The trip this weekend to Barcelona was meant to set us up for success for the food truck and the Happy Camper cabins and campground. It really feels like it’s moving forward and we are making progress. When cooking any idea, I like the ideation and planning phase. Sure, I do. But I really like the execution part the most. When we get out of just dreaming and talking and we start doing something about it. The longer the talking lasts I get antsy. But it seems I have competition, even before I’ve opened my doors.
When I ran the innovation lab at a large retailer in the US, we would take field trips. Sometimes these were just in Seattle, around our headquarters, observing innovations that others were doing. And not just in retail operations. People doing something interesting in one industry or sector can be translated or reimagined into a game changer for another. When that happens it’s the best. I love that stuff!
Often, me and my team would travel to other cities in the US or outside, looking for the Next Big Thing. Like most businesses, we wanted to be first to market. But also, we were a team of very curious – OK, I’ll say it outloud – really smart people. And we liked the invention part of it all, more than just the revenue generation part. Although, I always had to have a potential business case in the back of my mind. Nothing happens on the US if you can’t tell a good story. And the end of that story needs to be $$$. Lots of it.
My old team was made up of engineers and analysts. At least that’s how they were classified by HR. But, in reality, when hiring I looked for freaks and geeks. People who didn’t think like anyone else. People who, like me, were a little crazy. But in a good way. Risk takers, rule breakers. Square pegs for round holes. And my teams were the best of the best at it. They would wouldn’t just climb over mountains with me, they would invent mountains, then break them down into sand and build castles out of them. ‘Kelli, what if we…?’ My answer was almost always, ‘YES! Let’s do it!’ They were amazing to work with and they made me better every day. When walking the streets of Barcelona this past weekend, I thought of each of them. I was inspired. ‘What would they say if I sent them pictures of this?’
But I don’t live in the US, and I don’t have my team anymore. Yet being in Barcelona with Jeff gave me a flashback. Jeff is my team now. And he’s just like my old one, all in one guy. I think it’s why I was attracted to him in the first place. He’s smart, and eternally curious. And he’s not just a talker. He likes to move rapidly from idea, to prototype, to product. Just like me. We took photos of coffee machines and set ups. We took note of register types and how people move from helping customers at a register, and food prep, to order delivery. Halo brands, and menu presentations and layout. Interesting fonts and logos. I felt like I was back on a Retail Safari with my old team. It made me miss them and their injection of both wisdom and crazy ideas. Connecting dots.
It was a very busy weekend. I feel like we solved some problems. My food truck is sorted. I will have a dryer to dry things for the business, towels, etc. And I have some ideas for other stuff. I’ll spend some of today doing research. Coming home last night, I was tired. We headed down to our train at Sants in Barcelona. It’s a quick trip to the airport. When suddenly, Jeff spotted a food cart emblazoned with the Oscar Meyer logo, selling that most classic of hot dog to commuters after a long weekend. Tired Jeff became ecstatic!
‘You know what? I think I need me a hot dog stand. I’ll set it up on the other side of the driveway from your food truck.’
My eyes narrowed. ‘My food truck is vegetarian and gluten free. I’m not serving meat or fish. Nothing traditional that you would find on the Camino. I will have soy chai lattes, for god sake. It’s a place where anyone can eat, even if they have allergies or the like. Like me. That’s my Brand.’
Jeff brushed my Brand protectionism aside. ‘Sure. You can still do that. But I could be on the other side – Like in that movie The Hundred Foot Journey. On my side of the driveway, people can get meat. Who doesn’t like an American hot dog piled high with onions and pickles, or sauerkraut? Maybe even chili and cheese.’ He was salivating but I was having none of it.
‘Seriously? You would set up a competing food truck?’ Incredible.
‘Well, I’ll have to do something in retirement. And we could share a seating area. It would be more efficient that way.’ He was serious.
‘Maybe my vegetarien gluten free-ers won’t want to eat with your carnivores.’ I reminded him as our train approached. ‘And what about Lola? Didn’t you buy a tractor so you could be a farmer in retirement?
‘Nah. It’s like the food court at the mall. Besides, they have to eat together everywhere else. They won’t mind it. And I can still be a farmer in the afternoons. Meat is my brand,’
I figured it was just the fatigue talking. It had been a long weekend and we wouldn’t be in bed before midnight. But this morning he rolled over as I was wiping the sleep from my eyes.
‘I’ve been up for an hour already. I really think that hot dog stand has some legs.’
And now I know why I was missing my old team so much this weekend. Because, back then I was the boss. And the final vote was mine. But now? My unruly, one-man, team is out of control. But he better watch out. Annual review season is coming up and if he has any hopes of a raise, Camino Hot Dog Boy needs to stay in his lane.