I Just Want You to Know I'm Tryin'

February 29, 2024

So, here we are already, to February 2024.  In February of 2002, (now 22 years ago!) Jill Bear (then Jill Johnson) became my very first Valentine - aside from the grade school valentines where everybody in my class (and some of the cute girls in adjoining classes) got a card.  Never before had a girl or a woman captured my Attention, my Love, My Imagination of a Life Together - as Jill had.  We met way back in 1999, became instant friends - and then - for reasons that don’t have room here - we lost connection for a season, and reconnected in the late spring of 2001.  Once we reconnected, our relationship was “On like Donkey Kong” as the kids say.  

(Edit - I’ve been informed that no kids ever say that anymore…nor understand the meaning - but some of you do - and it’s not meant to be dirty, shame on you who went there!)

So anyway, we were serious by the end of our first real date and soon planned toward forever.  We got engaged a year later and married less than a year after that, and we’ll celebrate 21 years married this May.  We are planning to celebrate this anniversary with a National Parks tour in Utah - in our new-to-us RV (and The LoCo Experience mobile podcast studio) - “Tank”!  

In this month’s blog, I’m going to share more about Tank - because I know some of you want to know - and I’m also going to talk about the Small Business Development Centers, and about S.C.O.R.E.  I’ll also be celebrating LoCo Think Tank’s 10 years of participation in a new kind of sharing, and finally Alma and her upcoming 3-year anniversary with LoCo!  Sadly, though I could gladly write many blogs focused on my love and appreciation for Jill Bear - it turns out she prefers to hear it from me - and not from my loyal readers - and so I’ll save that for another time!  

OK, just a little more about Jill Bear first.  She’s in Florida as I write this, visiting Uncles Phil and Don in Fort Myers, along with a couple of her like-age cousins.  We were friends first, which I think is better, and there’s no one I’d rather spend more than a few hours with, still ~21 years later.  But, let’s say Willie Nelson is in town, and he wants to come by The LoCo Experience Podcast studios for a few hours, record an episode and maybe play some ping pong after that, maybe play some guitar and we can sing together - but it conflicts with date night with Jill Bear.  Sorry Jill, Willie’s got my time in this context!  But he’s at the top of a very short list, and he’s only in town one night! - and so when you read this, please be flattered and not offended.  It’s Willie Frickin’ Nelson and he wants to be on my show!  

When I left banking and got myself spun up into a series of entrepreneurial ventures, my attention was scattered in many directions, and the primary sacrifice in that season was my attention to Jill.  Her strongest love language was (and is) quality time together, followed by words of affirmation, and I was working 12 - 14 hour days, drinking too much alcohol, sleeping short nights - and snoring!  When things got a little rocky between us though, I was quick to invest time in counseling, and Josh Emery helped me set up some boundaries for my work, and helped us build habits around intentional time together, and helped Jill better see some things from my perspective.  It didn’t happen overnight, but as it turns out with some intentional trying things did get better quickly, and it usually only takes a bit of effort to get back to smooth sailing still these years later.

PSA and kind of in this same vein, Josh Emery and his friend Dan Nikkel have recently co-created the Pretty Good Parent podcast - and for me, the title relays a lot of the same message.  You don’t have to be perfect to be a parent - you never will be - but you do have to try! - and if your kids know you’re trying it probably won’t take them long to think you’re a pretty good parent.  Just them seeing you listen to it might make a difference! 

Back to quality time together, and Jill Bear - and more importantly - Tank!  Part of my love for Tank is I can tell he’s different from my previous choice to be branded camper van - Homz.  I bought Homz as a 2000 Chevy Astro van that the seller had built out with wood and insulation, solar panels on top, and a fold-down bed in the back, and it was a perfect color blue to tie in with our podcast colors!  Soon after purchasing it, I took it in for some design ideas for a vinyl wrap, but before we could get the design worked out - Homz broke down and cost me about $3,800 to fix.  A few months later, another $1,400.  And then about a year later, when I was finally starting to trust him enough to look into the vinyl wrap idea again - he broke down again - $2,800 this time.  And then this fall I got some new tires, and Houska told me they could do a proper alignment if only I spent another $4,000 on suspension work…and I said “F-this” - Homz needs to go!   

And then, as if by God’s providential hand, my buddy Mike sent me the link for the ambulance, and I fell in love.  In the back, we’ve had it built out with a couple of storage benches with a table in between, and the table top can come down between to be the base for a queen-size air mattress.  Tank has a mini fridge, heating and air conditioning, storage compartments galore, a deep-cell battery system, and a heavy-duty suspension system and running gear.  The table in the back will be a great space for mobile podcast conversations, and the branding opportunities with those large boxes are tremendous.  Also, even though it drives and looks huge - it’s only about the length of a short-box club cab pickup and has a shorter wheelbase because of the long overhang in the back. In the canyons, she handles the curves like a pro, rather than suffering from Astro-van suspension, and doesn’t get tossed around in the wind like Homz did.  The 7.3 IDI diesel engine got me 15.46 mpg around town on the first fill-up, which is likewise - better than Homz.  

It’s not like Homz wasn’t trying to fulfill our hopes for a branded camper van, he was - but he just wasn’t up to the job.  The extra weight contributed to the mechanical failures, the mobile podcast studio element could never be an option, and the branding opportunities were just - smaller.  I’ve had 4 or 5 people take pictures of me driving the Tank around town - without a big eye-catching vinyl wrap!  So anyway, I’m stoked to get the build-out completed on the inside, and the wrap completed on the exterior, and I’m excited for quality time with Jill Bear.  I made her drive Tank the other day, and despite the large size, she confessed that it was more fun and not really any more difficult to drive than Homz.  

