Francois du Toit learning to make coffee using a barista machine
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What a basic barista course taught me about building a legendary financial services practice

I always had this yearning to learn more about coffee and specifically how coffee is supposed to be made (the drink, not the bean). I came across the “Coffee Talks” sessions offered by the Green Bean Coffee Roastery in Muldersdrift, and it sounded like a great introductory opportunity. And at only R 250 per person, it quickly became a no-brainer. So I booked.

I won’t write here about the experience and everything we learned (although this was the best morning I have spent in years and got much more for my bucks than I expected). I want to share my thoughts after reflecting this morning on the experience, what we can learn from coffee and the art of making the “Golden Cup”, and how we can use that to build a legendary financial services practice and to distinguish ourselves from the rest of the crowd.

The difference knowledge makes

I have been drinking coffee for years. First the Ricoffy and Frisco kind, then the Wimpy kind and then a few years back filter coffee. These days cappuccinos, lattés, and americanos are at the order of the day. I am still too young for an espresso.

But I had no idea how they were made, how they are supposed to taste and what distinguishes a good from a bad cup of coffee. I just knew that some coffees taste better than others and some had more milk.

Well, now I know. And it changed my coffee world.

I know the effect of how finely or coarsely the beans are ground and how important it is to get it just right, how to tell if the coffee is over- or under-extracted, why you shouldn’t use boiling water, how to prepare the milk properly and finally how to pour that “Golden Cup” for its ultimate enjoyment.

It is the same with financial planning. Once we start working on our knowledge, we start realising the difference between good financial planning and not-so-good financial planning. We learn that there is much more to it than merely matching needs and product features. We understand that one decision influences or impacts something else.

The puzzle pieces start to fall in place and our levels of happiness and satisfaction go through the roof. We raise our status with clients and we differentiate ourselves from the masses.

Buying a coffee machine does not mean we can make coffee

Yes, there are machines that make it so easy that anyone can make that “perfect” cup of coffee. Nespresso, Dulce Gusto, Delonghi, Breville, and many others.

Choosing a capsule and a setting on the machine, mean that we know how to use the machine. Not how to make the coffee. The type of machine plays an important role here. We can have a barista machine where we really need the skills to make that coffee, or we can have a Nespresso-like machine that does everything for us.

In financial planning, products are the machine… technical knowledge and skills and the ability to deeply engage with clients and pull them into the planning, and being able to pull everything together in a simple manner… that is true financial planning barista skills.

We can watch someone make 1 000 cups

I watched closely as the barista showed us how to make the perfect espresso. Multiple times. I watched the other people who attended make espressos. But when it was my turn, I quickly realised that what it looks like is nothing what it feels like.

We can know all the steps. We can have the best beans. Perfectly roasted. Fresh milk. Water and steam at exactly the right temperature. But putting them all together is something completely different.

Grinding the beans. Tamping the ground beans the correct way. Extracting the espresso whilst frothing the milk to perfection at the same time. Keeping things clean. Pouring the coffee in the correct manner in the right cup. It is a lot to do at once.

It is the same with financial planning. Until we start practicing and using what we learn and trying out new aspects in our practice, we will never get to that point where things almost just happen automagically.

The importance of educating clients

Now that I know more about making coffee, I enjoy it so much more. I can have interesting conversations. I look at the information on coffee packaging differently and make different buying decisions.

I also know that I have much more to learn and that this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The thing that stood out most for me though, is the relationship I formed with Lee (the owner) in that one morning. She is passionate about what she does and she is proud of her products. It is her mission to teach as many people as she can about coffee and to keep them from drinking bad coffee ever again. Most of all, the time she took to answer every single one of my questions, no matter how many times she may have heard them before, in detail made me feel cared for and that this is someone who truly cares about what she does.

Next time a client tells us that they don’t know and that we as the financial advisor must choose for them because “we are the experts”, seize the opportunity to help the client learn more about the process, the product, the advice, the tax, the decision. It will leave them empowered with a feeling that they are truly cared for and that they can actively participate in the process.

Perception of value

This is the aspect that changed the most for me and it is the outcome or result of everything we discussed above.

I bought coffee based on price thinking that all “Mocha Javas” are the same, so certain prices seemed ludicrous to me. So I always went for the cheapest one. However, now that I understand the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans, the process everything goes through and some other nuances, I formed a new appreciation for coffee and I place a higher value on good quality coffee. Hence, I am now willing to pay more for such coffees.

All it took was for me to gain more knowledge, be shown how to do it the best way and to practice what I learned. It changed my perception of the value and hence what I was willing to pay for it going forward.

Do this in your financial planning practice (or any other business for that matter) and you will not only grow your practice, but you will form relationships and create long-term value that no one can replace.


  • Francois du Toit, CFP®

    Francois du Toit, CFP® holds a B. Com degree in Risk Management as well as the Post-Graduate Diploma in Financial Planning. He is an avid miniature figure painter with a passion for helping others succeed and for professionalising the Financial Services Industry. He holds the certification of CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER® or CFP® in good standing with the Financial Planning Institute of Southern Africa as well as being a registered Tax Practitioner with them and SARS. Francois offers a unique and powerful proposition to businesses employing Financial Advisers and Broker Consultants that leads to significant improvement in production and reduced advice risk. His practical experience, success, technical knowledge and understanding the challenges and opportunities in this field, ensure immediate practical application in the target market. Francois has designed and created very successful online courses for the Financial Planning Institute and has trained hundreds of financial planners, advisers and other trainers for among others Old Mutual, PPS, Liberty, Iress and atWork. His ability to answer questions that relate to practical on-the-ground issues is what sets him apart from traditional trainers who may not have been in practice.

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