All for One, One for All
By Jay Trueman, General Manager
I didn’t know it, but I was lost.
Which is not normal because I have a pretty good sense of direction, except I guess for the fact that this was not a geolocation issue it was about my life. I’ve had a lot of jobs in my life including in restaurants, grocery stores, sales, musician, construction, entrepreneur.
In one way or another, they all taught me about hospitality. When I was fifteen I wanted to be a Chef. I was a busboy in a hotel restaurant and I loved the hustle, creativity, the people and making guests happy. The Chef liked me and would let me cook occasionally – but when I told him I was thinking of becoming a Chef he said, “are you (insert curse word) CRAZY? Do you know I work from 5 am till 8 pm most days and that I live in a room in this hotel? DON’T DO IT!”.
I moved onto dreaming about being a drummer in a rock band which probably wasn’t much better in terms of hours versus work life balance…
After college I moved to Columbus for a sales job with a publicly traded company. I wore my suit, did what my manager told me to do, exceeded my goals, had a great apartment in Dublin and plenty of toys. Which sounds great, except I HATED it! At twenty five, with no responsibilities (no kids, wife, house, etc.), I started a business and what I consider earning my real business degree. Promotional marketing and fulfillment consumed my life for the next seventeen years.
I met Angela Petro several years after starting my business when Together & Company became a client of ours. She was tough but fair and we hit it off.
We were leading parallel professional lives and often would meet to talk about how things were going and compare battle stories. Occasionally one of us would use the red phone - bat phone - lifeline - in a crisis and one would have to talk the other off a ledge. On one occasion, I thought she was REALLY done, she sounded very desperate and I could tell it was serious, telling me she was ready to put chains on the doors. I asked if she had tried EVERYTHING? As silly as it sounds, that’s all it took – that's all she needed to hear to kick her butt into gear.
Angela and I ate a lot of lunches over the years continuing to share the good the bad the ugly of our respective journeys. One of those meetings, almost ten years ago now, was a lunch at an Asian restaurant where we each received a fortune cookie. Her fortune was:
Keep a close friend
around who will help
you to make a move.
Of course I thought I was the one that was going to be helping Angela because at that particular time, she was struggling with some things. This is where my getting lost thing starts.
She tore the fortune in half, laughed and told me to keep a half, she’d keep the other and we’d see what would happen. I placed my half deep inside my wallet...
After seventeen years in business I was approached about selling my business – not an easy thing to consider – some say a business is like a child to an entrepreneur and I would agree, in many ways it can be. Even though I was worn down by the continuous battles of being a small business owner and trying to figure out where I was going, I spent eighteen months being courted, fighting against and negotiating the sale of my company. I’d never felt so alone.
Eventually it made sense and I moved from being an owner to an employee of the other company. It seemed like a great idea with the best intentions, but after my contractual three years was up with them I felt like I was losing my soul and I left to try other things. Together & Company had continued to be a client of mine in one capacity or another. But now I was a free agent! Upon hearing the news Angela asked me if I was interested in doing some consulting / project work, SURE!
My first project – find a new home for Together & Company. We scoured the city for space – some kind of non-descript warehouse ready for a commercial kitchen. Then the idea of including an event space came into being and quickly we were pursuing two potential sites, both on High Street, one in Worthington and one in the Brewery District. Deciding on "The One", came down to Angela’s nearly infallible gut instinct – and she went for what is now our High Line Car House in the Brewery District. I segued into coordinating the move and making sure the team would be setup for success in the new digs – while working another job and other consulting gigs.
For two years I continued to do projects and consult with the Management Team when Angela had me meet her at a building in the Short North as a potential restaurant site (this was becoming common). She was dreaming about taking her popular Sweet Carrot food truck concept to a bricks and mortar location. We walked out onto the sidewalk and she said,
“If this Sweet Carrot thing happens, you’re going to have to quit everything else you’re doing and work for me!”
Huh, that’s interesting, I thought. And that led to a lot more lunches with conversations about making it happen. But the growth of Together & Company superseded the timing of building a Sweet Carrot and I became the General Manager of Together & Company.
Not long after coming on board, there I sat in Angela’s office and she pulled out the fortune we had split years ago. She asked if I had mine, I desperately searched the pockets of my wallet and realized my half was gone. It was then that it hit me, not only had I lost my half of the fortune, but that I had been lost, and now I had been found!
I now spend my work life in the offices of Together & Company. I am one man surrounded by a team of nineteen women. Nearly every one that hears this seems to take pity on me; I couldn’t disagree more, it’s awesome! They took me in and they ALL in each of their own way have cared for me and made me feel valued.
After decades of feeling solitary I realized I’m not alone, I have a wonderful, smart team, working together for our common good. Each day I learn new things, grow stronger and become a better person – I help others and they help me. I have the greatest job – I’m a fixer, I remove barriers and find solutions. My work makes people happy and I love it! Yeah, I’m lucky and it IS a cool-ass job!
At the end of last year Angela mailed me a note which she closed with
She is right. I’m not lost anymore. In fact, I’m pretty stoked about where I’m going and where my Together & Company Family is taking me.