Big Ole Bubble

April 25, 2023

I live in an influence bubble like everyone else. If you look at my Instagram stuff, everyone is riding a bike or fly fishing. On LinkedIn, everyone is standing in front of a table with a logo tablecloth and some bits of tech on top – maybe a pop-up banner in the back that says something like “Best-in-Class Performance over FIBER.” My news is a regurgitation of the news I read every other day. I keep getting fed the same news-meal by my motherly Internet news-vulture. She coughs up news to me every morning.

Isn’t that a lovely metaphor?

So I live in a bubble and I admit it. We all do. This January, my bubble got a lot bigger. At first, I thought it was all the holiday meals. Perhaps my lack of time on the bike. In reality, my bubble got bigger because our company grew.  

For years I have been part of a best-practices group. A bunch of like-minded sales folks from across North America got together every Tuesday morning and talked about AV challenges. I called it my “Men’s Group”, although Beth Mickel is clearly not a man. I got to hear about the rest of the country. Sometimes we let the guy from Canada talk. He mostly said he was sorry, so we moved on to the next. We had folks from all over the U.S. We drilled down on specific issues. It was a big help for all of us. After a few years, we had said all of the words to say, so we kind of wound it down.

I thought talking to folks about other parts of the country gave me an understanding of other parts of the country. I thought visiting other parts of the country gave me an understanding of the culture. In one word, I was… WRONG! I thought I knew. Maybe you think you do. Until you set up camp and actually do the work someplace you have never worked, you have no idea.

What I am about to tell you, is that if you think California is different than the rest of the country (and Canada), you are partially right.

California is like another freakin’ planet. It’s nothing like the rest of the country. California is constantly trying to create its own rad and tubular language so we can finally truly rise to our fully dope potential. California is in the process of annexing Portland and Seattle. We’ve sent our finest up there to live amongst the people and infiltrate. Go say “hi’. They are near the train station downtown.

I finally realize that where I have spent my entire life is NOTHING like the rest of the country. Nothing like it at all. And serving this odd region on a professional level is nothing like serving any other place. All of you that work for some national entity know this: your stupid national systems do not work in California. THEY DON’T WORK HERE. 

Here is an example from my text inbox:

Customer in Denver: “Dude. You were in town and didn’t call? Really? Lame.”

Customer in San Jose: “I hear you were in town. Thanks for not bugging me. I was slammed.”

Customer in Arizona: ” Most of us are here. Come on by and say hi!”

Customer in San Francisco: “We haven’t been to that office in a year. We’re all remote.”

If you think I’m exaggerating, that means you moved out of California a long time ago. It’s different. The pandemic changed us – and the way we work. And most companies use the same B2B sales systems in California that they use in Nashville and New Orleans. I can tell you that those systems don’t work here anymore.  

A meeting in California is two people. That’s it.

There is no such thing as a BIG meeting. A big meeting is now known as an EVENT and events only happen a couple of times a year. So if you have four people in a room, that means you have ten more on a Teams call. It’s not a meeting. It’s a Teams call. The dialogue doesn’t flow right because we are all catering to the remote people on the far end. I miss big meetings. I miss banter. I miss conversations in person. Who’s sick of “content”?  Barf.

I used to really enjoy Lunch n’ Learns. I would go to CM Salter Associates in San Francisco and there would be seven or eight of the smartest people I know sitting around a table. We talked about stuff. It was intimidating and super fun and I believe I learned a ton. And now it’s ancient history.

I get on a plane. Hop over to Fort Collins, Colo., and boom! There are six of us around a table. Head out to Chandler, Ariz., same thing, “Let’s bring lunch in.” When I land in San Francisco, I get stuck in traffic and drive miles by myself to meet with ONE person. A truck driver guy is delivering one package to one house with one thing in the package to keep one dude from having to go to a store. A whole lot of ones. That doesn’t scale super great. Lots of ones.

Only now do I realize that trying to emulate someone in some other state is folly. And that is what I have been trying to do for way too long. I figured I was just doing it wrong.   It was like I was trying to get a tan in Portland. I’m just not doing it hard enough.

So today we break out some buzzwords and pivot. But pivot doesn’t mean “move.” I love it here. I am not leaving my state. And that’s a good thing – sort of. When it really gets dicey, I really can show up in an hour or two and bring you one from my stock.    

I can’t do that from Alaska (which is where I’d go). I can’t leave you. I do still love it when we finally hang out, even if it’s just you and me.

I just need to figure out how to serve you locally and at scale when YOU refuse to get together as a group in person. How can we do that? Let’s just let that hang there for a moment. How can we serve many of you LOCALLY (my mission) and not go broke?

So to all of my manufacturer partners, today we begin anew in the land of Atari and In-and-Out. To all of my integrator family and friends, we are about to do this differently.

And by different, I don’t mean “virtual”. Ask any senior in college how “virtual” worked.

I am making a big deal out of nothing here. We’re going to be different, but not crazy different. It just doesn’t make as much sense anymore to belly up to your conference room table with a pelican case as much as we used to.

News to come.