By Bob Fish

I was sitting in a meeting with our leadership team when Jamie Stepanian-Bennett, our VP of Marketing, asked Mike and I if we wanted to present at TEDx Detroit. I waited for Mike McFall (my business partner) to answer and he said ‘yeah, sure.’

My heart sank. You see we were a late ‘ask’ and we had less than a week to prepare. I already felt like I was booked to the nines. Normally you get a speaking coach out of the deal, and months to prepare. This meant Mike and I had to figure it out on our own (which is what we do). But the real challenge is that he lives in Ann Arbor and I live in Saugatuck/Douglas. That’s roughly three and a half hours apart. How could we practice and prepare?

Not to mention that my usual anxieties about presenting roared to the front of my brain. We were going to be talking to 3,000 people at the Detroit Masonic Temple. That crowd would have really high expectations. Naturally, the visceral response in my head was: don’t do it.

So, I gulped and said ‘of course.’ Why? “Do something you’re afraid of anyway,” otherwise known as courage. I preach this idea regularly as an Entrepreneurial trait. I had to walk the talk.

Bob Fish @ TedX Detroit

Time to Come Out?

We had a few ideas about what to present, including One Bigg Island in Space or Mike’s excellent book on starting a business, Grind, but the one idea that we kept coming back to was Conscious Capitalism. We have been on a journey with Conscious Capitalism inside our company BIGGBY COFFEE since 2014. Here we were in 2019 and we had never really announced it to the world. It was time for us to “come out” about who we are and what we believe in.

Our concern, though, was we would be ‘coming out’ to folks that might not be ready to hear what we have to say. Mike and I have always been respectful of other opinions and we never want anyone to feel like we are forcing our views on them. The idea of Conscious Capitalism had been introduced into the company incrementally, and softly, with language changes, policy changes, new reading, redefined beliefs, culture coaching, product changes, and more. In five years of nudging the process along, we had made a lot of progress, but we never overtly said: “This is what we stand for” and “This is what we are up to.”

The magic of this TEDx Detroit talk was we could do just that, at what seemed like the perfect moment. Now was the time, Wahoo! Our Home Office folks were definitely ready, but (and there is always is a but) what about our Franchise Owners, BIGGBY Fanatics, business partners, the community? Heck, I was even worried what my family might think!

Mike McFall at TedX Detroit

Conscious Capitalism is gaining traction

The ‘thinking’ about Capitalism has been changing. We have been going to the Conscious Company CEO Summit for a few years, and when we are there we always feel like we are with our tribe. And the tribe is widening. More and more mainstream businesses show up to the summit, many serving the coffee industry.

Also, something remarkable happened in August.  The Business Roundtable came out strong in support of essentially the same principles as Conscious Capitalism. They took out a full page ad in the New York Times sponsored by B-Lab The timing seemed absolutely right.

Putting it Together

Mike and I rallied and crafted the short presentation in days. You are given a time limit, so that was decided.  We did Zoom meetings to craft the general idea, assign who would say what, etc. And then we edited, and edited, and edited. You are given a time limit. Ours was eight minutes, but we couldn’t get it below 14.

We each rehearsed separately until the night before when we met in Ann Arbor. Big thanks to Ann Arbor Club and the Rudolph Steiner School for lending space to practice. After lunch on the BIG DAY, we headed to the Masonic Temple, where the TEDx Detroit coach that was assigned to us wanted to see us perform for the first time in the Green Room.

Guess what? I totally choked while presenting to her! I couldn’t remember our own Vision in the presentation! I don’t know why, but she gave us the nod to go on anyway. Sort of relieved, we took the time to watch some other presentations, went back to the Green Room, took a short nap, hydrated, and went on stage…

PS After you watch this TEDX talk, take a moment and watch one I did in Lansing nine years earlier, a lot has changed!

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