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Milk Crates & Trenches

Posted by Shannon Reichelt on
Milk Crates & Trenches

It’s pretty clear to say we are in the heat of tax season. This is the time when our first crushing deadline of corporate taxes is complete, we dive full force into personal tax returns, our home cupboards are bare and chicken nuggets are had in 15 minutes! March is a long month. You can start to see the drain on our faces this time of year. Except this year...

This moved me to take a moment to write you. You know I love a life lesson and to share said lesson. So here we go!

Last year we were not perfect. It was a brutal year in our company existence. We experienced personal loss, we had more turn-over in one year then in our 12 years in business combined, we trusted people that broke our hearts, the government went haywire, and we grew at a rate that steamrolled. No one could beat us up more than we did ourselves. It was humbling.

But something happened through the struggle that's core to every business and every person. We learned lessons that while now on the flip side has made our walls shimmer with pure love for one another and our work, record breaking delivery, better processes, an evening out of the workload and pride found within grit. I'm being asked 'what did you do to turn it all around?! Everyone is SO happy?!? You must have some secret trick. What is it?' There is no trick. I didn't do it alone. Here's what we learned to make our company and ourselves better.


The biggest lesson I learned personally was to look hard at who is around me and who I commit my energy too. I'm a healer and I crave it. Not everyone wants your healing and not everyone deserves it.

That's harsh for me to even write because it goes stark against my very nature, but the plain truth is that some people take. Period.

Mind who is standing next to you, don't let the ones that don't demand your time because they are silently taking care of business fall by the wayside. Fully give THEM your attention.

Ask me what turned everything around, it was this. When you are a leader this is absolutely critical and can make or break everything. It can also make or break you personally.

Second lesson - We totally give of ourselves to one another. We don't believe in rules, lines or boundaries when it comes to caring about those you ‘do business with’. Not everyone wants to be this way and that's fine.

Some like a hard line between work and personal. I think it’s really important to identify what the businesses natural state is on this topic. If you like hard lines and the rest of the team doesn’t, there’s going to be friction.

We're a small company which allows us to fully vest in one another. I like to think that as we grow we'll retain this mode. There are enough rules we have to follow in life, caring about people you 'work' with shouldn't be one of them. If someone just wants a 'job and to collect a paycheck', that doesn't fly here. We want people that are in it, good times and bad, side by side. I call this milk crates and trenches.

When I was getting our restaurant Glendale Grill ready with my partners Rod and John we flipped milk crates over and painted the whole place ourselves over a weeks’ time. We didn't have the money and it certainly didn't matter we owned the place. You flip the crate over and sit side by side and do whatever it takes.

Trenches? Well, that's a military term that you get in the trenches with your crew when duty calls. I read a lot about how job hopping is a strategy to 'move up the ladder'. Personally I feel bad for these people because they miss out on building depth in relationships that can only come with trials and experiences surmounted together OVER TIME. Or the relationships you build working with clients year in and year out, you share a life time together when you stay put.

I'd rather climb the ladder with my crew vs climb it alone. Lesson, not everyone shares this stance and let them go when they don't, you'll both be better for it.


Which leads me to the third lesson - sometimes you need to walk away from toxic work, people, environments and bad money.

My coach Keith told me that saying No is like building a muscle. It takes time to build it strong. Each No builds your resolve, gets easier and you get clearer on your core Musts.

Our failed hires hurt our cash-flow, it wasn't easy to say no to some clients who were draining and not treating us kindly. I said no when we needed the cash-flow because the money wasn't worth it anymore. It was scary.

I literally could write a book on the lessons our year taught us. I hope that some of these hit home and shields you from taking on their full force blow. It’s not easy to write these posts and paint my failings for all to see, but the healer in me can't be squashed!


What I want to say is even when the outside world sees you as having it all together at all times, we don't. People hurt us, or better said, we let them hurt us. Our businesses and work kick our ass.

What made us turn it around? Turning to look at who is sitting quietly on the milk crate next to you painting away. That's how we turned it around. And to every one of you that carried kindness in your heart and stayed in the trench while we made ourselves better.

 

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