It’s nearly another Christmas – we’re all a year older – how do you feel about that? Giggles guaranteed in this week’s “Coffee with Colm”

Thank you for watching, listening to or reading some of my weekly ruminations on life and business throughout the year. This time of year is one for reflection and so we are revisiting the Top 5 of 2018.

We’re into the Top 3… and at No. 3, from June, we have a funny, yet eye-opening, take on ageing. Giggles guaranteed in this week’s “Coffee with Colm”


What #Level Are You At?

(or what a little girl reminded me of during a school tour of HQ)

This week’s “Coffee with Colm”

The little girl put up her hand and so I nodded to her. Her question caught me, the teachers and everybody else in the room by complete surprise.

That was on Wednesday.

One of my great privileges as founder and MD of Carambola is that we (me usually) get to give tours of our Limerick facility to school children. Wednesday was one of those days. Twenty children, boys and girls, from a local school had come to visit, along with their teachers. They were tiny, and well behaved and were from 3rd and 4th class, ranging from age 8 to 10. They were dotes and they were fun.

It started as it always does in our board room where we all donned white plastic visitor coats and covered our hair with attractive (not) blue hair nets to comply with food safety legislation before we embarked on what to them was the equivalent of a Willy Wonka-esque adventure (ok, maybe that’s just me getting ahead of myself). Instructions were given as to what they could and couldn’t do, safety being paramount, they were under no illusion that they were entering a work-space where there were lots of people and product and stuff moving around and they needed to be careful and listen to and obey my instructions.

The children immediately behind me at any time as I led the little group would be tasked with holding open doors or heavy plastic curtains to allow their classmates through only to fall in behind last of all. Teachers would always be at the rear to shepherd the group from behind.

To find out what happened, watch the video, listen to the podcast (both 6 mins teaching) or read on below for more…

And so it went.

We visited goods inwards where they got to see product arriving and being signed in; they peered in through our viewing window and waved to our kitchen crew members who were busy making sandwiches, wraps, salads and rolls, welcoming the little distraction in their work day which began at 4am, by smiling and waving back at twenty little clients.

From there we trooped into the packing room; the engine of the place where we magically have each sandwich (of which there are 150+ permutations per child per day (ten different bread types multiplied by ten different fillings, add in butter/no butter, gluten free, soda, etc.) meet its intended lunch bag for the child that ordered it, along with their individual choice of drink, fruit and breakfast/snack items. It requires training, precision and dedication to get it right 32,500 times every day!

They witnessed our allergy control section whereby a trained operator scans a bag known to be that belonging to a child with an allergy and then does a visual inspection of what’s in it to make sure we suffered no human error on the line that could cause harm to the intended recipient. This process occurs in over 2,000 cases each day and is one of the cornerstones of our service.

We ran a test in the finished product cold room to make sure each bag was in the correct tray so it would arrive safely on time, in full to the correct classroom in any of the 250 schools Carambola supplies countrywide every day (including two schools on remote islands off the Donegal Coast!). All was well and the packing room team received a bualadh bos (congratulatory hand clap) from the kids.

They were wowed by the refrigerated fleet being prepared to transport all the lunches, viewing all he three refrigerated trucks that deliver to our six depots overnight, and some of the twenty refrigerated vans that take the lunches each morning to the schools.

They were such a lovely, well behaved group that I led them back through our office area where they saw the management and admin team busy answering phones and tripping from one office to another for the various meetings that happen between sales, operations, customer care, logistics, IT, facilities, purchasing, HR, food safety, field support and finance – a veritable hive of professional activity. The kids were delightful in their quiet demeanor sneaking a few waves in a few doors as they trooped by.

Finally back to the board room where I gave them a short Power Point presentation (start ’em early) on Carambola’s fifteen year history which had its roots in our 2005 failed cafe (a low point in my catering career which started in 1980 – a corporate highlight of which was my stint as GM of Bewley’s Café, Grafton St, Dublin for four years in the early 1990’s).

