I was at work a couple months ago when I got a Direct Message on Twitter from @luckypenny. “GM Nate – can you give me a call sometime 2day @KatColeATL + @vickie_frisbie + I have an idea for you.” [a phone number followed]
I had no idea at the time how big of an impact this simple note would have on my life and my mission to change the world. So I didn’t answer it right away. I went about my business that morning – writing code, working with my employees, project management stuff, etc. I had one final meeting before lunch, and I arrived about 10 minutes early. So I pulled out my phone and dialed the number.
As the phone rang, I was scanning my brain for knowledge of @luckypenny. I knew her name was Joni Thomas Doolin, and I had some vague idea that she was connected with the foodservice and restaurant industry in some way, just as Vickie Frisbie was. Of course I knew Kat, since she’s been one of our A-Team members from the very beginning, and I had recently met her at an event in Madison. How they were all connected, besides all being on the ItStartsWith.Us team together, I had no idea.
Joni answered, and I told her that I had about eight minutes before my next meeting, so whatever she had to say, she should make it quick (of course I said this in the nicest possible way ). She obliged, and went on to say that her company, People Report, held a Best Practices conference every year, and she would like me to attend this year’s event in Dallas. I asked her why, and she told me that what I was doing with my project was a good example of personal brand building, and also effective use of new technology and social media to mobilize people for the social good. This year’s theme was “Mixing Money and Meaning,” so she thought it would be a good fit.
I told her that I was flattered by the invitation, and I really appreciated the thought, but I didn’t have enough money to come down to Dallas for three (or any) days to participate. “Oh, don’t worry about it,” she said. “We’ve already talked about it – I’m going to pay for your conference fee, Vickie’s going to take care of your flight down, and Kat will pick up your hotel bill. It’s all taken care of. I really hope you’ll come.” After an awkward moment of silence while I processed this, I thanked her for her very kind offer and told her I’d think about it and get back to her later in the day.
I was floored by their generosity, and wondered what kind of conference it would be, and what I could possibly offer to it that they would want me to attend. At the moment it didn’t even cross my mind that they might be doing it to help me out with my new project . . . because what kind of people would give so much time and money to someone that they barely even knew?
Now, before anyone in the service sector gets all riled up and says something like, “Are you crazy? That’s Joni and Kat and Vickie you’re talking about! They’re awesome, and they’re all about giving – that’s who they are,” you have to understand the situation from my perspective. I didn’t know a single thing about this industry. Aside from a few tweets here and there, this was my first conversation with Joni, and the first time I had ever heard of her company . . .I’ve spent most of my career in the healthcare and web/tech industries.
I went online and researched her company, and it certainly looked legit. I already knew and trusted Kat and Vickie as well, so I decided I would take Joni up on her offer. We set up a conference call for the next week.
During that call, Vickie told me two things that I didn’t really understand very well at the time, but now make complete sense to me: “First, the restaurant industry is full of people who care about others – that’s our whole mindset. And second, we want to be a part of what you’re doing.”
During the rest of the conversation we discussed the nuts and bolts of communication and logistics around the event. I thanked them again for their generosity, then ended the call. And last week, I jumped on a plane and headed down to Dallas.
The incredible people I met down there have quite literally changed my life. I have never before been around such a large group of businessmen and women who care so much about others, and the possibilities for us to work together on this “change the world” idea are quite powerful.
I’ll talk more about that in Part II of this series, coming out on Thursday. (If you don’t want to miss it, feel free to click on either of the “subscribe” links on the left side of the page, or below this article.)
- Surprised By Joy: My Introduction To The Service Industry (Part II)
- The Birth of ItStartsWith.Us – In 5 Minutes
- Chris Guillebeau: Changing The World By Challenging Authority
- What Your Business Needs Right Now
- Napa Valley Trip (Part I)