We started talking about what sets you apart in this industry, what you need to be responsible for so that your tobacco business can take off. It may have sounded discouraging, and it needs to be, so only those with the determination to make it happen stay in the game. You don’t need just a tobacco machine. 

So let’s resume our go through your responsibilities as a tobacco business owner:

5. Sweat the small stuff 

Tobacco machines owners sometimes wonder why there is a need for, say, a climate of 23’C and constant humidity in the plant. But then they wonder when the machines don’t start at 18’C. Or if the paper breaks and the entire production flow stops. That has a lot to do with not keeping the humidity constant. Yes, cigarette paper is that sensitive. And at these amazing production speeds, your losses will be considerable. Your production process is influenced by all these teeny, tiny things. And they need to be just right. In the tobacco business, you need to sweat the small stuff.

6. Read the conformity bulletins

Your raw materials come with analysis and conformity bulletins. What’s in them is precious information to you. You need to request them and learn to interpret. Very few people do, sadly. It’s a mistake the big players never afford to make. Quite rightly. 

7. Train and retain your staff 

When so many parameters vary and the end product needs to stay the same, you will need to make tiny yet effective adjustments. You need to be competent to do that. It doesn’t take just a push of a button. There are machines with 20 buttons, or a touch screen and 30 to 40 error messages. When one of them occurs, you need to know why. There can be multiple causes and you and your staff are expected to know where to look. Did I say there are no shortcuts? There are no fast forwards either. And good technicians take time to train. They’re an asset.

8. Learn to estimate, not to daydream 

When product first comes out of the tobacco machine, you will be so tempted to start multiplying. “I can do this much in an hour, and this much in 8 or 24, I sell this much, I’ll be rich.” Here’s when you need to take a deep breath and start thinking about yield and efficiency. How smooth do you think production will go? Do you foresee any incidents at all?

You must know this already: you need to estimate realistically. And you will need a good measure of time just to consolidate your product. Don’t ship until you’ve let it sit for a while, test it again in a week, sample and see the reactions. I have met producers who changed the recipe 3 times in the same day. The morning and the night batch will be quite different. And your client will notice. The first degree of respect is to offer a consistent product. If you don’t take on that responsibility, you will not generate pleasure. As simple as that.

9. You’ll have to prove yourself 

To nobody else than the client. Because they are in it for the pleasure, captive to their current brand and very hard to convince to switch. And if they do and get disappointed, they will easily leave. They are, in that, quite capricious. Which makes creating pleasure for your customers, in itself, a brutally honest game. You cannot lie to them, because they will cough, or itch, or not enjoy. And that is the ultimate test. It’s probably harder to please with tobacco than it is with alcohol. You don’t need the best wine to get drunk. But your customers will expect a certain experience from your product. And to get accepted, your effort will be huge. 

10. Don’t do it for the money

Contrary to expectations, this is not the way to get rich fast. And the way through is so laborious, you need a better motivation than money. It all boils down to this: can you deliver? And to do it, you will put in effort and patience. The first year may be the hardest of all. But there are serious players in this industry that have grown steady and are still standing strong. And I am not talking about the corporations here. They started when the time was right and that was a long time ago. If you can make it to 1%, you are very good. At 3% you are exceptional. And if you stay there, you are the Steve Jobs of tobacco. 

Yes, there will be a lot to learn, but you do not need to know everything from the start. What you do need to know is how to ask the right questions, how to look at what’s in front of you and understand when you’re being helped and when you’re simply being sold stuff to. 

Otherwise you’ll buy the wrong raw materials, hire the technicians that don’t serve you, and close contracts you can’t deliver on. When you are walking into this business, you are sharing space with quite a few others. You’ll need to cut your own path. 

I love it when my clients call and ask, visit and have yet more questions. It show’s they’re in it heart and soul. And you can’t start this business otherwise. You may take over, but not start it. It’s just the way beginnings are. Call when you’re ready

Photo by Hans-Peter Gauster on Unsplash