That finished, we entered the Q&A session. I led with some questions:

“How many schools do we deliver to every day?”

Tiny hands shot up all around the room, but their enthusiasm spilled over into collective answering before I had time to pick one.


“Correct. How many lunch bags every day?”


“Correct. Vans?”

“20 and 3 trucks.”

“Correct. What colour coats do they wear in the kitchen?”

This threw them so I had to pick a hand.

“White.” said a little boy.

“Correct. And the packing room?”

Hands. Pick one.



More eager hands. Pick one.



“Now who wants to ask me a question?”

Hands. Pick one. Little girl slightly to my right.

“What would you like to ask?”

“How old are you?” she shot back.

Hahaha! I did not see that one coming!

Teachers mortified, Carambola Head of Customer Care and I delighted. Kids laughing.

“How old am I?” I asked.

“Yep.” She nodded.

“Before I answer, how old are you?” I asked her.

“I’m nine.” she answered with obvious pride.

“Nine. Ok. I’m fifty five. May I tell you what I learned about age recently?”

“Yep.” she said.

I proceeded to tell her and the room that there was a time I feared getting older and then I came across a transformational concept around ageing that has me so excited about the future.

I told her that people tend to think that as we get older we become less useful; for many it is true that they become less mobile, but that shouldn’t mean they become less useful.

“So what if, instead of getting older, we in fact graduated up through levels! That means that you are only level 9 and I am level 55! Woohoo!” I said, chest sticking out, standing a little taller as I said it.

Little boy on the other side of the room got it immediately and said, “I’m level 10!”

Love it!

We then had a show of hands; who is Level 8? Level 9? Level 10? Level 25? (the two female teachers and Rachel were all level 25 – imagine!)

I know I’ve touched on this concept before but it really deserves more thought and greater appreciation. Yes, I am #Level 55 and loving it. I am healthy, strong, happy and have meaningful work to do and meaningful relationships (including with myself) to enjoy.

What #Level are you?

Do you feel it?

Are you really that #Level or do you feel old? I am really #Level 55 and cannot wait to achieve #Levels 80, 90, 100!

Are you really that #Level or (and this is going to hurt some) are you actually stuck at #Level 25 for thirty years? In other words, are you 55 but stopped growing at 25? Ouch!

It’s a valid question. Have you really 30 years experience in your profession/career/life? Or is it one year’s experience, repeat, repeat, repeat? It’s a shocking truth for many to realize that their life is like Groundhog Day and has been since their mid twenties.

Regardless my friend, start from here, today. Realize what age and more importantly decide what #Level you will be in 2020 and go make it happen!

Might be time to shake it up!


Thanks for thinking with me.

Yours truly.


“How can I help?”

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MORE. Did you enjoy that? Fancy a sip of some of my recent “Coffee with Colm” Blog posts:

  • The Christmas Top 5 “Coffee with Colm” posts from 2018 – And at No. 4 we have a post from January discussing the difference between vicTIM and vicTOR mentality. Enjoy. – Click here.
  • Christmas Top 5 – At No. 5 we have my interview with nTrai, an exciting start-up that almost failed, then didn’t – click here.
  • Hard Work Pays Off – True or False? (or why this myth may be the greatest load of baloney known to man) – click here.

HIRE ME TO SPEAK. Consider me speaking at your event, launch, awards, or as your after-dinner keynote. Find out more here.

WORK WITH ME OR THE COBM | SOUNDING BOARD TEAM. Need help with your business? Check out the areas I and The Sounding Board of trusted experts can assist with. Find out more here.

FREE AUDIO BOOK. If would like a complimentary copy of my book “Feeding Johnny – How to Build a Business Despite the Roadblocks” in audio, narrated by yours truly so you get all the nuances, feel free to grab one here.

DEEP DIVE. If you would like to go deeper in your own personal journey, you can review the first step in my “12 Steps to Create the Life You Really Want” for FREE. Check it out here.

LinkedIn. Perhaps the thing to do right now is simply to hook up professionally on LinkedIn – if that’s of interest, click here.


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