This Saturday is the 13th Anniversary for Catalyst Ranch! There are so many memories and stories to share from over the years but I thought it would be fitting to share the story of the first meeting here on Nov. 7, 2002, my first employee and how together we made it happen.
As anyone who has been an entrepreneur knows, no matter how well you plan everything, life throws you curve-balls. We were lucky to have three meetings booked, sight unseen. And then the first of them suddenly got shifted to a week earlier. You can imagine that when you’re building out a totally raw 9,000 sq. ft. space – no electricity, no internet, no interior walls, no lights, no telephones, unpainted concrete floors – that losing a week caused a little bit of stress and compression of deadlines! But we weren’t about to say that we couldn’t do it, not to our very first client.
So we buckled down and my vast support network of Quaker Oats colleagues as well as family and friends all came out en masse to paint, move in furniture, wash dishes, hang up artwork and put out toys. It was an incredible outpouring of support and love. These same people have all continued to be supportive friends, bringing their meetings and events here and helping Catalyst Ranch to thrive, grow and prosper. But the most support I received actually came from my parents, particularly my father.
So, this story is dedicated to my father, my very first (albeit unpaid) employee. At age 78 he fixed and refinished furniture, reupholstered chairs, stripped vintage French doors; he worked incredible hours. And he was here all night that night leading up to our first meeting. There were 5 of us here but he kept going when 2 of us decided to take a short nap because we couldn’t. He was determined to finish what needed to be done.
Unfortunately, a friend who was custom making our metal easels had run out of welding material midstream on all 16 easels leaving us with not a single one completed. The bad news came around midnight. Where are you going to find an office supply store open at that hour? The client was arriving at 7:00am and had been very particular about her needs, sending us floor plans and instructions. We’d even had a conference call discussion to allay her fears of working in a non-traditional space of which there were no photos. So how were we going to make good on our promises?
Dad dropped into McGyver mode and looked around at what we had at hand. Before we knew it, he was constructing hooks from industrial outlet covers, bending them and bolting them into brick columns and walls. The rest of us began securing easel pads to dowel rods and creating hangers from leftover electrical wires.
Miraculously we got it all done and our first clients had an amazing meeting experience. The environment helped the facilitator deal with a tricky client/vendor relationship that she had been hired to mend. Our space was exactly what was needed to break down barriers and to change the discourse.
And my dad continued to be the Ranch handyman, jack of all trades and my most favorite employee for the next 6 or so years. He is now nearing 91 and is in failing health but he continues to ask me each time he seems me – How is the business doing? Is everything good? Are there a lot of meetings?
My father has always been my inspiration and moral compass. He was always the ultimate problem solver, able to look at things from many angles in order to come up with yet another, even better, solution. He never finished high school because of WWII yet he was an avid learner and acquired all these skills that served him so well in life. He was a man always willing to leap to anyone’s aid and he was certainly someone I could always rely on. We would figure it out together. It saddens me to see him no longer able to be my partner in crime. He’s led an incredible life and touched so many people. And no matter how many other great employees have come and gone here at the Ranch my dad will always be my Number One.