Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The global empire expands...down the hall

About 15 months ago I had a parking problem. Our small fleet was growing, but we didn't have any place to keep it. It was only three trucks, but as anyone who's lived here for five minutes knows, apparently every level of government is largely funded by parking tickets. Parking trucks in secure locations in public places was costly -- it was almost a line item in our budget. (Hah..."budget." That's cute.)

This is where I process numerous bills...
I put an ad on Craigslist, noting that the parking situation was my main priority, but office space would be nice, too. One of the two people who responded had the ideal location -- parking and a small room with lots of built-in drawers. The price was great.

Long story short, we quickly outgrew it. Fortunately, the offices next to ours were vacated, and it was a natural progression to take over half the building. Now, I get an office and the guys get a place to relax or kill time before/between jobs. We also have plenty of storage space, and the guys (Jimmy and Dave) who do the scheduling now have room to do their thing, too.

This is where I check Facebook...
I'm so tickled about it that I now feel a huge pressure to build the company even bigger, if, for no other reason, to justify what feels to me to be a massive new expansion. I don't know how Trump and other CEOs can breathe when they buy entire buildings. Hah!

Anyway, here are some pics of the new MTB World HQ. Two things:

1. The office was painted that color when I took it over. It's salmon. Not pink.

2. I made the whiteboard in the last pic this morning. Instead of spending $200+ on a whiteboard from Staples, I just Liquid Glued some tile board to some wood siding and hung it from a wall. It weighs about 100 pounds, but it cost about $38 total. Yeah, I proud.


This is my thinking wall. As you can see, it's blank...


Friday, March 9, 2012

The end (or pause) of an era: Truck Buddy Jon is leaving...

Truck Buddy Jon is leaving to help his family's business in Pennsylvania. It is a sad day (more *Sad face.*)

The back of Jon's head.
I was tempted to write a big, heartfelt hagiography of Jon and all the great feats of brain strength we've done together here at MTB World HQ, but I couldn't think of much, so I'll be brief.

Jon started working with us in the late summer of 2010 or thereabouts. He had that oh-so-uncommon common sense, so when he decided to move to Denver and asked if he could start a branch there to support himself, I said "Why not?" After all, he had a valid driver's license which, back in those days made pretty much anyone eligible to be a crew leader, and I couldn't possibly pass up an opportunity to nickname him "Jon Denver."

Off to Denver he went.

Setting up a branch turned out to be quite impossible. It took me three years to get insurance here, and we couldn't support another branch in addition to our little operation here. So, he became a camp counselor or something, took a side trip to Peru or somewhere, but asked if he could come back and work during the slow season. (I'm sure he told me exactly what he did, but I was probably on Facebook...)

So, he got back here around September 2011, and since work went way, WAY down, and he had nothing better to do, he pretty much hung around the office making spreadsheets, as is his custom. You see, hippie Jon Denver used to wear a suit and work as an analyst in Ballston. He gets all giddy whenever you give him piles of raw data you don't know what to do with. Eventually, I figured this out and gave him projects to do to distract him from bothering me.

I'd ask him to take on what I thought were huge, impossible projects. "Jon Denver," I'd say, "It'd be really cool if we had a grid that showed actual move times between different types of homes. For example, how long does it take, on average, to go from a one-bedroom start type to a one-bedroom end-type? Can you do that?" Thinking I'd get some peace for a week or so, I'd turn back to my project and get to work.

Five minutes later, he'd say "Here you go. I noted how many records each instance is based on..."

It went on like that for six months. In that time we've ripped apart the business' systems and procedures so that now, we JUST might be able to survive the utter chaos of the busy season. In short, it may have been the most productive six months of my life, and certainly the life of the company.

Our brainstorming sessions would last from the time he got back from a job until our brains were mush. On move-less days, we'd start early on the micro level, tackling issues like how to build forms and databases, and work up to the macro level, such as what the company culture should be like. We'd take breaks to argue politics and religion until we'd get frustrated with agreeing uncomfortably too often. It was a feast for both the creative and practical side of the brain. Honestly, I'm afraid things will grind to a halt once he's gone.

A pretty typical brainstorming session (Jon not pictured).


I should probably explain that picture at the top of this post. It comes from how our desks are situated. He faces away from me, and he always joked that I was probably always trying to see how close I could get to touching the back of his head without alerting him because, you know, I have nothing better to do. I'd laugh and call him a psycho, but...he was absolutely right. I did that all the time. I just did a second ago, one last time, for the memories.

We'll all miss Jon Denver, but we wish him the best. It COULD be a sad day, but if there's one thing we've learned in these last few years, you can check out, but you can never leave.

Goodbye, Jon. We'll see you again soon.


This is exactly how I think of My Truck Buddy

Every now and then I Google "My Truck Buddy" to see what people are saying out there. For the most part, it's nothing -- just me writing cryptic witticisms (or what I attempt at wit) in various places. For some people, the Internet is a vast, featureless plain of loneliness. *Sad face.*

But sometimes I come across things that frighten or intrigue me. The following image does a little bit of both.
This is exactly how I see MTB, but where did it come from?!?
It intrigues me because it came from the blog of someone I've never heard of. It's not a customer in our database. But...that's...my...truck. I know it's my truck because I have that exact image in my files, and the license plate is blacked out just like I blacked it out when I first blogged about it. I was pretty proud of myself in those days -- I was able to purchase (well, get a loan for) my first very own big boy pickup truck. I drove over the the Capitol building's parking lot and took a spiffy pic to brag about later.

And...here it is. With a comic Viking and gold.

The picture frightens me because someone out there read my mind. When I think about the future of My Truck Buddy, this is exactly how I envision it. In public, and to the guys, I explain gross revenue projections, service goals, the core values of the business, etc. But in my mind I picture myself standing on the hood of my Ford Ranger, no pants, in a Viking get-up, with a pile of gold in the bed as I raise my axe to Odin above daring him to stop us now, while I park on a mountain overlooking a Scottish loch.

It's eerie as heck that someone captured my innermost secret and rendered it in picture form.

So now I see that the Internet is not just a vast, featureless and lonely plain, but a world where anything is possible, and where our dreams and nightmares may come true.

Think about it. Beware.

UPDATE: Jon just reminded me that one of the other guys, Robert, has an artist friend who Robert may have informally contracted to do some artwork for us at my suggestion. Maybe. I don't remember. I'm a pretty busy guy.