A Chat Over Chai

An old friend reached out to me last week. He wanted to pick up a conversation we started earlier this summer, while I was visiting Colorado with my family. He lives up in the mountains and, while he did not run the 25 miles to old town Louisville to see me, he very well could have. He’s that guy. We “met for coffee,” although we both ordered tea. It was a hot day and we both decided an iced chai would hit the spot. For whatever reason, they made mine without ice. They actually put ice into mine, shook it, drained it, and then tried to serve it to me without the ice. His, full of cold, crunchy ice. Mine, zero ice cubes. To be clear, they made me an iced chai, served intentionally iceless, and filled to the brim in a 20oz glass. While we didn’t quite understand why this was happening, we both agreed that the mix-up was pretty funny. They corrected themselves and ended up putting ice back into mine, wasting a fair amount of chai in the process. Truly though, with either outcome, I would have been happy with what I was served. Their iced chais are delicious.

Anyhow, this particular friend who I was iced chai-ing with is not just funny and observant – and clearly better at communicating with baristas – he’s also really smart. He makes apps and websites and speaks a tech language in which I am not at all fluent. He works very hard and has been told by several peers all the ways he could be making a lot more money. But to what end? Missing out on life’s moments with his wife? Taking on clients that he doesn’t really believe in? Paying his people less than they deserve? We both agreed that it wasn’t worth it.

This was his message when he called on Monday, “I just thought a quick chat would help me remember that perhaps I am not alone in thinking that maximizing profits isn’t necessarily the be-all end-all to what I’m doing here.” He currently finds himself surrounded by people who are trying to simply make a bunch of money. That’s their goal. Not focusing on their best work, enjoying the process, and then letting the money follow organically. Which is his philosophy. A philosophy that I, too, share. But fortunately for him, he’s holding his line.

Fast forward to later that same day when a week-new client of mine told me that he ran into a friend at the gym and when the topic changed from weightlifting reps to PR reps, he ended up referring him to Bumbershoot. Why? Because in just one week we were able to jump in and prove our value while working alongside him toward his company’s goal. That was similar to a problem his gym buddy was having, too. So it made sense to pass him my name. This brand new client is a pretty big company, and they actually make a lot of money. But he is of the same mindset as the friend with the iced chai – do what you love, with and for the people you care about, and the money follows.

I’ve had this company for more than seven years now. You see a lot in seven years of business. I've lost some people I thought were critical to my company’s success. I've made bad decisions. I’ve tucked my tail on more than one occasion. It’s humbling. But, I’ve also watched this company grow and get into a groove. We do things differently. I used to be afraid of that and try to mimic what other PR companies did. I’ve since stopped that and have seen in recent years that my kind of different can be pretty useful with the right combination of people, ideas and goals. We do our best when we do the work we know we can do well. Work we’re good at. For people we believe in. In our case, we can scale our work for different budgets and different styles. We don’t try to upsell because we don’t have to. Hell, we can’t! We aren’t big enough. We sure aren’t trying to “maximize profits” either. We are just trying to enjoy our work so we can enjoy our lives. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So I guess the point I am trying to make is, you can have a lot or a little, and still find your happiness. This life lesson has been brought to you by that damned iced chai. As for the gym guy referral…I haven’t yet met with him. But I hope that when I do, the topic doesn’t turn to workouts because I’ll just have to refer him back to my client. It could become a vicious cycle.

Note: First blogs are a lot of responsibility. So I thought that instead of trying to be witty or smart or wise or inspirational, I'd just write about something that was banging around in my head and happening in the "now." That word is in quotes, because after I wrote this, I held onto it for two weeks. I would love to know what you want to hear about, or if you have any love letters or hate mail, feel free to send them my way tzeeck@bumbershootpr.com.

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