all your efforts into distribution and, if you do, eventually people will come around.”

From the start, he was making deals. “I basically found some—I’ll call them ‘strategic advertisers’—and I offered them free space in the first couple of editions. My hope was that if other advertisers saw these people, they’d say, ‘Wow, they’re pretty smart. Maybe I should be there, too.’ And that’s how it worked. My very first advertiser, who was in my very first edition in December 2007, is still in my paper.” But they’re paying now.

Here’s a deal he offers to continuous advertisers: if they come into Coffee News and never leave, their rate will never go up. “Now that first advertiser is probably paying about half the rate of anybody else, but that was my promise and you’ve got to honor it, so I did.”

As a Coffee News publisher, he loves working for himself. Steve’s wife handles the distribution and he has five part-time delivery drivers. He loves the flexibility of having a home office. “I tend to be a night owl. The other night, I put my editions together and sent them out at 2 in the morning. I have a home office. I can go down there to do it and nobody bothers me.” Mondays, he says, are his office days. “Sometimes I don’t get out of my pajamas.” But discipline is important. “I can go down there after dinner and spend three or four hours. It takes a lot of discipline, and I don’t always have it, to be firm about saying what is office time and what is family time.” And that’s the deal he is making with himself.

 

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Sincerity is Key: A Coffee News® Success Story

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Sue Mazur, Coffee News®Master Franchisor, Australia

When Sue Mazur bought her first Coffee News® franchise in 2007, she already had extensive business credentials and had been self-employed for 26 years. At the time, she was the national operations manager in Australia for BNI (Business Network International). She knew how to network. She had franchise experience. When a friend and a Certified Public Accountant both recommended Coffee News® to her in the same week, she took note.

“The accountant had looked at the Coffee News® model and thought it was a great business system,” Sue said. “My friend was a current advertiser within Coffee News®.” Sue bought and operated her first Coffee News® franchise while still working full time for BNI.

But even with her experience, Sue still learned a lesson. “In my very first edition, I was sold out in 28 days. I had done all the prep work. Back then we only sold three-month ads. And I thought, ‘Wow, this business is awesome. I’m pretty awesome. I’m done!’ ” Then came the end of the three-month period. Some ads finished. “I got my first bout of cancellations,” she continued. “That’s when I realized that this business is about selling every week, making sure things are in place to keep your sales funnel full so your edition is full, and having that ticking along efficiently. I never wanted to experience that risk period again.”

Within six months, Sue bought her second franchise—this time an established business—and negotiated one day off each week from her full-time job. This let her ease out of her corporate job and into Coffee News®. At that time, two partners owned and operated the Australia Coffee News® Master Franchisee license. Sue was invited in, bought out one of the partners’ interests, and joined the Australia Head Office.

Then her husband joined Coffee News®, too. They set up another two regions and operated it as a family business. Even their two teenagers got involved. As soon as their son could drive, he did deliveries. Their daughter, two years younger, helped in the office. “Both got a great grounding for their careers,” Sue said. They’re now in their twenties. “Leighton at such a young age is managing an electrical contracting firm and has six staff under him. Isn’t that awesome?” Brianne recently returned home from a year traveling in Canada and is in corporate administration.

By 2010, Sue had bought out the remaining Head Office partner, who left due to a family illness, and now is the sole national director and master franchisee for Australia, overseeing operations and franchises. “And that’s when I left BNI. There are only so many hours in the day,” she said with a laugh. “We sold three franchises for profit, and now run one franchise and the Australia Head Office.”

She likes the Coffee News® business model. “You can use the Coffee News® system and systemize everything,” she said. She’s very clear about making sure there’s a good return on investment for her time and about not confusing activity with productivity. “My time is what pays the bills and the mortgage. If I’m not efficient in my time, there’s no one else paying me.” With Coffee News®, she could identify what activities generated income, manage her time accordingly, and set up replicable systems for additional franchises and editions.

Sue loves that Coffee News® helps build strong business communities and matches her personal values of integrity and community. She makes sure that she’s known everywhere as the Coffee News® lady and that the community sees her actively working for her advertisers by being visible at community events and handing out copies of Coffee News® at networking opportunities. “Coffee News® is about making sales. How you do that is through the Coffee News® system—the network, the marketing, the advertising, the conversions. To me, that’s not rocket science.”

And she makes sure her advertisers perceive that she values them. “When we meet a client, we actually expect them to be with us five or more years. My expectation is that every time I meet a client, the value to me for this client is $10,000. I approach them with the deepest respect and I make sure that they know we are after a long-term relationship and partner with them.”

The key, Sue thinks, is personal sincerity. “We had one self-employed advertiser who’d been injured at his business and was in the hospital for a long time. He basically lost all his clients while he was having this dilemma. His wife left him, and the house got sold. He relocated to our area, where he knew no one and had no client base. He put his ad in Coffee News®. Now he’s been with us for four years.” On the day his first ad appeared, he sent Sue a text; he’d already secured a client. A short time ago, he was hired for a $20,000 project. “He has bought his dream car,” Sue said, “To see him recover his business, his identity, to see someone nervous about moving into a new community, to see his confidence level today, literally fills my heart up and it’s why I do what I do. Since all that happened, we’ve become good friends. I know that in what I do, I make a positive difference in the lives of others and in my community.”

 

Are you interested in an international franchise opportunity? Coffee News® is currently in 12 countries! What international destination do you dream of being at? Maybe this is your ticket there! Call us at 207-941-0860 or email info@coffeenews.com for more information.

