I was honored earlier this month, to share a short article in Fort Collins Lifestyle magazine, Lovin’ the Local Community, and I got some nice feedback on it - thanks, you know who you are! Writing that article got my rocks tumbling, and the edges are smoothing enough that I wanted to expand on those ideas a bit in this month’s blog.
In our society, there are three main ways we as individuals show love - through our time, our talent, or our treasure. Our treasure is the one that gets the most measure, as focused as we are on incomes and GDP’s and everything in between. We also measure time in a way, at least the time that is rented for money in the form of wages, or gifted to non-profit causes in a volunteer capacity, but we fail to measure the time spent by mothers loving their children, or neighbors helping neighbors, or a friend being a friend…and who can argue that those hours aren’t some of the most precious in existence? Similarly, the sharing of our talent is hard to measure - we can sell our talent for money and measure it that way, but much talent is given away - and worse than that, much talent is hidden away.
In this months’ blog, I’m going to go through a discussion and examination of how we can show love through time, talent, and treasure - in our homes and in our business, and in our community.
I’m asked often, and was again recently “How did you come up with the idea of LoCo Think Tank?” “I stumbled into it”, I sometimes say, which is true - I wanted a peer advisory experience that I - and others with smaller businesses - could benefit from and afford to be a part of, and LoCo just kinda...happened…with a whole lot of encouragement from yours truly.
As the old Franklin quote (I thought) goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention” - but it wasn’t actually Franklin! No one knows the true holder of that specific quote - Italian proverb is along the branch of its’ history, and it ultimately goes back to Plato, from his mastercraft, The Republic. “Our need will be the real creator” Insightful guy, that Plato - have you read him?
So anyway - my want of that time explains the need, but it doesn’t explain the source of the idea.
I’ve listened to a book recently from Steven Johnson, “Where Good Ideas Come From”, and it unfolded perfectly the things I had come to discover on my own when examining this question. Steven examines innovations and ideas across history, and concludes in part that our good ideas come from our connection to networks, the more and the messier the better. (It’s a great book, and there’s a lot more, but I shan't try to summarize his book with my paragraph.)
Years after founding LoCo Think Tank, I came to understand the foundational elements in place:
Peer Advisory - First was my own experience with peer advisory, and my extensive interactions with small (and what I’d consider medium-sized) business owners who had peer advisory in their lives. My direct experience was with Vistage membership, initially recruited when I was Acting President of our small bank, and later as a member in a Vistage Trusted Advisors group (for folks like bankers and lawyers and CPA’s and such). Many of my best bank clients were members in a group like Vistage or TAB or Renaissance Forums, or part of a free and self-managed group. These latter groups met regularly with the same kind of model - often formed by past members of the high-cost membership groups. The self-awareness and added perspective afforded to members of these groups adds real leverage to the machine. Managing these chapters is not rocket science, but someone has to do the real work of planning and providing structure to meetings. In the higher-cost groups, it’s a job - often as a franchisee; and in the no-cost groups, someone has to volunteer.
Rotary - The next element to come to my awareness was Rotary Club - where we have a motto - Service Above Self. We also have a 4-way test of ethics, and programs for community service, and international service, and vocational service, and international youth exchange, and youth leadership camps, and regular volunteering at the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels, and…I think you get my point. We do a lot of service in my Rotary club, and we’re one of thousands of such clubs. I joined when I was still a banker, and it’s a lovely and vibrant club. Many of our members are in professional services of some sort, or non-profit and many others are retired, or semi-retired - but they all have servants' hearts, and strong minds, and a desire to make their world a better place. The same kinds of people occupy Kiwanis Clubs, and Lions Clubs, and Sertoma, and Jaycees, and…again, you get my point. Our world is full of bright and capable and experienced individuals, 50 and 60 and 70-somethings who don’t want or need a “real job” but they also don’t want to do nothing. Some of them have been owners of amazing businesses, and they are passionate about free enterprise - and those people are great candidates to be a facilitator at LoCo Think Tank.
Bible Study Fellowship - BSF International is an organization I got involved in during my late 20’s, shortly after I’d come to faith, or accepted grace, or believed in Jesus - however you’d have me turn the phrase. BSF provides a once-weekly gathering of folks from diverse backgrounds - assorted churches and even those opposed to churches but curious about the Bible - to come together and study and learn together. One of the key elements of the program is weekly group discussion of the daily reading and questions - facilitated by a volunteer Discussion Leader. When asked in my 2nd year if I would have interest to become a Discussion Leader, my reply was basically “You don’t want me, I don’t know anything about the Bible!” Their response: “You don’t have to - you can learn the material together, the leader’s job is to provide structure, and ask good questions, and draw out the quiet members…and we’ll teach you how to become a better facilitator.” And so I learned what it was to be a facilitator, and that’s the light yoke of responsibility we offer to our chapter minders. They’ ve been there, done that, but it doesn’t mean they know all the answers - but they can help the group find them together.
The Matthews House - My honey bear became the 7th employee at The Matthews House back in 2007, a couple years after its founding, and I got involved soon after. Early on I came to events, and volunteered a bit, and later I got even more involved and eventually came to sit on the board. I even became Board President for a season, and I remain involved as an Ambassador - I give monthly and do what I can to raise awareness. TMH is a local 501c-3 that empowers youth and families to close the cycle of poverty in Northern Colorado - through a relationship-driven, whole-person approach to human services. They help clients navigate resources and find traction in their life journey, and we aspire to provide that same kind of support for our members. To see someone go from surviving to thriving is a wonderful experience, and I’ve been blessed to see this journey from my vantage at both TMH and LoCo.
So we’ve got these four distinct elements mixing together, and alongside that I’d been volunteering at the Larimer County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) as well, serving primarily the startup community, and I had my experience and network as a banker. In both of these experiences, it was clear that too many of my clients had gaps in their game - they were great with the numbers, but had a terrible time hiring or training, or, they were brilliant at sales and marketing, but terrible with financial (and especially expense) management. Bringing these groups of amazing but flawed entrepreneurs together helps them see themselves more clearly, and learn from one another in a confidential environment.
So this messy mix of interests and networks and learnings come together, and we stir, and stir, and stir some more - and poof! - LoCo Think Tank was born! - and has even grown up a little. We love the founders and owners of small businesses, and we long to see them thrive.
My encouragement for you this month is to do a bit of self-examination - who do you, and how do you love? Where are you spending your time, talent and treasure? Do you have a narrow scope of focus, or a broad mix of interests? Are you self-focused or others-focused?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, you didn’t read the questions properly!
But if you’ve been inspired to messy up your network your bit, and share some of your time and treasure, I’ve got a special event coming up that I’m donating chunk of my time, talent, and treasure to this spring:
I’m hosting a Community Grove Party benefit for The Matthews House on April 14th at Sweet Heart Winery.. We’ll have small plates and appetizers from yours truly and other local restaurants and caterers, amazing wines from Sweet Heart, a presentation from TMH staff, AND live music from my favorite local band - and providers of our podcast intro/outro music - A Brother’s Fountain. We’re asking $100 donation to TMH to attend, and it’ll be worth it - there will be amazing people there from all corners of my messy network, and I hope you’ll consider joining us. Here’s a link for more information and registration, and I hope you have an inspiring and entertaining month until we meet here again!
PS - if you want to learn more about The Matthews House, I’d invite you to be inspired and encouraged by Episode 36 of The LoCo Experience podcast with TMH Founder, Jerri Schmitz,
or if you’re curious about A Brother’s Fountain, you can learn more (and be highly entertained) by Episode 20 with ABF bandmates, AJ and JJ Fountain.