Secrets of Success: Les Mills, President, Masteroast
With a prolific career resulting from the trading of raw materials (sugar) in the City of London, then a managerial position within Calypsa Coffee Co Ltd, Les took advantage of his experience and put it to good use…
He is now president and co-founder of Ecobev Ltd, precursor of Masteroast Coffee Co Ltd. He speaks on Business Matters …
What products or services do you offer?
Masteroast is the only private label coffee roaster, blender and packager in the UK, serving the entire catering, retail and coffee industry at large, including other roasters.
What type of companies do you work with?
As specialist, bespoke, private label coffee roasters and packers, our market is spanned across multiple industries – including wholesale distributors serving all sectors of the AOH market including coffee shops, coffee shops, cafes, coffee shops, restaurants, hotels, institutional caterers, etc. Likewise, we produce a range of private label roasted coffee products for several major UK supermarket chains and online / e-commerce brands.
With our full range of roasting and packaging formats, we are the go-to outsourced roaster-packager for the coffee trade at large, including other roasters in the UK and 15 other countries.
What problem does your business solve?
We provide solutions for just about everything that is required in our markets – fully bespoke products, client branding and packaging for all businesses – from the UK’s largest supermarket to mamma and pappa size distributors and online merchants.
We almost certainly offer the widest range of coffee origins in Europe, bespoke coffee blends and blends, as well as a graphic design service for all packaging needs.
ISURUS, our sister distribution and logistics company, can store, pick and ship customer products allowing us to provide a discreet delivery service directly to our customers’ customers without our name on the delivery note. .
What’s your USP?
Our USP does not have its own brand identity. Instead, we produce brands exclusively for our customers, which means our success depends on theirs. It is a unique symbiotic business concept.
What are the values of your company? Have you ever challenged them and if so, how did you deal with it?
Besides the obvious ethical needs of any business, due to the nature of our business dealings, our inherent values promise maximum flexibility and total focus on the individual needs of each client.
We are fully committed to sustainability and are the only roaster in the UK to have fuel efficient catalytic converters on coffee roasting exhaust systems. We are innovators in recyclable and compostable packaging, have on-site nitrogen production and reuse energy from the roaster to facilitate the heating of our offices.
In the early 1990s, I worked with the then director of the Fairtrade Foundation to develop and formulate a regulatory system for non-retail and out-of-home coffee products and at Masteroast we remain the promoters of fair trade, the Rain Forest Alliance and certified organic coffees – all of these help to support and stimulate a circular economy along the supply chain, while being better for the environment.
How do you make sure you recruit a team that reflects your business values?
Where possible, we recruit through referrals from existing employees and through business referrals – people who already know and understand our values.
For the most part, we are approached by people who already know us and who are drawn to our values and our reputation.
We also employ agency staff to supplement our regular production team due to fluctuating production needs. We see this as a great opportunity to develop new talent and have an agreement with the agency that after three months of employment we invite all rising stars to join our staff on a permanent basis.
Are you happy to offer a hybrid home / office post-covid work model?
We gladly offer a hybrid working model, however due to the nature of our business it depends on the role as many aspects of working in roasting simply cannot be undertaken remotely.
Do you have any tips for effectively managing suppliers and customers?
We think of our customers as friends – customers and suppliers are a key part of any business and therefore we encourage our team to understand the importance of nurturing these relationships.
Financing or treasury advice for new start-ups?
Cash is at the heart of any business and must be controlled from the start. While it’s no secret, many businesses have failed – especially early on – simply by ignoring this fact.
We were fortunate enough to learn this at a very early stage in our business, and if someone hadn’t been extremely candid with us then, we wouldn’t have had the chance to approach now. of our fortieth year of activity.
For a new business that has just started, it is worth considering the services offered by vendors that can help alleviate the pressures on cash flow. For example, as an outsourced service, Masteroast assumes the fixed cost elements of raw material sourcing, production, warehousing, distribution and more. This guiding principle has kept our customers light, flexible, and successfully navigate the past 40 years of good and bad economic times.
While the last 18 months have been painful for all companies, our overhead lean clients have remained well positioned fiscally, ready to attack the post-pandemic world.
If you could ask the government to change one thing for business, what would it be?
The obvious for us is to stop creating more and more bureaucracy and unnecessary legislation.
The government has promised a post-Brexit bonfire for filling out forms, but politicians are congenitally conditioned to create more and more rules, regulations and controls. Businessmen and women know how business works, politicians don’t.
Good companies know how to treat their workers; those who do not will lose good staff, will not recruit the best, and therefore have little chance of prospering.
What is your attitude towards your competition?
Respect your competition – they are the best touchstone for any business.
Ask yourself if there is a competitor who does business better than you. If the honest answer is yes; look at what makes them better, imitate what they do, and then try to do it better.
Exceptionally in the case of Masteroast, many of our competitors also represent an important part of our market. Through our continued investment in new factories to keep abreast of the latest innovations in the industry, our competitors come to us to manufacture products that they do not have the capacity to produce on their own.
Any idea of the future of your business and your dreams?
As we approach our 40se anniversary, our goal is to remain an independent family business, to maintain the steady growth we have achieved over the past forty years and quite simply to remain the best coffee roaster in the world.