OK, so I know that these old trucks are objects and things like “trying” don’t really mean anything.  It’s called personification, and sometimes it’s easier than writing about true human examples.  In this case, in contrast to making some effort and successfully rehabbing our marriage, it didn’t matter how hard Homz tried - he was never going to fulfill our branded camper van / mobile podcast studio needs - he was the wrong man for the job.  As owners and executives assemble teams and build companies they have to constantly utilize discernment among their teams, especially when there is a lack of performance.  Is this person not capable - or are they not trying?  If they’re not capable of a particular role, perhaps another might be suitable, but if they’re not trying they might have to get off the bus!  In the EOS platform, they use the term GWC - Gets it, Wants it, and has Capacity for the job.  Gets it is all about alignment with culture and mission, wants it is all about trying, and capacity is, well, capacity.  Some people are just better at doing certain tasks than others.

In my recent podcast with Mike O’Connell, former Director of the Larimer County Small Business Development Center (Episode 153), he shared that the federal government created the SBDC system, and the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) program at the same time, and really for the same purpose - to upskill small business owners to manage their enterprises more effectively and profitably, to grow and create more jobs and ultimately - to pay more taxes!  SCORE was created about a decade earlier, in 1964, and united numerous local and state-level volunteer efforts with a national network of shared resources and systems. SBDCs, by contrast, were created in partnership with educational institutions - especially business schools but also community colleges and private universities.  Both programs rely on the volunteerism of experienced business leaders at the core, and both programs have helped thousands of business owners build skills and confidence for the journey.  And, the optics are good - small towns and small businesses everywhere can see that the federal government cares about small businesses!  

We’re blessed to have both a high-functioning SBDC and a well-resourced SCORE program here in Northern Colorado, and I’m proud to have been a part of the SBDC for over 15 years now!  (wow - how could that really be true?!)

A new kind of sharing of expertise model was launched 10 years ago when LoCo Think Tank came into existence.  Our LoCo Facilitators look a lot like the SBDC and SCORE volunteers on paper, and this service is a give-back for them emotionally - but we pay them too.  We don’t pay them a lot, because to do so would mean we’d have to charge our members a lot, but we pay enough to keep them interested for the long haul.  Our first facilitator, Andrea Grant, was with us for 7.5 years and traveled back to CO in the winter months from FL to manage her chapter meetings.  Moses Horner will celebrate 5 years as facilitator of his chapter this July, after nearly 5 years as a member, and I hope he’s around for another 5!  

We’ve been going through results from our member survey recently, and it shows us that our facilitators are particularly well-loved by their members, and some of the comments really call out when these chapter leaders go above and beyond to serve member needs.  I’ve gotten many positive comments from the spouses of our facilitators too - it gives them something so useful to do with their experience and business brains!  

Our job at LoCo HQ is to support these facilitators to empower this sharing, and to fill the chapters with members who are trying!  Trying to find new growth opportunities, trying to become better leaders, trying to find peer businesses to learn with, trying to hire great people.  And we’re trying.  We’re developing our systems to support speaker selection and grading, providing workshops on relational intelligence and business valuation and more to come, and working hard to develop stronger community partnerships.  (We have a great business valuation workshop coming up at the end of March - check it out here)

I’ve had it said to me more than a few times - “There should be LoCo Think Tanks in other regions too - have you ever thought about going to Denver or Boulder or anything like that?”  

The answer is yes - I have tried and failed three times to spin up a chapter outside of Northern Colorado.  After the 3rd failure, my chapter helped me see a clearer path.  Spin up NoCo large enough that it can support an HQ office, and you are relieved of constant sales production, and then find other Curt-type people in other regions, and offer them a franchise-like experience.  LoCo HQ provides services and support, but the relationship-building and knitting together of community partnerships is done on a local level - and not by you!  So, that’s what we’re trying to do, and I expect Tank to play a part in this.  I could roll Tank down to Colorado Springs, interview with the local “franchisee”, interview a handful of strong prospects for his or her chapter, and evangelize the arrival of a new kind of sharing model coming to town soon!  

That’s what we’re trying to do, and I’m super proud to have an amazing team, a supportive and loving Jill Bear, and a 1989 Ford Ambulance named Tank to help me with the job.  

And, to close, now is a good time to celebrate the anchor of our small team, Alma Arellano - our Operations Manager.  She’ll celebrate 3 years with LoCo HQ on March 15.  Alma is driven by a strong desire to be a part of the geographic expansion we’ve got our sights on, and she’s among the smartest and hardest-working people I’ve had the opportunity to work with over the years.  That said, she’s also a work smarter not harder kind of thinker, and a great contributing member of our Catalysts chapter.  We’ve called her a lot of things in those 3 short years - Marketing Intern, Everything Associate, Digital Experience Coordinator, and now Operations Manager.  She’s been my accountability partner on my sales efforts, a trainer for our Marketing Interns and Coordinators, and effectively our head of IT.  I definitely know you’re trying Alma, and working hard to help us create the LoCo Think Tank that we imagine, and I’m proud to have you on my team.  

Oh, and Willie, if this blog finds its way to you - me and Tank can come to you for that podcast, just let me know when!  

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