The duck and the cardinal
Written By: Christine Clutton
It’s 2pm on a Sunday and Jon has been tinkering with his new espresso equipment for two hours now. He’s building a new espresso cart and is finishing up the plumbing and small details today. He has methodically thought through every detail of this cart and has systematically, step-by-step built it over the past three weeks. He usually does so while blasting music over our Warehouse speaker system (that he also researched and installed himself), singing to himself every so often and sipping on single-origin espresso he tried some odd-experiment on that morning. Today, for example, he cut out a paper coffee filter in the shape of a portafilter, and lined it on the bottom of the basket before he dosed his coffee directly on top of it. He said it was “in theory supposed to increase my extraction yield,” but that “the results were underwhelming.”
Jon's infamous "tongue's out" concentration face.
Meanwhile I am sitting in the sunshine by the garage door window, tanning my white-winter-ridden legs and daydreaming about new ideas for the business, scribbling thoughts down into a journal I will most likely lose in the next week (probably in my backpack), and then rediscover in six months, to be reinspired by the words I write down today. I forgot to eat this morning, so I found some two month old Peanut Butter Granola that usually graces our food menu, but that has sat uneaten since the shut down. I ate five handfuls and washed it down with some cream top milk I picked up from our dairy farm this week. I’ll probably have another espresso here myself in a moment, which I will get my husband to make me...because it’s just better when he makes it for me. Then I’ll switch gears into boss-mode and update my website a little, put out the barista schedule, think of an insta post or two, place a few orders, and be ready for a glass of wine by 5.
This is us in a nutshell. The methodical and systematic sweet-heart of a husband, and the day-dreaming creative slash business-minded bae (and yes, I just referred to myself as bae) who couldn’t be more different and yet somehow, it works. A few weeks ago a customer/friend (@kccoffeedates) asked me what it was like to work with my husband...and I told her I would one day write a blog about it. Here is that blog. Or at least, the start of it. There is so much I have to say about working with your partner. Today I’ll focus on ideologies and how that drives our passions and our business.
On our last walk around our neighborhood, Jon and I were dreaming about the business and we both said we wanted “freedom” for our lives and our business. Now, what we both meant by freedom couldn’t have been any more different from each others’.
Freedom for me is flying. Flying to new heights by dreaming of adventures and then taking off to soar to those new ideas, hoping the wind and pure flap of my wings will carry me there. I’m a red cardinal, ready to take flight. For Jon, freedom is not sinking. Not sinking by having knowledge of where he is going, how he is going to get there, and the data behind that decision. Freedom looks like the systematic flapping of little webbed feet, working really hard beneath the surface to discover all the points of data he can, and then having that data steer him into the next direction. Jon is a duck, ready to work his webbed feet.
An example of this. One day after one particularly busy Farmers’ Market day, I wanted to see if we could afford to hire an additional barista to help us in the camper. I quickly did some math on my phone’s calculator and scribbled down a few notes onto a scrap receipt I had on my coffee table. Based on my estimations, we could afford another person. I asked Jon what he thought and he asked if he could “run the numbers”. Three hours later he had written code that compiled all our exact sales, exact COGS, exact labor, and fixed cost for that day. It showed up in a graph that accurately depicted our profit and our labor cost as a % of revenue. “We can afford to spend another 8% on labor if all else remains constant” Jon stated.
So...we were both right….he was just MORE right. Or at least more accurate.
We are a good balance that Jon and I, but that’s a balance we had to learn over the last four years of marriage, two of which were spent running this business. I have to tell him “just dream with me” when I don’t want him to ask me logistical questions about my one-off-ideas that I’m literally coming up with as I’m speaking. I just want him to let me dream with him. No restrictions, just freedom. He has to tell me “just let me do the research” before we make a big (or small) adjustment to the company. No making un calculated moves, no sinking, only freedom.
photo cred: Stephanie Smith of @stephaniesmithKC
We haven’t always been good at that balance. And we definitely have our days where we forget what the other needs to feel freedom. It’s a learned and practiced skill. One that takes long conversations, maybe the occasional fight or two (or three), and the humility of realizing you’re stronger together. But it’s a skill I’m proud to say we are continually working on, and affording ourselves a big helping of grace when we don’t get it quite right.
So, to answer my friend Tricia's question, “What’s it like working with your husband.” It’s an adventure. It’s a way to learn more about my husband and best friend. It’s an easy way to fall more in love with a duck. And a learning experience in exercising my wings.
I hear Jon rolling his newly finished espresso cart to the front of the Warehouse, and I think it’s about time for my next shot of espresso.
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