How Much Does a Cup of Coffee Cost Your Business?
If you’ve been in real estate for more than forty-eight seconds...
I'm sure you know it takes a high level of energy, focus, and organization to be successful.
Even the peppiest of people rarely pop out of bed at the sound of the alarm, 100% energized to start working five minutes later. Most of us rely on routine and caffeine to propel our day forward.
But…have you ever thought about how much your coffee (or tea) is costing your business? You’re probably doing the math right now. A small canister of Folgers costs $7 and depending on how strong you like your brew, you might get twenty-five cups from it, which works out to around $0.30 per cup. Or if you’re a Starbucks cult member, a single cup costs more like $6-9 (and for my Dunkin peeps, that cup is about $3).
But that’s not the math you should be doing when it comes to your c
offee. For me, my coffee costs over $100 per cup (and I’m not exactly drinking Kopi Luwak). That is a freaking EXPENSIVE cup.
For that price, the coffee should drive my car, clean my house, and walk my dog! It’s not the value of the beans themselves that I am calculating, however, it’s the value of me. My time. My expertise.
I did a presentation last week and received an email from someone who was in the audience. “Lindsey, I really enjoyed your presentation. Can we meet for a cup
of coffee next week?” The typical response is yes, and then the two of you scramble to find a compatible time to meet at a Starbuck’s halfway between you. That’s not what I said. I replied, “Thank you for your kind words. I love hearing that my message touched you! I always appreciate feedback and I hope to see you again soon. Please don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t have one-on-one coffee meetings with other people. Doing that doesn’t align with my schedule. Thank you for asking though!”
The other person replied, “Okay, if coffee doesn’t work, how about lunch?” I appreciated their doggedness, I really did, but I look at the hours I spend on my business in terms of dollars and cents. I don't want to waste my time—or anyone else’s. So I replied, “What is the purpose of you wanting to meet with me individually? This will he
lp me better schedule the right amount of time for us.”
The person said that they really just wanted to get to know me better. To me, that’s the kind of thing I save for my friends, and do after work, so I said, “I have to make sure my activities generate revenue and have a purpose that is in line with my goals. I’ll be at the next meeting, so if you want to chat before or after that, I can set aside a few minutes to talk. Other than that, I can talk on the phone while I’m commuting to ____ on ____ at ____ time.”
Did my email sound harsh? Probably. Was the content direct and forward? Absolutely. Was the other person confused and maybe even hurt? Maybe. But here’s the thing— it’s not personal. It’s business.
I didn’t specifically remember this person from the audience and t
here didn’t seem to be a specific revenue-generating reason to meet. That person was probably doing what many people have been trained to do: ask anyone and everyone for one-on-one's. There’s nothing wrong with that—if you’re okay with undervaluing yourself.
In 2017 when I was a residential mortgage loan officer, my manager asked me once, “How much do you charge per hour?” I immediately said, “I don’t have billable hours, I’m not an attorney, but I’d love to charge hourly. Can I do that?” He laughed and said no, that was illegal. Then he asked me again, “How much do you charge per hour?” I was confused. I asked him if he wanted to know how much I made last month and he asked me the same question again.
So I walked back to my desk, pulled up my current pipeline, and started crunching the “Lindsey numbers.” I used a simple calculation: $ annual income/2000 hours (40 hours a week for 50 weeks). I went back to my manager and told him this number. He replied, “But how much do you charge?” By now, I’m extremely frustrated.
I DID THE MATH! What’s wrong with my math? He explained that I hadn’t accounted for the time I spent: 1. Driving to and from networking events 2. At lunches and coffee meetings 3. Sitting at my computer working 4. Taking calls and fielding emails on nights and weekends Those numbers took me way past 40 hours a week.
When I did the math again, I realized my hourly “rate” was less than 50% of what I had originally calculated.
I was literally costing myself money by undervaluing my time, even the time I spent having coffee. That changed everything about my business model going forward.
So when that person asked to meet for coffee, I did the mental math. I’d spend 15-30 minutes driving to meet for coffee, another thirty minutes to an hour drinking coffee and getting to know each other, then drive home for another 15-30 minutes. All totaled, that’s 1.5 to 2 hours spent with someone who isn’t buying from me and isn’t i
n a compatible industry. There would be no business coming from that coffee meet.
Back in 2017, the math told me I would have lost more than $100 having that cup of coffee. I don’t know about you but I’ve NEVER had a cup of coffee that tasted better than $100 feels in my bank account (maybe a glass of Moët after a million-dollar closing—but my love of wine is not the point of this article).
Let me be clear—I am NOT saying this person isn’t valuable, wouldn’t have a referral for me, or wouldn’t bring some value to our conversation.
However, at the time this person emailed me, none of those possibilities popped up in our conversation. With the facts I had in front of me, I was not willing to spend $100 or more on that day, at that time. It wasn’t in my best interests. It didn’t align with my goals. It's all about knowing your value and making time for what matters. If something is important, I make it work with my schedule. I have been known to be on calls while walking my dog, at the gym, cleaning the house, or just running errands. Some people might say I’m “not in the moment.”
To me, that’s a silo-focused view. The truth is simple: I’m in the moment when I want to be.
I choose which hours during the day are focused on my personal l
ife or my work life. Whether I’m taking a dance class, spending quality time with my loved ones (which is my love language, coincidentally), or just enjoying the beach, I am making a conscious choice to spend those minutes with what matters.
To me, those hours are worth way more than $100. To have those precious hours, I have to make double use of my work hours. So if I can make an administrative phone call while I’m returning an Amazon package to the UPS store, then I’ll wear my
AirPods with pride and check two things off my list at one time.
You have to learn to calculate the most important real estate you own. I’m not talking about the physical home you live in. Chances are, when I said “real estate,” you and 99.4% of everyone else reading this saw something made out of brick & mortar, maybe with a marble backsplash or five acres of wooded land. We are trained that the definition of real estate means one thing: dirt (and whatever sits on top of that dirt).
Even Webster’s defines real estate as: “property consisting of land or buildings.” In my dictionary, real estate is not dirt or buildings.
My real estate has a beating heart and goals and passions. My real estate is ME. The four walls around you now and the beach condo you bought for retirement are not the most valuable real estate you own.
YOU are. YOU are the most expensive asset you’ll ever have. YOU are precious cargo. Every breath you take, every moment you are GIFTED is valuable. Treat it as such.
Do the math right now. How much do you charge per hour? If you had to put a price tag on the minutes you spend with people or doing things that don’t m
atter, how much would it cost? Is that price worth it?
Every cup of coffee and every lunch meeting costs you something—and you can only decide if it’s worth the price if you first know the value of YOU.
- By Lindsey White,
Real Estate Lender & Author.