Hello and good day!
Our original business venture in Peru was distributing mining equipment.
We had just one client, Newmont Mining Corporation, a publicly traded company based out of Colorado. They own and operate mines of every type, and on every continent, but the only one that concerned us was Minera Yanacocha.
Minera Yanacocha is located two hours outside the northern Peruvian mountain city of Cajamarca. At its peak output, Minera Yanacocha was the biggest gold mine in the world, measured by production.
We were there during its peak.
The manager of the maintenance department brought us in because one of their suppliers was blatantly price gouging. The name of that company is Ferreyros and they are the national Caterpillar distributor in Peru.
From having worked at many mines all around the world, the manager recognized that thousands of parts that the mine was buying were 30% to 40% more expensive than they should have been.
He even knew who sold the cheaper parts. He just needed somebody to buy them and bring them up to the mine. This is where my dad and brother came onto the scene.
I don't have space to go into how a 62-year-old man just coming off seven years of bankruptcy and his 32-year-old bartender stepson maneuvered into this work.
But they stepped up to compete against Ferreyros.
The results were not good. In the end, Ferreyros wiped the floor with us. And it was maddening.
At one point, we proved that hundreds of our products were literally the exact same products that Ferreyros was selling.
They were made in the same factory in China using identical specifications. Some had Caterpillar stamped on the side and others had Eaton stamped on them. Eaton was the brand we sold.
Other than the stamp, everything else was the same and we had legal documents proving it, Our prices were 40% cheaper for the exact same product.
Yet, over and over again, mechanics in the maintenance department and managers in administration chose Caterpillar branded products.
Simply put, graft.
Ferreyros had the resources to buy loyalty and we didn't.
They took higher ups on lavish vacations, gifted bottles of expensive imported whisky, and gave away tickets to soccer games. Sometimes they handed out envelopes filled with cash.
We fought valiantly and were able to appeal to a limited cadre of folks who actually cared about what they were supposed to care about.
Everybody there was on the mine's payroll and in theory, they were supposed to be operating in the best interest of their employer. Some people took their moral obligation seriously.
But too many didn't.
It worked out well for us in the end though, because had we won those battles, we might still be distributing mining equipment, and we wouldn't have started our chocolate business, which is our life's work.
Yesterday, a good friend and customer came into our shop to say hi. She brought us a goodie bag of treats that she made at home using our chocolate.
And she also brought a zip lock bag with some additional chocolate products she wanted me to try.
"Try this," she said. I did, and I immediately wished I hadn't.
"Oh man. This is awful," I said.
"I know right? That's why I brought it in. Can you believe it?"
It was a mint chocolate product made by a huge company and sold by a huge retailer.
"It's a strange thing for you to save something so terrible and bring it in for me to try," I said.
"I just wanted to know what you thought about it," said my friend.
She had a mischievous look about her and she seemed to be having fun at my expense.,She was relishing the suffering of my poor taste buds a little too heartily.
"Here is what I think. I think that this product could easily be 3 to 4 times better with two small tweaks that wouldn't add any production costs."
For the last year or so, our company has been manufacturing mint patties. I know a thing or two about making mint flavored chocolate products.
I understand the flavor profile and I am also very familiar with ingredient costs.
If the makers of this very shoddy product would simply dial down the sugar and dial up the mint, the product could be vastly better.
Mint oil is potent and replacing sugar with mint would not make a substantial difference to the manufacturing cost.
I'm sure of it.
Given this data, there is only one explanation for why this product can be so poor.
The person in charge of the company doesn't care.
And further, nobody at the retailer cares.
And maybe most sadly of all, the customers who buy it don't care.
In the end, a company cannot exist without its customers.
I can only assume that customers are purchasing boxes of this stuff as a gift to give away, because nobody in their right mind could keep it in their house and eat it over and over.
It's too sweet. No human mouth can handle that much sweetness over long periods of time.
Here we have two examples of two different companies who get away with selling products they shouldn't be selling.
In both cases, the moral failing that makes this possible is the same.
It all stems from a lack of care.
If it takes very little effort to do the right thing, but a person chooses not to, it is because they simply do not care.
This is what drives parents crazy about their children.
A kid comes home from school and sheds their clothes and stuff in the home's entrance instead of taking 30 seconds to put it all away.
You ask the kid to put their stuff away and they whine.
They can't even take 30 seconds to do the right thing?
What burns your heart here is that they don't care about the house, and they don't care about all the work you go through to keep it looking good and clean.
All you want is for them to show they care by putting forth a token effort.
We expect adults to care enough about the world to mostly do what is right, especially when it is easy.
Unfortunately, this isn't always the case.
Thankfully, every individual has free will and each one of us can choose to act with care.
We can say a kind word when a kind word is needed.
We can pick up a small piece of trash off the ground.
We can hug somebody who is suffering.
We can buy good chocolate for our loved ones.
And we can pay 40% less for our mining equipment if the opportunity presents itself.
Thank you so much for time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!
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