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Rolling Up The Rim To A Better Business

What does a guy who sells coffee and doughnuts know about farming? Very little.

But that didn’t prevent Ron Buist, the former marketing director for Canada’s favourite coffee house from delivering an intriguing message to farmers at the 2011 Manitoba Special Crops Symposium.

The marketing guru behind Tim Hortons “Roll Up the Rim to Win” contest told farmers that whether they’re on the farm or in the corporate offices, the same business values apply.


The famous Roll Up the Rim to Win contest came from the company’s lack of money.

In 1985, Buist was asked to come up with a new contest idea to generate more business. He thought of the traditional scratch cards or pull tabs. But all of these ideas had extra paper costs related to them. Extra paper means extra money, and at the time, the company didn’t have any spare change.

After a meeting with the company’s cup manufacturer, Lilly Cup, Buist got the idea for Roll Up the Rim from seeing the cup pattern laid out on a sheet of paper. The only spot where there was no printing was on the lip of the cup, because it was to be rolled down. After a quick test run, it was proven that ink could be printed there and not rub off.

That is how limited resources and creative and efficient thinking created a contest that put Tim Hortons, a struggling doughnut chain on the map.


Buist attributes starting in small communities as the ultimate reason of success for the doughnut chain. Franchises started up in small communities where there was no competition and real estate was cheap.

“Tim Hortons did a business that no one else wanted to do,” Buist said. “The doughnut shops were open all the time. So the young people would go there, have their product and coffee and as Tim Hortons grew they moved to where they could afford the real estate,” said Buist.

As the country grew, so did Tim Hortons. As the franchise started to move into bigger cities, there were Tim Horton’s waiting there for the kids from the original small communities, who grew up with a Tim’s and moved to the city for school or work.


Buist said building a strong company requires a commitment to fairness, giving back to the community, chain strength, thinking outside the box, sticking to what you know, ensuring product consistency, building in recession resistance, pleasing the customer, being first – and the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid).

What many Canadians don’t realize is the values that put their favourite coffee joint on every corner of their city, are the same values needed and used by farmers producing their food. As Buist described: it is not about selling a name, it is about selling a product.

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