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Our guest is COO Alliance Member Mark Moschel, COO of Dry Farm Wines.
Doing gratitude is something that should be fundamental in the workplace. Although it can only be developed over time, it is undoubtedly valuable in building strong relationships within an organization. One that can prove this is Mark Moschel, the COO of Dry Farm Wines – the world’s only natural, lab tested, and health-conscious wine club headquartered in Napa, California. A health evangelist, Mark shares how to leverage doing gratitude and performing meditation as strong and unique cultural practices. On the side, the system they utilize to manage their projects and the meeting rhythms they use are on the show.
Dry Farm Wines Partner & 2nd in Command Mark Moschel
Mark Moschel graduated from the University of Illinois with a Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering, Technology and Management. Mark has turned his background in technology and leadership in combination with his love of the environment, people and healthy holistic living into an amazing career in wine. He is functioning as the Partner and Second-in-Command at Dry Farm Wines, the world’s only natural lab-tested and health-conscious wine club headquartered in Napa, California. Dry Farm Wines started in 2015 with a minor $10,000 in annual sales, but by 2017 they had reached $12 million in annual revenue. They are on track to finish out 2018 with revenue of $25 million and eighteen employees. They believe their success is due to their cultural manifesto of peace and profit. A short to the point reflection on their goal to live in peace and create profit. Their strong and unique cultural practices include daily meditation, gratitude, team dinners and calling themselves a family and has more than shaped their communication operations and management. Mark has also attended one of our COO Alliance events in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mark, welcome to the show.
Thank you, Cameron. I’m very excited to be here.
It’s funny talking to somebody who I know that you and Todd, your CEO, are both such big fans of gratitude and meditation. I came onto our call a little bit frantic running around having moved into a new place. I’m in Vancouver but maybe why don’t we start off our call with a bit of gratitude? Is there anything that you want to share and then I’ll do the same?
First of all, I’m grateful to you because I mentioned this when I was at the COO Alliance. I’d always been looking for a group like this without realizing that I was looking for this group. I have the fortune being with a wine company that we provide wines for 100 conferences a year and so I get to attend a lot of events. Some are health-related, some are performance-related, but I’ve never seen an event like this. It geared towards what I was doing and the type of support group that I needed. I’m grateful to you for putting this together, for the wisdom that you share, for creating this podcast to spread the message to more people who are on this role. I’m very grateful for that. Thank you.
You’re welcome. Over the years, I played both the CEO role and the Second-in-Command, the COO role. As a COO, I didn’t feel like I fit in. I would go to these entrepreneurial events and entrepreneurial conferences and I didn’t fit. I’ve been listening to a lot of the podcasts that are out there as well. I always wanted the rest of the story. You hear the entrepreneur’s side and it’s not like they’re not telling the truth, they’re totally telling the truth, but they see the success and the growth of their business through one set of filters. As the second-in-command and even as the employees, we often see another set of filters, that’s why I wanted to share this story, the chief behind the chief. I’m thankful for that.
My gratefulness was I woke up and there were dishes scattered around the kitchen. There were some dirty clothes on the floor. I’m grateful for the fact that my kids are with me during summer holidays and they’ve left their stuff around. It’s a sign that they’re still here which is awesome. All the dishes that were scattered in the sink and still scattered around, I’m grateful because I’d spent about six hours cooking, making a bunch of different dishes and some short ribs. I’m grateful for the fact that I had my kids around and that was the signal that I saw when I saw the dirt and the dirty clothes.
I love that because you did this practice at the COO Alliance. You had everybody write down a couple of things that they’re frustrated by or that were challenging them in life right now. After everybody wrote that down, you asked everyone to reframe them and think about why they were grateful for those things. It’s incredibly powerful to reframe this as we sit down and think about that and it’s what you just did there, talking about the dirty dishes and the toys lying around. How you were grateful for those because you can come at that and see that as frustrating or bothersome. You can harbor and have those negative emotions or you can reframe it and say, “You’re super grateful to have your kids around. You’re grateful for the amazing meal that you had.” It’s such an important shift in mindset. It’s amazing. It’s a powerful thing.
