Monday, July 2, 2012

Sucking It Up for the Business

We made the cut thanks to everyone who helped.
One of my early mentors when I worked in the casino industry was a 30 veteran of Harrah’s Casino Lake Tahoe.  His name was Andy LaChapelle and he said this on the first day I became a pit boss at the punkie age of 26.  He said, “I have known people who get by on charm and cuteness their whole lives.  I have no use for them.  Sooner or later you are going to have quit being charming and cute.  Someday you are going to have to suck it up and know what the hell you are doing.  Then we can work together. “ 

It was a shocking message to a twenty something college grad.  Hard work and personal debasement was something expected of you.  You were expected to sacrifice for your career and may-be the pay-off would be respect from colleges and possible security.  For someone who was accustomed to being encouraged to achieve excellence to being expected to achieve excellence, it was a very swift wake up call.  It is also a message I have passed down when I coach speech and work with young people at my church youth group.
On June 30th, I had to experience one of those suck it up moments.  I wanted to share it with you.  For those who have been following me, it has been no secret that I have been attempting to earn a grant from J.P. Morgan Chase’s Mission Small Business program.  $250,000 would be a huge boon to our organization.  We could get some equipment, hire some people and finally devote full time attention to the business.  It would have been foolish for us not to take a chance. 

I have spent the last five weeks working with members of my board of directors to craft my submission.  It was a difficult back and forth and it took four revisions but I feel like we put together a good bid.  In addition, to our bid we needed 250 votes from Facebook to qualify for consideration.  Five days before the deadline we submitted our bid.  Then I expected, wrongly, to spend the month of July gathering votes so that when Chase makes their decision on September 15th we would make the cut.  That was when I received a tweet from Chase which said the deadline for voting was June 30th.  I had 35 votes and I would be locked out of the competition if I didn’t get more. 
I sent out emails to people.  I started spamming Facebook with messages and I leveraged every social media contact I could.  I even nagged my pastor to put out the word to his friends to pitch in and help out.  I had 55 votes and I had three days to get the remaining 200.  It was looking very bleak.  This was when I went on to Twitter to complain and discovered a hash tag where small businesses were swapping votes to qualify.  In a tit for tat fashion, I voted for someone in exchange they voted for me.  I got to meet all sorts of interesting people from shoe stores to consulting companies who work with business women.  I even made some friends in the process.  It was Thursday night and I had just over 100 votes. 
I went to bed with visions of failure and decided that after I worked a full day I would dive back into it on Friday night.  I met more cool people and was scolded by a woman running an organic business telling me not to be too eager.  I also used up my daily quota of 250 tweets.  I had 150 votes and as I shuffled off to bed I could see any chances of helping my business fade away. 
The next morning I got up.  I took my time showered and had some breakfast.  I knew it was going to be a long day.  I was going to need over 100 votes and I had fifteen hours to make it happen.  I started sending messages out via Facebook soliciting for votes.  After three hours, Facebook forbade the process and blocked me from sending messages.  This was when I dove into Twitter and began hustling for votes.  Saturday morning on the 30th wasn’t so bad but as the day wore on tempers began to get shorter and people started getting more desperate.  It was madness. 
This was when a funny thing happened.  People began sharing my messages on Facebook and sending me messages of encouragement telling me they were not only voting but showing their support for us.  I had the matron of a major branch of my family put out an all-points bulletin to my cousins to cast a vote.   I was inching closer and I was at 190 votes.  The messages kept coming and people I worked with in the past began to pushing for me.  It was very humbling.  I had really abused my social network and the response was that network pitching in to help me reach my goal.  I do not want to do that again.  I certainly do not want to abuse that good will. 
It was eight hours into this exercise and I was still 20 votes short.  Many of the people still on twitter had already swapped votes.  It was pretty sad that so many good businesses could not get the votes they needed.  Finally, some new companies came on and over the next two hours we were able to swap votes.  It was 6:30 in the evening I had spent an entire day and I had gotten the necessary 100 votes to put me over the top.  I stuck around for another hour helping others and then logged off thanking everyone. 
Over three insane days, I had gone from 35 votes to 261.  I was now in.  I haven’t won the 250K grant but at least now I would be considered.  I could not have done it without the help of people on twitter and Facebook pulling for me.  I have a lot of gratitude for those people and a lot of thank you notes to write. 
For three days, I sacrificed my dignity and reputation to suck it up and make something happen for my business.  I get the feeling that this will not be the last time.  Some times during the process, I felt like a beggar pleading for the kindness of others.  It was humbling.  Still people believed in me and I was able to make a difference for my small company.
Now, all I can do is wait until September 15 until Chase decides if I am worthy of 250K.  If they can lose six billion dollars on some phantom bets on real estate stock then I think they can take a chance on a small business which actually builds something.  An entrepreneur can dream. 
So Andy LaChapelle’s wisdom lives on.  I sucked it up and sacrificed.  Now I have a chance to earn 250K for my business.  It wasn’t pretty but it was necessary.  I hope that the effort was worth it.  Thanks to everyone who chipped in and helped out.  It means a great deal to me. 
Until next time.