For days after that, I felt a bit lost. Were we doing the right thing? Was this the place for us? Were we strong enough to be a leader in this environment? Were we really prepared?
After a few days, it clicked. Yes. We were all of those things and we could do this. We stood up to the firing squad. We asked for feedback and were willing to accept what we heard. We took those concerns and comments and begin to work through them.. one by one.. and directly replied to folks that provided us with their information so that they knew we took them seriously.
Nothing is worse than asking for advice, feedback, and comment and then never following up or replying to those you are asking. Why even ask if you have no intention of even acknowledging them in the end?
I think we gained some respect with the community as well. It showed that we were not above the people but with them because, if we truly were with them, we would adapt, re-design, and re-approach our plans to make sure it aligned with theirs. It had to be a win – win.
I felt stronger for it and I learned something in the process that has never left me:
“Stand up for what you believe. Be consistent. Be willing to learn and adapt. But don’t back down. Be brave enough to tell your story and then to adapt as you learn more information that can make you better.”Jason Duncan
That night felt like a firing squad but there was a lot to gain from it. In fact, never again was I nervous about talking through our plans with the public. I became very democratic with my approach to “win-win deals” and making sure to hear all sides as well as articulate mine. That was huge and I still use those skills today.
North East Bozeman – Today
So whatever came from all of this besides these great lessons in business and community relations? Well, we pivoted our plans a bit in light of what we learned from NENA and some other aspects with the developer. We ended up launching Cafe Evoke Catering which, to this day, is still bringing unrivaled coffee service to events (now) across Oklahoma and lead us to our brick and mortar cafe in Downtown Edmond. It just wasn’t the right time for EVOKE to lay roots in North East Bozeman. It was just to early.
The great thing about all of this is that, today, at Wallace and Peach in Bozeman, MT you will find Treeline Coffee as well as Wild Crumb Bakery. – two things we were told would never be a part of the neighborhood. They are being embraced and loved by lots of people it seems.
Sometimes it isn’t about if a concept will ever fit, it is about timing and relationships and what it will take to get there. We saw how great of an area all of this was and how important to the history of the city that the Northeast Neighborhood was to Bozeman way back in 2005. I’m sure there was lots of hard work that has happened to make it what it is today and we are really excited for what it has become.
I can only imagine (and hope) the vibrant heart and soul of that community is as fiery as it every has been.
Be Brave Enough To Tell Your Story
When you are first beginning the “dreaming and planning” of your business – your story is all you have. You re-enforce that story with research, numbers, planning, and preparation. No one will ever love your plans (or your company for that matter) as much as you will. Ever. It doesn’t matter how pretty your brand is. How solid your three or five year projections are. How much experience you have.
“…as the company grows, the CEO’s job is to personify the WHY. To ooze of it. To talk about it. To preach it. To be a symbol of what the company believes. ….the leaders job is no longer to close all the deals; it is to inspire.”Start With Why, p 157 / Simon Sinek
Are you brave enough to get up in front of people and tell your story? The story of your business? When you are starting out, those two things are one in the same. Your views will be those of the company. What you say will be what the company says. It needs a leader that is brave enough to tell the story and then learn, adapt, and adopt the proper ideas as new information is available.
It needs you to lead!
It’s Real Life
This all happened for me 15 years ago but it happens EVERY DAY for entrepreneurs all across the world and in all different industries. Then it hit me locally here in Oklahoma.
In 2018, I heard of a coffee company wanting to open in Edmond. The area began to buzz about it, where it was going to be, and how it would impact the neighbors.
This house, the Wantland Mansion, is one home north of mine in Downtown Edmond. Three blocks from my coffee company. In my neighborhood….
- Where are people going to park?
- What was the traffic plan?
- How late would they be open?
- Do we need a coffee shop here?
- What’s the menu going to be?
- Why here and not someplace else?
The questions began. The machine was rolling. I began to hear of meetings between the hopeful owners and the community. Then an email from them directly to me to ask for advice, approval, comments, and concerns. We were invited to a Community Connections meeting – meetings that the city helps facilitate between developers and neighborhoods / communities in which new plans are being proposed.
I didn’t want to answer them….
THIS WASN’T EVEN MY BUSINESS!
Instantly was rushed back to 2005. To Bozeman. To a stage in front of 2,000,000 (or so) people that wanted to tear apart my plans…. To the list of people I needed to meet with. To the highs of confidence and the lows of overwhelming fear. To comment cards and brochures and big visions for how I was going to make their community better… with them!
I was sweating, honestly. It was all SO real.
My wife Jenni and I went to the community meeting. It, too, was held in a bit of a dungy type room that wasn’t inspiring at all. The owners got up and talked through all their hopes and dreams of this coffee concept in an old historic home. How students would have a place. How families would have a place. How they hoped to serve all people in Edmond and provide something new and different.
Was she reading my notes from 2005??
I was in a strange spot. The other side of the table. A member of the neighborhood that really did not want a coffee company. A competitor. An entrepreneur. A champion for people getting up and being brave enough to tell their story. I was nervous for them. Excited for them. Mad at them. Understanding of them.
I sat and listened to so many people stand up and berate them, tear them apart, tell them NO, and not provide any solutions. I felt for them. I stood up and did the only thing I felt I could do. It felt like I owned them. They, of course, were just like me. They were me 15 years later.
I see you. I hear you. I applaud you.
I stood up. I told them that I have been in what felt like this same room. This same position. In front of these same people. I told them that the community wants to hear them talking “with them” not “to them” and that their best bet to get behind all of the concern was to listen to it, digest it, and see if there is an adoption point within their plans that keeps the business’s identity and your company WHY but also embrace the core thoughts of this neighborhood.
I left them with this… that I was excited they got up there to share their story and their thoughts on their new business. I was excited they were willing to defend their vision, plans, and dreams for a coffeehouse in Downtown Edmond. I told them to keep it up. To keep pushing. To dive in deep with what they learned here and see how it can all work within their plans. To use this feedback to get better and build a better company.
It was awesome to see someone step into that role as brave leader. I was shocked how familiar it felt sitting in that audience and listening. It all became clear that this stuff pays off in business. It will help define your success. Once you do this once, it gets easier because you begin to open up and listen to what’s out there.