Live From RMC: The Perks of Being Jittery Joe’s

May 26, 2010 9:15 PM  By

Orlando, FL—You never have to teach a child to innovate, according to Bob Googe, cofounder/CEO of Jittery Joe’s Coffee. Kids, for instance, will pick up a stick and pretend it’s a sword.

Most grownups, however, have long forgotten how to be innovative. And Googe believes that can be a problem in business today.

Speaking at the Direct Marketing Association’s Retail Marketing Conference here on May 26, he shared the story of Jittery Joe’s Coffee and how the small merchant competes in the crowded gourmet coffee space.

Founded in 1994, Jittery Joe’s got its name from a diner in the movie Thelma and Louise. (The fledgling coffee shop also got an unexpected plug when just after it opened, an episode of The Simpsons featured a café called Jittery Joe’s.)

The Athens, GA-based company now operates 13 shops—all of which have their own Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. Its Website includes an online store and Joe’s blog. Jittery Joe’s also wholesales, supplies product for fundraising, and earlier this year launched an office coffee supply service.

Then there’s the coffee. Jittery Joe’s selects the top 1% of beans from at least 18 different countries and microroasts them in small batches for greater quality.

As a small company, Jittery Joe’s is used to operating on a shoestring, which means being flexible and making things work as it goes along, Googe said. He offered up three rules that Jittery Joe’s lives by.

1). Everyone is capable of innovation. “Get together with folks, ask questions: What can we do differently?” Googe urged the audience.

2). Be a ground-zero thinker. In other words, Googe said, “Tell that little voice in your head to be quiet.” Before you dismiss an idea as something that will never work, think again. There may be a kernel or nugget in there that you can use, he said.

3) Ask questions. First ask questions of yourself, Googe said, and then ask questions of each other. Don’t be afraid to talk to your competitors and ask them what’s working, what’s not working, how you can do something or improve something.

You do have to learn to ask the right questions, Googe noted. This will give your life—and your business—some clarity. “When you ask the right questions, you get the right answer,” he said.

As in baseball, he added, remember that “four base hits drives in a run.” Especially when you’re a small company, everything counts, Googe said. “Not everything needs to be a home run—just get on base.”