Unable to Detach… from Coke
This was written in January 2015, before I had any idea I might be returning to Boloco. A real sign of internal struggle on remaining calm, not letting the small things get to me. Some names removed for privacy 🙂
January 10, 2015
This week I’ve been writing about the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success as taught at the Chopra Center… I really began to think about them after attending a meditation and yoga retreat this past August. Essentially they go like this:
Sunday: Law of Full Potentiality
Monday: Law of Giving & Receiving
Tuesday: Law of Karma
Wednesday: Law of Least Effort (my favorite!)
Thursday: Law of Desire & Intention
Friday: Law of Detachment
Saturday: Law of Dharma
They help us focus on a single “priority” one day at a time, as opposed to trying to focus on every priority every day which so many of us are guilty of.
Yesterday, Friday, was the day in which detachment was the order of the day. I was looking forward to this Friday because I blew Wednesday’s “least effort” attempt so badly.
I started out with an early Peloton spin class. Hannah Corbin is memorable because throughout the class she pushes us to push our belly button to our spine, and crunch the torso at various times. Without doing one sit up, by the end of class it feels as if I’ve done 100. It is awesome.
By 7am I was done and ready for a great day. A day of detachment from outcome, from consequence, from stress. A day where I do what’s right, what matters, and whether things work or don’t work simply doesn’t affect my outlook on my own life.
I spent some time with Bo and Maggie, got the girls to school with a beautiful new 2-inch layer of snow on the ground, and then to the “office” where I worked on my disciplines and some other items. Trying to figure out how to get EEapp into test mode in earnest, and debating between buying a ton of iphones to use the current iOS app that Borys has built or start an Android app from scratch for about $6,000.
Just after 10:30am left for WRJ where I met Morgan from Morano. I’m excited to be part of Morano Gelato’s expansion, join her board, invest $75K, etc. Worried about this first lease at Chestnut Hill if for no other reason than it’s a 5-year lease… hard to get money back and a return unless all goes right. It could, but often it doesn’t. I’ll get a model built for her and she can make decision as to whether to negotiate a 5-year option.
After that was yoga. It was perfect. I felt good. Detached.
Got home only to realize my backpack wasn’t in my car. Referencing my new gimmick, Tile, I found that it was last seen 20 minutes prior all the way back in White River. I pictured it sitting on the left side of the parking space I had been in, half crushed because maybe I left it on the ground and ran over it backing out as I headed home. Upon further zooming, I realized it was nearly exactly where Upper Valley Yoga is located, and must have brought it with me to yoga class. Shooting down I-91, I had the bag back in my possession within 15 minutes.
Having successfully skipped a Boloco Buffalo Burrito on the first attempt to get home, I couldn’t do it a second time. I made a right at the main WRJ intersection and crossed the small bridge into NH and headed north on Route 10, passing the very frozen Wilder Dam, en route to Hanover for my daily fix.
I parked and nearly immediately spotted Nicole, Boloco Hanover’s current general manager, walking through the alley by Molly’s as she lit up a cigarette. Something pushed me to go after her to find out how much money it would take for her to quit smoking for good. I also noted she was going towards Starbucks and anytime I can buy her a coffee I jump at the chance. She’s had some setbacks in the ten plus years I’ve known her, but she’s a good person and has a bright future if she can keep life’s inevitable variables in control. It kills me to see her smoke as she does, as it does other people who use it as a false mood crutch.
She looked up as I called her name in that familiar semi-startled look, and we quickly got through the smoking conversation where she shared that she had no plans to quit, wasn’t ready yet, and that even a $10,000 check (which I wasn’t obviously prepared to write) wouldn’t guarantee she would stop. “I might try harder,” she said.
We talked about EEApp and getting the formal test going on Wednesday. She watched my demo in action on my phone, still smoking the last bit of her cigarette, and looking at feedback and anonymous chat functions reminder her that she recently found out that team members are saying “Nicole is a bitch” to Matt (her manager), who they feel they can confide in since he was for so long their manager. We talked about how anonymity and transparency could be good, and bad, and she was genuinely enthusiastic about giving it a shot, being the first so-called guinea pig. We decided Wednesday was a good day to begin introducing it to the teams. Being paid $100 each to try something would go over pretty well, she shared. Plus, she doesn’t even know that they will be “crisp $100 bills”… makes all the difference 😉
We walked into Starbucks to get our coffees. My treat. She mentioned something separate about communication lacking lately. “We find out about things last minutes, sometimes barely at all.” “Like what?”, I asked. She told me about the the signage for the latest special, the Memphis BBQ, just showing up. And now the email about switching from Coke to Pepsi…………
Cue vintage record player with needle carelessly being pulled off the record and making that worse-than-chalkboard-scratching sound.
Cue final scene of Rocky II where Apollo Creed and Rocky are in slow motion trying to be the first to stand on their own two feet.
Cue John Pepper’s irrational giving-a-shit personality for everything Boloco.
“I’m sorry, did you just say they’re switching from Coke to Pepsi?” I asked… feeling the inner gut rocket ship ignite its engines, preparing for a launch in the not too distant future.
“Yes, we got a memo yesterday and its happening fast. Like this month. And we have to pay Coke in cash or something like that. We have to share what we order. I don’t know why.”
My mind raced. So many things in and out, I’m sure my heartbeat was 50 beats faster in an instant. I asked a number of further questions as we waited to order our coffees.
