Strategic Thinking Helps Death Wish Coffee Continue to SucceedDeath Wish Coffee is a global coffee brand that bills itself as “the world’s strongest coffee” but knew early on they didn’t have the world’s strongest processes.

Death Wish started in 2012 in Round Lake, New York.  They employed six people at the beginning of 2015. Death Wish was an emerging new global brand with amazing products.  They were growing significantly despite some common internal business challenges. The CEO was beginning to notice some growing challenges with his staff, communication, and efficiency.  He recognized that the company was outgrowing his management style.  That it was in need of a more professional management style, among other things. The solution, he thought, was to bring in a full-time manager.

That wasn’t the answer. He realized that by hiring a business coach there were more effective options.




Strategic Thinking Helps Death Wish Coffee Continue to Succeed


  • Duplication of Work

At times there was duplication of work. Other important things sometimes fell through the cracks.

  • Staff Tension

The personalities of the staff didn’t always blend, impacting their ability to work effectively together.

  • Internal Communication

Communication between departments was not always conducive to productive workflow.

  • Lack of Adequate Information

The owner didn’t always have adequate information available for him to make the best business decisions.

  • Critical Project Delays

Due to a lack of a clear plan and priorities some mission-critical projects were taking longer than desired.

  • No Clear Role Responsibilities

The staff wasn’t 100% clear on the specific outcomes they were each responsible for.  The owner felt that sometimes he was the one getting in the way.



  • Hire a Professional Business Coach

Bring on a business coach/consultant as part of the team to work with the owner, instead of hiring a manager.

  • Role Analysis/Improve Personal Effectiveness of the Owner

Using a series of profiles, I helped the owner better understand his decision-making style, behavior style, communication style, and “blind spots.”  These profiles were used to identify opportunities to improve his personal productivity and effectiveness. As a result, he realized that he thought of himself more as a “hands-on doer.” Not as “CEO” and “big picture thinker.” It’s noteworthy that he realized the importance of carving out time for himself to “do the thinking and work of a CEO.”     “My best days I now start with a plan”  he says.

  • Staff Communication Analysis

To improve organizational communication the team all took and debriefed D.I.S.C. profiles to determine their communication styles and how they tended to interact with others. The owner and staff gained a greater understanding of why there were conflicts so they could work through them. “Even though the newer staff didn’t take the profile, I now recognize some different patterns and know better how to work with them. It’s helped a lot.”

  • Setting Clear Goals

A Vision for what the company could become was established in order to foster “big picture thinking” and give the team a long term focus for their creative energy. Targets for 2015 were also set. “It was that pinpoint of light you are always moving toward. Even though you don’t always see it clearly. But you just seem to keep moving towards.”

  • Prioritizing Wins

Priorities were set for each quarter to maintain focus on what was most important to the organization at the time. They included revenue goals, developmental goals,  and next actionable steps for the big organizational projects the team was working towards completing.

  • Organizational Development Activities

To improve overall productivity and goal achievement, the roles necessary for the business to function “correctly” were identified. Responsibilities, daily activities, outcomes desired, and measurements for each role were determined and communicated to staff. This helped by creating a clear line of sight to desired results for each person.

The desired culture was defined in a Values statement.  This served to help with decision making and to direct behavior both internally and externally. It clearly defined what the staff should or should not do when faced with a decision.

All systems which the business needed to function were identified. The outcome each system was supposed to produce was determined. Improvements were implemented where necessary.

To improve information flow and provide the owner with more of the information he needed, a daily meeting routine was established.  This provided accountability, monitoring of performance, and an opportunity for feedback. It also improved information flow through the whole company.  “This was a great habit to establish. We have a meeting every day. It helps me and the staff a lot.”

In addition, weekly coaching sessions were held in order to develop the capabilities of the owner. As a result, he stayed focused on his goals.  He learned and applied important concepts.  We brainstormed ideas, turned ideas into action steps, and solved pressing issues.



Strategic Thinking Helps Death Wish Coffee Continue to Succeed

  • 2015 revenue doubled 2014 from 3M to 6M.

  • Completed four outstanding complex projects

  • Now on the shelves of 150+ stores including two leading regional grocery store chains

  • Employee count doubled from 6-12

  • Record 4th quarter revenue (2015)

  • Won QuickBook’s competition to have a Super Bowl commercial!

It was a result of their internal focus that the company produced these amazing results. They implemented the “big picture thinking” organizational development work and became a high performing team.

With the nationwide publicity and massive media exposure that came with their Super Bowl commercial win, the business now is facing a new set of challenges.  Consequently, they are positioned to more than double again in 2016.  5M was anticipated for the 1st quarter alone. (They grossed significantly more than that!)

So, they head into the future with confidence and excitement knowing that the infrastructure and habits are in place which will allow them to function effectively on a day to day basis while they tackle this next stage of growth.

There is more work to do though…

If you are an entrepreneur who has not been focusing internally- on building the organization itself, on establishing good organizational habits, on personal productivity, on effective communication, on developing systems and processes, on goals and priorities- we should talk.  An analysis of your strengths and weaknesses related to the role of CEO is a great place to start.

Howard Litwak Your Business Coach

A plug for my friends:

If you love your coffee like I do, check out : Use promo codesave10 for your order. The Death Wish blend is really great tasting and highly caffeinated. (I do mean highly!) The Valhalla and Barrel blends are among some of the best tasting coffees I’ve ever had.  And they leave me without the caffeinated rush.