A little over a year ago I opened Echo Coffee. Doing so, as you can imagine, changed my life substantially. For the first 6 straight weeks I was there from open to close every day. I would arrive at 6:45am and leave at 10:30pm (if we got out quickly). That gave me 8 hours to drive home ( 30 mins each way), do laundry, sleep, shower, and get back to Echo. As you can imagine, it was fatiguing. By the time I had a day off, “multi-tasking” was an impossibility. I would tell the staff I can do one task ok. If I’m trying to do 2 things…they are both going to suck. And nothing I do is going to be great. They really picked up the slack for me big time in those first few weeks.
There were hiccups, of course. But we managed not to make too many mistakes, particularly the kind that could have doomed a brand new small business.
Lately, I’ve had a little time to look back on the past year and think about some of the ways I’ve changed. One of the most obvious, for me, is my lack of involvement in the social media world. Back in the day, I was somewhat “internet famous”. I recall a ranking site that listed my real estate blog among the top 50 in the nation. I don’t know how accurate it was, but at the same time, to be on the list at any slot meant you were getting noticed.
So why have I essentially fallen off the grid? I thought about that a bit and here’s what I came up with: On an almost daily basis, I now get to socialize with literally 100’s of people every day. And I get to do so, face to face. Maybe it’s just 30 seconds, or maybe it’s longer. But it’s personal. It’s look someone in the eyes, shake their hand, and share a moment or three. Back when I was a Realtor, on a good day, I spoke to a handful of people, and very few of them were face to face. More often it was over the phone, and it was business. However, I wanted to talk to 100’s. So I blogged. And I tweeted. And I got my socialization fix online, while sitting in an office by myself.
So the difference is, these days if I want to chat it up with someone, I can walk out into Echo’s dining room, and politely ask how things are going? Or what are you are working on? (Because invariably, most are working on something, and not just there to enjoy coffee, which is a shame). And because “I’m the owner” random strangers (or at least, they were at one time) will gladly share a nugget of what’s going on in their lives. Which quite honestly, I enjoy. I’ve always liked living vicariously through other people’s lives. That’s not to say my life sucks or is boring. But I know I’ll never get to do _everything_. And there are many things I’ll never want to do. But nearly everything that anyone else is doing interests me to some extent.
I’m interested in learning a tiny bit about the geology student studying dust devils on Mars; the internet SEO guy that was a former San Francisco Giants baseball player; the Fox 10 news anchor; the CBS 5 weather man; the yoga instructor; the Realtor; the just married; the just divorced; the police officer; the visitor from Chicago, Washington DC, and Seattle; the young; the old; and everything in between. Everyone has a bit of a story to tell, and I’m always up for it.
So the coffee shop suits me well. It suits me very, very well. But it does mean that my internal drive to socialize online has been placated. And so it is, that I reflect on how I used to think small business owners failed so hard at social media, because “they don’t get it”. Now I think…maybe they do get it…they just don’t need it. Well, maybe that’s not the case for everyone. But it feels that way for me.
So, the next time you wonder what happened to Steve Belt, I thought I’d share that I’m alive and well and making great coffee for great people, everyday. I’ll probably never completely stop being social online, but my current status quo is likely to continue for a fair bit longer as well. There are still lots and lots and lots of people I have yet to meet that come into Echo all the time.