Knowing your numbers, knowing your business: A Conversation with Kareena Thakur, Director of Financial Planning & Analysis

Selling specialty coffee? In this economy? Kareena Thakur, our Director of Financial Planning & Analysis, shows how it's possible for businesses of all size to financially survive - and thrive - in the current climate.

Michael Sadler: How did you get interested in finance?

Kareena Thakur: I've always been interested in quantifying items and trying to make sense of them on a numerical scale. So I always felt I would end up either doing economics, accounting or finance. I studied economics for my first two years of college, and I love economics to this day. But economics is more about observing micro- and macro-economic trends without the opportunity to change or control any of those factors. I really like to tinker with things and problem solve, and with finance I believe you can control some of your inputs to help you get to the place you need to be!

MS: Why is financial health critical to businesses of any size?

KT: Just like it's important to know your heart rate while working out, it's critical to know your numbers related to the core of your business so you can make decisions based on the financial health of your business irrespective of your size. Even if you just have a lemonade stand,  I believe it is always imperative to know if the entire project is costing you more than you would net from it. 

MS: What are the unique financial challenges for businesses in our industry?

KT: With the cost of goods constantly increasing, labor shortages, rising green coffee prices, supply chain issues and more, there isn't a shortage of challenges our industry is currently facing. I think the unique challenge our industry will be facing moving forward is definitely the cost of coffee. The C-Market (that dictates the base price of all coffee contracts) has been on an upward trajectory for the past two years. Add with climate change - with droughts and irregular rain patterns that are reducing the yield of coffee crops and raising prices per pound even further -  I'd say we have a tough battle ahead of us.

MS: What advice would you give to businesses trying to make sound decisions with their money?

KT: I know I just mentioned a whole bunch of problems that our industry is facing, but I like to focus on the problems we can control. To me, numbers help you in making decisions, and analysis can be your best friend. We've been able to reduce our labor costs by analyzing the number of customers we get per hour, to then model hourly labor on a weekly basis. By running a store, you know how many customers an employee can handle per hour. We use that knowledge to see if we are utilizing our throughput efficiently and reduce our hourly staffing based on the hourly foot traffic data for each store. This is a tool that I think can help any business streamline their labor model. I also think just being aware of all your operating costs and looking out for any changes on a month to month basis can help you catch surprise or bogus charges, increases in costs from vendors etc. Knowing your numbers is just another way of knowing your business!

MS: Where do finance and sustainability intersect?

KT: A lot of finance (at least in my world) is analysis based. Running weekly/monthly analyses on our pastry and food programs has helped us realize and quantify our waste. Based on those inputs we've adjusted our ordering such that our waste is truly minimal. This has helped reduce our COGS and reduce our waste, which I feel like is the perfect example of the intersection of finance and sustainability. I do think being able to quantify the decisions and mistakes we are making through finance can help us be more sustainable in both the financial and environmental sense!

MS: Have you read or seen anything interesting lately?

KT: I recently read the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. It's quite a popular book and honestly totally worth the hype in my opinion. It focuses on how small habits compound over time and can help us lead a better life, as well as work towards our goals. There are no lofty goals or to-do lists, but instead tiny goals that are actually doable, which is one of the things that I really liked about this book.

MS: What are you drinking these days?

KT: I am currently drinking our Santa Isabel coffee, and it is definitely one of my favorites. I am super excited to try out our Los Alisos from Peru which should come out in May. 

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