Twelve years ago, I jumped off a cliff with no idea whether I would survive that jump. Obviously, I am speaking figuratively, but the danger (albeit non-life-threatening) was real nonetheless. I started Transcend Coffee with no experience, no plan, no money, no coffee, no customers, and no business sense. It might sound like an exaggeration, but it is not, I was clueless. What I had in abundance though was a tolerance for risk, a dream of building community, and a naive belief in my ability to scramble and muddle my way through almost anything.
I think this self-belief developed over time. Time as the University of Lethbridge SU president, too much time attending university, surviving law school and my year of articling, surviving my misguided practice of law, and then a stint as a consultant. All of these life experiences provided me with evidence (at least in my mind) that I could do anything I set my mind to. Twelve years later I am much wiser and self-aware - repeated failures will provide that kind of clarity. And while Transcend Coffee still survives, it does so not because of my brilliance or savvy business acumen but because of relationships that have developed over my career in coffee.
Take for example Greg Zeschuk (while not directly involved in the operations of Transcend) who has been instrumental in our company's endurance and success. Without his belief (at times misguided) in me, and a willingness to back that belief up with cash when needed, Transcend would have perished like so many other start-ups in bankruptcy. Without Greg's generosity towards me, I would have never had the opportunity to participate in what is now a successful community story (the Ritchie Market).
Twelve years has also offered me a gift that I never truly envisioned. While I was bent on building community, I am not sure that I actually knew what that would look like. Starting a company affords one the opportunity to discover one's deficits, of which I have many (you can confirm this with any of my friends or my wife). Thankfully, I was lucky enough to recognize this in time and brought into the fold someone who I believed could work with me to balance my many deficits. This man (Michael Harvey) took a risk and joined the Transcend family and has never looked back. His willingness to endure, grapple, get dirty, work long hard hours, has helped build Transcend into the success that it is now.
We still struggle as most companies do, with cash flow issues, and the myriad of other day-to-day issues that face all businesses. But what I am so thankful for at this juncture is the team and culture that Michael has helped assemble over the past few years.
You see, I am not much of an "atta boy" kind of boss. My default is not to pat people on the back and tell them how great a job they are doing. This is just one more of my many deficits; I Just read one of Brené Brown's books and am keenly aware of the work I need to do. With that said, I am keenly aware of the amazing culture that exists at Transcend right now. And while I can't say that I was the architect of this, I can definitely say that I had something like this in mind when I first started the company those many years ago.
Today I walked in on our senior team who were busy brainstorming about content for our website among other things. My initial reaction to walking in on this group was a sense of being left out, they were dreaming and planning things Transcend without me. But as quickly as that feeling swept over me, I was hit with another more powerful and positive one, that of pride, the kind of pride that I have when my kid does something amazing. Here was a talented group of people, who were dreaming and sharing in my crazy hair-brained scheme.
So, upon more reflection during the rest of the day, I thought it only appropriate to write this little letter on my unread blog to tell them how proud I am of all of them, how much they mean to me, how the success of Transcend is not possible without them. Transcend Coffee is still a work in progress, but what is amazing to me, and what I am so very grateful for, is that I no longer am working on this project by my self (and in truth I never have been) but have an amazingly talented and passionate team of people who are not just colleagues but who are friends. Friends along for the journey into coffee.