What my coffee machine taught me about business skills

I’ve just taken a pleasant break from work, drinking an excellent cup of crema espresso in the sunshine.

It’s the first decent cup I’ve had for a while.

Bear with me a moment and I’ll explain why.

A friend gave me one of those coffee machines that uses disposable coffee pods. It makes nice coffee but the pods are expensive. I drink a lot of coffee, so I also felt rather guilty about all the plastic waste I was creating.

So I did a bit of research and discovered you could buy reusable, stainless steel coffee pods online.

And I got one.

All was well for a few weeks. I experimented with lots of different types of coffee and was getting some really good results. I was a happy coffee drinker.

Then disaster struck.

For some reason, each time I put the primed pod in the machine and turned it on the lid would blow off. This meant that water and coffee grounds would spill out of the machine – and whatever actually reached my cup was undrinkable.

Guesswork isn’t expertise!

There had to be something wrong with the pod, right? Water was still getting into the pod, so it couldn’t be a problem with the machine.

So I took the pod to pieces, cleaned every part and reassembled it. I put it in the machine and – boom – the lid blew off again.

I assumed the pod must be broken. I gave up and spent the next few weeks making coffee in a pot.

Then I had the Eureka moment. If the lid was blowing off the pod, the pressure of the water must be too high. If the pressure was too high, the water inlet must be restricted. So I took the machine apart and looked at the hollow needle that injects water into the pod. I found a fine needle and pushed it through the hole.

It’s amazing how much limescale can accumulate in a tiny space.

I spent 10 minutes making sure the inside of the needle was pristine. I primed a pod of coffee and – hey presto! – I had an excellent cup of espresso.

Why am I telling you this? It reminded me that, when you have a bit of knowledge, you can make the mistake of trying to fix problems yourself in order to save money. In my case it meant I couldn’t have espresso for weeks, even though I’m sure someone who really knew about my coffee machine could have fixed it within minutes, first time round.

Don’t work things out the hard way!

It’s the same with cars.

When I first owned classic cars, I didn’t know that you had to periodically adjust the valve clearances on the engine. So when my car started playing up, I spent time and money trying to fix everything else – the spark plugs, the timing, the coil, the fuel mixture and so on. An expert could have diagnosed the problem a lot quicker and saved me a lot of hassle.

In business, it similarly pays to get the experts in if you don’t have the right skills in-house.

Marketing is a good example – because we all have cameras, design software and word processing packages, many of us like to turn our hand to photography, graphic design and copywriting. But unless you’re trained and skilled in these areas, you’re unlikely to get the best results. Or if you do, it will take you a long time to reach them!

Likewise, you might think it’s easy enough to keep your financial records in good order. But without an accountant, you could easily make expensive mistakes – not to mention miss out on good advice that could save you thousands.

So next time you make yourself a cup of coffee, have a think about areas of your business that need improving. It could well be that you need a little expert help from an Accountant to get them up to speed. It’ll probably save you time and money in the long run and it’ll give you some extra, valuable time to enjoy your coffee!

Expert Business Advice from THP

Contact us here at THP Chartered accountants for help with your business’ finances, offering a range of accountancy services like bookkeeping, payroll, cloud accounting (Xero and FreeAgent), Tax and much more, with offices in ChelmsfordCheamWansteadSaffron Walden and London City.

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