In the Blood: A Story of Coffee, Career and Conviction
Campos Coffee’s Field Sales Manager and Values Ambassador of the Year talks pride, connection and a fight for what’s right
Good sales people know their product. Great ones live and breathe it. I shouldn’t be surprised then, that the first time I see Carlos Escobar, he’s ‘cupping’. For the uninitiated, cupping is essentially taste-testing - observing the body, flavour and aftertaste of brewed coffee. As I join the group, noses to spoons, eyes fixed in concentration, two things strike me immediately. The first is a desire to shout ‘This is awesome!’. Like a preppie hanging out with year sixes, I watch admiringly as they pass through their sensorial rituals, like ancient but very hip monks. The second is an urge to take a picture – because this scene perfectly sums up the story I’m about to write. A few days earlier, I interviewed Carlos by phone about his life and career so far. And somehow I’ve stumbled in on a moment which says it all.
Coming home: A return to coffee via sales
Carlos was born in Colombia to (yes, you’ve guessed it) a coffee farming family. Growing up around coffee gave him a deep appreciation of its importance and its challenges, and a natural desire to do something completely different with his life. Speaking in excellent English, with an accent which still nods to his South American roots, he shares his story:
“I studied industrial engineering and went on to work in a steel materials company. But I didn’t enjoy it at all so I left. I knew that wasn’t my passion but I had no idea what to do instead.”
Short on immediate inspiration, Carlos turned to logic. He knew his lack of English would be a career problem. So in 2012, he came to Australia to study IELTS, then pursued an MBA. It was a big call - any MBA grad in Australia knows the rigour and the challenge involved, even for native English speakers. For Carlos, this was compounded by the need to pay for the course and survive in Sydney.
“As an international student, I didn’t have the right to work full-time so I started working in cafes, cleaning tables. I’m quite friendly and I like to talk to everyone, so I ended up dealing with customers and managing relationships with suppliers.”
One of those suppliers was the company licenced to sell Lavazza in Australia. When they announced a sales rep vacancy, Carlos put himself forward, supported by the selfless owner of the café he worked in. He had no sales experience and was still unable to work full-time but he persuaded the company to give him a shot. He soon repaid their faith, quickly turning around an under-performing sales portfolio. After obtaining his MBA, the company gave him a full-time role and their largest Sydney portfolio. Despite some nerves about stepping up, Carlos grabbed it with both hands. Again, the results came.
Carlos progressed with Lavazza until 2016, when some licensing and operations changes meant a need to move on. His destination? A business development role with Campos Coffee.
The Green Cup: purpose and pride
Three years later, Carlos is a truly embedded member of the Campos team. As a high sales performer, he has been promoted to manage a team of business development managers in New South Wales and Victoria. It’s an impressive journey so I ask him to share his secret. The talented Colombian’s modest answer strikes a chord:
“I don’t know why. We had good luck, I guess. I work hard - I really try. And people seem to like me. I do the right thing for the company and the client.”
Carlos is indeed instantly likeable. His pride and conviction are infectious and it’s impossible to miss his principled approach to, well, everything. He wears his heart on both sleeves and holds them high in the air.
“I’m passionate. It’s who I am. I love so much about Campos and what we do. We help communities and small businesses - it’s the Campos Way. I’m now a manager so I’m reading and learning all the time. I want to motivate people and get the best from them. This is very important.”
Carlos was recently announced as Campos Coffee’s Values Ambassador of the Year - a peer-nominated award. In a company where purpose and connection dominate, it’s a huge accolade. He’s proud of the achievement but it’s evident that he sees it as a responsibility - to keep sharing his love for the good while also challenging the business to stay the course.
“We’re growing and we’re changing. That’s good. I’m all about growth and Campos is in a great position to go there. But it’s also challenging - a whole new world. I want to ensure we stay true to our values - that we continue to put coffee and people at the heart. We need to keep pushing for this.”
We are authentic: values that matter
A week after our conversation, I arrive at Campos HQ with Carlos still at the front of my mind. We’re kicking off a national roadshow on ‘Campos Values — Live Them or Ditch Them.’ The company’s leaders want to engage their people in honest discussion, and honest discussion is what they get. That day, and in the days that follow, I am witness to warm laughter, deep conversation, proud story sharing and fierce debate. It’s inspiring to see such a diverse collective of people come together and invest in honesty, for an employer with the intelligence and courage to truly listen.
Like Carlos, Campos people want to contribute, and shape the future of this remarkable organisation. There’s a general agreement that success will depend on their ability to truly live by their three values: authenticity, best in class and thinking and acting in the long term . As for their chosen ambassador for those values, he’s excited about the future and ready to fight for it.
“I want to stay and influence such a great company. I love the brand so much, and yes, I worry about the risk of losing what we have. I want to help make Campos the best company in Australia.”
Carlos is now preparing to head to Costa Rica for his first ‘Origin’ Trip. Every year, Campos flies its Values Ambassadors to a coffee plantation to see first-hand the essence of their product and the vital impact of their organisation and its people. For Carlos, I sense it’s an important chance to breathe and refuel.
“Working in sales is great and I love managing people but I work for Campos because I am passionate about coffee. So I really want to go and reconnect to the product... to what we’re about. I’m a coffee guy and I always will be.”
About the Author
Mark Puncher is Employer Branding Australia’s Founder and Chief Energy Officer. Having spent much of the last 18 years with one foot in recruitment and the other in marketing, Mark loves helping fantastic, imperfect organisations bring their stories to life to engage their future superstars.
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