 

How Coffee News® Came to the USA

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Bill Buckley, President and Candice Daum (daughter of founder, Jean Daum)

How Coffee News Made it to Bangor, Maine

In early 1995 Bill Buckley, of Bangor, Maine was employed as a salesperson, selling injury prevention consulting services. His travels took him to the Hub Meat Packing plant in Moncton, NB where he worked with the safety director. Somehow the safety director had received a manual of operation and sample copies of Coffee News. He gave the files to Bill to evaluate for him to determine if this publication would be viable for Saint John, NB. Bill responded that it would, but he would need to do it full time. Bill also recognized it would work just as well in Bangor, Maine and brought the concept back to test market it.

In May 1995, Bill contacted Jean Daum, founder of Coffee News, in Winnipeg, Canada to acquire the franchise rights for Bangor, Maine.

The Risk of Starting Coffee News

While Bill had enjoyed a successful career of over 25 years in the banking industry, the cost of putting two children through college had drained most of the family’s savings. Bill had to sell the family home to pay off the mortgage while managing to keep a 10-year-old car on the road. The consulting job was ending and at the monthly cost of living, Bill knew he and Sue-Ann, his wife, would only be able to survive about seven months before their reserves were exhausted unless he could find a decent job. The idea of taking 25% of the remaining reserves to start Coffee News was risky, but so to was the alternative of doing nothing.

Undeterred, Bill called an old friend and fellow banker to see about getting a small line of credit as a safety net, in the event Coffee News did not work out and to acquire the supplies necessary to get his new publishing career off the ground. Despite having a small income as a reserve officer in the Maine Air National Guard, and no track record in publishing or advertising sales, the banker approved a $25,000.00 line. Bill insisted on putting a limit of $15,000.00 on the line so he would not be tempted to spend more than necessary. Only about $5,000.00 was ever drawn down at any one time over the next few years. Today, the balance on the line still remains at zero.

When Bill signed the loan documents, the banker, who understood the Coffee News concept quite well, shook his hand and commented that he would be extremely successful beyond his wildest dreams, and envied the opportunity he had discovered. That was a real morale builder!

The Start of the Coffee News in Bangor, Maine

The first Monday in June 1995, Bill began selling advertising with a promise to publish the first edition by July 3rd. A total of 27 ads out of 32 spaces available were sold for the first edition and three weeks later that first edition was full. After 12 months, all editions were running nearly full, generating a net income of over $115,000/year before taxes, a sum far greater than he had ever made in his working careers.

That fall, Bill started three more editions of Coffee News including one for Hancock County where Ellsworth was the county seat with a population of only 7500 people, but with 52 restaurant locations. This edition proved to be one of the most successful editions he had started, generating about $700/week in net income, and an advertiser in the real estate business in Ellsworth begged Bill to sell him this very profitable edition. After 9 months of operation, Bill relented and agreed to sell him the edition for $30,000, closing the deal on December 9, 1996.  The operating net income, plus the sale proceeds were worth just under $50,000. Bill was hooked on Coffee News!

The Start of the Coffee News Franchise in the USA

During the year, Bill had negotiated a sub-franchisor agreement with Jean Daum in Winnipeg to operate the United States for her and thus began Bill’s full-time job of publishing Coffee News and selling franchises nationally.

By 2001, it became apparent that a buy/sell agreement was in order to protect the franchise system in the event either Jean or Bill died. This agreement was drafted in January of 2001 and funded by life insurance. Whoever died first would have the rights to buy the other one out. Sue-Ann, who by this time had realized, the future potential of Coffee News and was managing the business and proofing all editions, was horrified to think she would have to manage Coffee News if Bill left early. Jean Daum’s children were also concerned about their capabilities if Jean were to die. However, Candice, Jean’s daughter, had been directly involved in managing the Canadian operation with around 200 franchises and was willing to stay on.

The Struggles Did Not Stop Coffee News

In December of 2001, Jean was diagnosed with non-hodgkin’s lymphoma that was considered quite treatable with an average life expectancy of around 13 years. Her progress was up and down to the point, at one time, of declaring that she had been totally cured, when we all sort of knew that was likely not the case. She lived until July of 2007 or 7 1/2 years from the date she was told of her illness.

Bill struggled to complete the purchase from her estate as soon as possible, but accounting details delayed the final purchase until October 2008. Candace was able to keep everything going in the interim until Bill, legally, could assume control.

The year 2008 started off with a bang as USA franchise sales totaled 239 franchises, or about one a day at $6,000.00 each through the end of August when the beginnings of the Great Recession brought sales to a complete halt for September 2008.

Since then, in spite of one of the worst recessions in the history of the country, Coffee News managed to stay financially healthy and prosper, albeit at lower levels of franchises on the books.

Coffee News, World’s Largest Restaurant Publication

Bill purchased a printing company with the CFO of Coffee News, Garrett Guernsey, in Houlton, ME in 2008. This enabled Coffee News to control printing costs for all USA publishers and some Canadian clients. An online Coffee News products division was created to supply branded items to publishers and keep costs down for them. Staff writers changed over time. Meanwhile, Coffee News continues to win acclaim for being one of the top-rated franchise opportunities in the world and is a member of the International Franchise Association (IFA).

The Coffee News publication has remained identical to it original roots. Today, it is the World’s Largest Restaurant Publication and the largest franchise publication in the world, with approximately five million readers every week in 12 countries around the world.