Nicole started to worry she had done something wrong. I assured her it was just me, my irrational affection for Coke, and my less than scientific belief that brands who switch from Coke to Pepsi are at the worst possible place, relying on essentially a bribe from Pepsi to stay afloat. Selling their soul. Selling out. Trying to succeed by cutting themselves with a razor blade over and over again because someone will pay them a dollar each time.
Knowing what I know about Boloco’s financial situation, of course, I knew exactly why this was happening.
It wasn’t, as an example, that customers were clamoring for the switch to Pepsi. In fact, I’m sure in all of my years that not one customer ever asked or demanded we switch to Pepsi. Not one. It wasn’t because Pepsi stands for something that is more aligned with our brand. It wasn’t because anyone in management or on the board actually likes Pepsi better on a personal level. None of that. It was just a check. Another reminder of just how badly that Winona block in 2013 cost this company, this brand, its people. And me.
I sent off a few texts… one to Laird, one to Dad.
“Were you aware that Boloco is switching from Coke to Pepsi?”
I called Mount (best friend in High School, Coke exec for nearly 20 years) who was boarding a plane from NY to “A-T-L” as he said… who chuckled when I told him the story and said he’d have the scoop by the time he landed. I’d made these calls before… usually laughing at the latest Pepsi sale attempt, typically involving invites to their box at the Red Sox or the Patriots game, etc. One time I think I even went, but made sure we set the record straight beforehand. I started to wonder if we had perhaps accepted more, maybe even one too many?
I looked at our aging Accounts Payable when I got back to my home office (after essentially apologizing to the Starbucks crew for what must looked like a juvenile display of frustration), and realized that we’re probably in horrible financial standing with Coke. I mean, if we’re not paying Meals Taxes, why would we pay Coke? If we are switching to Pepsi, will we even honor our bills owed to Coke?
Oh, I’m in full speed reaction mode at this point. No more than an hour has passed. I’m aware that I’m in a bad place, but I had not yet checked in with myself on what was next, best course of action, etc.
I sent Doug an email entitled “COKE or PEPSI”:
“if a place switches from Coke to Pepsi, what do you think about that? Nothing? Something?”
He wrote back within 60 seconds which is not common:
“It means they are struggling if they go with Pepsi. Can’t afford Coke. And, my opinion of the establishment drops significantly. And I hate them.”
Of course he felt this way. It is exactly how I feel about it. He couldn’t have said it any more accurately. Of course, he is my brother.
Just found out Boloco is switching.
I found out about it while picking up my burrito.
God is testing me in every way possible.
And to make sure the fire didn’t do anything than roar, he wrote:
Wow, that is worse than anything I’ve heard so far. I’d rather close DC than go with Pepsi.
Later I received other notes of condolence from friends and restaurant execs:
Switching from coke to Pepsi is like the denouement of a bad movie.
Reminds me of another favorite saying, “there is no bottom to worse”
That’s the worst thing I ever heard
It’s literally “selling out”
If it isn’t clear yet, by now my internal engines had hit full power and I had launched. A full launch. Unstoppable for the moment.
Call to Dad. Brutal. WTF, WTF, WTF. Who is running this fucking thing? As a continuing board member, had he known? He had. Poor Dad thought that it was because of an energy drink offering that we were switching to it, oh yeah, and that [other board members – BM1 & BM2] blessed it (they did, and the energy drink was Mountain Dew – a forever and a day hook Pepsi has used to claim that it will draw younger users). With BM1 so quickly able to allow our brand to switch to Pepsi, something I couldn’t imagine him ever doing for one of his brands himself, it almost feels like sabotage…
I remembered momentarily how he once told me how [BM1 Current Company] differentiated themselves from the pack… he leaned over to me and said “We are a Category of One”. I smiled thinking that was awesome. His facial expression grew serious and his eyes darted at mine “If you ever use it I’ll sue you. Swear to God.”
Wow. I remember that like it was yesterday. “…I’ll sue you…”, he said. I made a note never to use that line, at least on something so trivial. I kept thinking he was kidding. Apparently not.
Soon after the horrific Pepsi discovery call with Dad, he texted me that BM2 would be calling me. BM2 was going to give me a Pepsi sales pitch, something I experienced once every year or two in my 17 years running Boloco.
When BM2 finally called, I launched again. He hadn’t even said anything, I just started in. It wasn’t a Dad type launch, but still to a point where he said quietly:
“John, you seem wound up. I don’t think we should talk right now”
I calmed slightly and managed to keep him on the phone. I don’t blame him for wanting to disengage. I listened to the reasons, the same reasons Pepsi salespeople had tried to get us to switch for so many years:
- Mountain Dew and Millenials
- In his experience where he led previous switches from Coke to Pepsi at both, they didn’t lose even one customer.
My 17 years in the business. His 35. Like so many other conversations, I knew it was going to be what it was. I could push to the end, make more of a ruckus, or just back down. I took the latter route as the call drew to a close. His very rational, professional delivery of the timeless Pepsi sale pitch was met with a defeated “I get it”.
When it was all said and done, I sat at my desk and probably even sighed. Boloco would become a Pepsi shop. Unless I wanted to start a true WWIII, this was what would happen. I would accept it, a further paper cut of the many that have plagued Boloco over the last couple of years, one whose ramifications won’t show up in the short term, but when the long term goes bad, might be one of the things we are able to point to as the death by a thousand papercuts.
I wanted to talk more. Do something about it. Fired off a few UNSENT texts and emails. But then remembered something.
It was Friday. I was supposed to be detached. It didn’t matter.
But – and I realized this – I was very much attached. Nothing could change my mind – literally. At that moment, my mind was operating solo, accepting no input from me.
Next week would be different.