A “Coffee with Colm” Blog – Episode 1 of Three Things That All Successful Businesses Have In Common (or lessons learned *ahem* while drinking coffee!)

Have you ever sat at a wobbly table in a café? Frustrating isn’t it? Searching around for something to plug under one of the four legs to attempt to steady it – you know the drill.

What’s the issue?

Sometimes the problem is in the floor, where there are uneven patches and one leg has found itself hovering just above instead of solidly on. Sometimes the problem is the table itself, not necessarily that it was manufactured wrongly but that the adjuster feet (provided because of the uneven floor issue) are badly adjusted and again one is hovering above instead of resting solidly on – either way it’s a frustration, and meantime your coffee and muffins are all akimbo.

The same can of course apply to four legged chairs and stools. Again, I know you have experienced this.

What’s the answer? The simplest and best design to solve the wobbly problem for tables, chairs or stools is three legs in triangular formation!

Yes, three legs guarantees that the piece of furniture will always sit solidly on the surface on which it is placed. It does NOT guarantee that it will be level, that is a function of the state of the surface it’s on, the length of each leg, etc but it does ensure that once placed, it will remain steady. Interesting, isn’t it? Bet some of you didn’t know this – see – you learn something new every day!

Anyhow… what has this got to do with business? Allow me to explain:

Watch the short video (7:06) below to hear me discuss the concept over a quick cup of coffee or read on below…

Let’s imagine the market is the café floor alluded to above? It’s vast, uneven, patchy, and largely outside your control.

Imagine your business is a stool sitting on the floor (trading/operating within the market), a stool of your design and making, totally within your control.

How then do you design your business so that it has the best chance of remaining steady and growing solidly given that it operates in a market that you aren’t the master of?

The answer? Build it across three legs.

In my opinion (and in my experience with Carambola.ie, €7m+ annual turnover, 120+ employees) the most effective, successful and potentially sustainable businesses MUST have three legs – any fewer and they just cannot stand, (Imagine a 2-legged stool? No? Neither can I) more and they run the risk of being wobbly for reasons outside your control explained above.

“So if I can only have three, what should they be?” I hear you ask.

Ready for it?

  1. Brand
  2. Systems
  3. People

That’s it. The most effective business model is strong across all three of these legs.

Today I am going to concentrate on brand and in the coming weeks I’ll share my views on the other two vital legs of the three-legged stool that will become your rock solid business.

Here is a snippet from my book, “Feeding Johnny”

‘The importance of a good brand

Imagine a white swipe on a black background and name the brand. You’re driving down the road and see a large yellow M in the distance; name the brand. You’re in a social setting and see a harp on a pint glass; what drink does it represent? Brands fascinate me. They are so simple conceptually yet can have such deep meaning and association in the public psyche.

Good branding can enhance a business, bad branding hurts it. Some brands and their trademarks are as valuable as the business they represent, take Coca Cola for example, it’s reported the business is worth c$160bn* but of that the brand is worth almost $80bn!** So I feel we should all consider our branding carefully.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say someone from Ballygolacky starts a business. It’s an aluminium windows business and they call it Ballygolacky Windows. At one level this seems fine. It tells prospective clients exactly what it does, i.e. windows (it doesn’t do doors, walls, floors or ceilings, swimming pools or coffee) but it also tells clients where it does windows, i.e. Ballygolacky. So even if I’m in the market for windows, if I don’t live in Ballygolacky I’m unlikely to call. The business name has defined but also parochial-ized (limited) the business. Clearly some parochial sounding brands break the mould, such as Kerry PLC; a brand that now spans the globe and uses to its significant advantage global awareness of Kerry and Ireland’s reputation as a green land with a tremendous wholesome food heritage. But Ballygolacky Windows? Is it likely to be a global brand? I don’t think so.’

Dictionary.com says:



  1. kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee.

What do you say? What is a brand?

Col Campbell of the Campbell family, owners of the Bewley’s brand (the best known Irish brand in Ireland next to Guinness) asked me this recently and then answered, “Everything. Your brand is everything you do.”

And Col is right. It IS everything.

Of course it is your logo and/or your trademark, that’s obvious.

And the quality of your product or service, naturally.

It can be seen in décor, livery on vehicles, on business cards, letterhead, websites, even uniforms.

Less obvious perhaps is how you answer the phone, how you treat your employees, how you deal with your customers.

Perhaps even less obvious is how you treat your suppliers and even your competitors.

Your brand is everything and yet it is still only one leg on the three-legged stool that is (or will be) your solid, successful, sustainable business but it needs to be considered carefully. And considered from every aspect, from every possible angle.

BUT, and here’s the kicker. Your brand reputation will be fed or starved, enhanced or vilified, by how you build the next two legs on the stool; Great Systems and Even Better People.

Next week’s episode… (or perhaps now? – see below): Great Systems.


MORE? As we live in a Netflix World, rather than waiting for episodes 2 and 3, would you like to access them now?

STAY CONNECTED: If this is your thing, consider joining in the conversation here

FREE BOOK: If would like a complimentary copy of the book in audio, narrated by yours truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here

Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly,


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