by Jon Clutton
I have tried to write this blog like five times, and I cannot find the words. That might be because I'm not totally qualified to write about it or it might be because it's a tough subject. Despite my difficulties, I think it needs to at least be acknowledged. I'll do my best. Send your best wishes that I might find the right words.
The trailer is almost done. For those of you who haven't seen the progress, follow my wife on instagram. You'll get to see how the trailer's doing, and you'll get lots of short videos of my wife being exactly who she is. Example below.
Watching my wife go through the process of building out this trailer has been a huge challenge. Too many nights I would come home to hear how she was dismissed by an electritian or misjudged by the siding guy. Too many times she was unable to finish her sentence because the guy that she was talking to assumed he could explain it better. Too many times the guy would talk to me when she's the one in charge. I can't even remember how many times it happened. It felt constant. The worst part is the doubt that it caused. These men were supposed to be lending their expertise to build, but where there should have been growth and construction, they left a wake of doubt and indecision.
Christine has no reason to doubt. She knows her stuff. Trust me. You have to know your stuff to work your way up to general manager of a premier coffee shop in Austin. You have to know your stuff to transfer into McCombs' business school and graduate with a 3.9GPA. You have to know your stuff to build a brand from scratch. You have to know your stuff to be a servant general manager (almost nothing made me prouder than the times that Christine would take over shifts for coworkers at Cuvee without trying to divvy out responsibilities. The more in charge she was, the more I watched her serve). My wife knows her stuff. Trust me.
In fact, Christine knows her stuff so well that my self-appointed responsibility is to encourage her. I know that if I can do this one thing well, everything else will fall into place. Productive Christine will take over, and there is no stopping Productive Christine.
Christine knows her stuff and has every means to figure it out the things she hasn't learned yet. That is why it literally breaks my heart watching my wife dismissed. As a man, as a husband, as a business-partner, it breaks my heart.
One thing Christine and I want to do well in this business is to shed light on any inequalities that relate to our business. We can't change the world, but we can control the culture of our business and the way we view and treat others. We will start there and look for areas to grow that culture beyond the four walls of our coffee trailer.
What are we doing right now to shed light on these inequalities? Here's an example.
Christine was set to meet a siding installation guy who was going to finish the outside of our trailer. They had agreed on a price, a timeline for completion, a pick-up time, and all she needed to do was sign the check and hand it over to him. She met with him early one morning to give him the trailer and materials to complete the job. When he walked in, this gentleman was on the phone. Christine went up to shake his hand and talk to his associate who was with him. As she reached out her hand, he stuck his finger in her face in an effort to say "one minute" and walked away from her. She was startled, but gave him the benefit of the doubt. His associate looked at her with an "I'm sorry for that" face. The gentleman then got off the phone, and proceeded to speak down to my wife about her project. It was his tone and questions that alarmed her. They weren't questions for discovery, they were questions that were meant to make her feel dumb. She quickly found an excuse to not give him the trailer in that moment, to give herself time to find a better solution and to not make a rushed or emotion-driven decision.
She spent the remainder of that day calling every fabricator, trailer service shop, and metal worker she could find. She decided she wasn't going to hand over her project, and her hard earned money to someone who spoke to her like that.
Christine chose the path of most resistance. Resistance to working with someone she wouldn't have been proud to hand her trailer over t0.
I'm not here to write a philosophical blog post or try to change anyone's opinion about gender inequality. I am here to say that watching my wife face these injustices has been hard. And if it's hard for me, I can only imagine how hard it is for her, and for the women like her who deal with it daily. As we begin to set culture for The Wild Way, we intend to shed light and choose the path of most resistance whenever necessary.
One trait I think is indicative of a good leader is the ability to to empower individual strengths and differences, not to homogenize and "convince." To serve and to listen. To know the Tension and seek Unity. These are some of the qualities endowed in a good leader. And that's why Christine is ours.