It’s so easy to say we’re grateful for the clean sheets and the good food but what about looking for the rest? Even in the business world, I’ve always said that I love working with entrepreneurial organizations, high growth companies and great culture companies, but they’re different. An entrepreneurial organization bob and weave. They make it up on the fly. The big shiny object is one of the great reasons why entrepreneurial companies grow. That can often be hard for employees and I try to always reframe for them as well as to show them. It’s not like we’re making it up in a bad way. It’s that we’re responding to the environment, we’re responding to our customers and our suppliers and the need. We have to make stuff up as we go because we’d been growing too slowly if we didn’t. Why don’t you give us some of your stories? Tell us how you arrived at Dry Farm but also where you got some of the experience over the years to be in the second-in-command role?
I met Todd, who’s the Founder of Dry Farm Wines, because I was working with Bulletproof as the MC for the Bulletproof Conference for the last couple of years and helping organize the conference. Todd reached out right after he started Dry Farm Wines. He sent a cold email and asked if we wanted to biohack wine at the conference. It seemed like a great idea, but at the time, I wasn’t drinking. I’d given up alcohol because I was trying to follow Bulletproof, a healthy lifestyle and to me, that meant alcohol didn’t fit. I would always get the hangover, I would get headaches and stomach aches that I didn’t want to deal with. I met him there and he offered me a glass of wine and I rejected it. I was grateful that he was there but I didn’t want to drink. A couple of weeks later, we stayed in touch. We had a lot in common. He came out to Chicago and we went to grab dinner and I tried the wine for the first time. Over the course of the evening, I had an entire bottle of wine to myself and this is after not drinking for over a year.
I woke up the next morning totally fine. I was up at 7:00. I went to the gym. I had never had that experience. That’s how I fell in love with these wines. I became super curious about why this was so different and wanted to explore more. My background before this and the company I was working full-time for was a startup in Chicago that was doing Paleo food. I was interested in healthy food and the story around the whole real food movement. Then I suddenly realized that wine followed the same narrative, but no one was talking about it because there’s no transparency in the wine industry. I became curious, a friend to Todd’s, a customer and then I eventually made the jump to join him on this mission.
I’m a member of four different masterminds. Every year, I invest in my own growth and will continue to. One of the four events that I’d been going to for years is called the Genius Network. Todd and I met at the annual event of the Genius Network a few years ago. I was very skeptical. He had a booth set up and he said, “I’ll send you a couple of bottles of my wine.” I was like, “It’s going to be crap. How could it be organic? I don’t know exactly what your wine is based off. It’s not going to be as good as the normal stuff.” Anyway, a case of wine showed up in all different types and flavors. I tried a bottle and I was like, “This is good but the other eleven are terrible.” The next bottle was pretty good and then the third one and I was like, “Something’s going on here.” I wasn’t even aware at times that I’d opened one of your wines versus a normal wine that I was used to. I like the taste of it all. I didn’t do the test on how I felt the next morning, but I’ll put that on my list, and I’ll drink a bottle and see how I feel.
That’s the under the table challenge, drink a bottle and see how you feel.
If Dave Asprey from Bulletproof Coffee is a fan of your wines and I’m sure he is, then I’ll stay the course. Where did your experience come from? Where did you get the skill set to be doing what you’re doing? Give us a little bit of a helicopter tour as to what Dry Farm Wines looks and feels like as a company?
I’ll start farther back and then work forward to where we are. I grew up as a middle child and I was always a peacekeeper in the family. That set the foundation as I grew up. I came out of school as a consultant and then I got into the startup world. I realized after a year of trying to be the CEO of a startup and entrepreneur that I wasn’t very good at making money, but I was good at helping other people. I jumped over and helped another friend launch a business that in a couple of weeks made $1 million. I jumped from there to help this Paleo meal delivery company that was small. I was the first employee.
I was working side by side with the founder. I became the CTO and he was a very intense, very typical quick start founder. He has a lot of passion but very disorganized. He has tons of ideas, but not the type that would execute well on those ideas and clean that up, the very standard things that you talk about all the time. I realized that Todd would be the fourth founder that I’ve worked side by side with. I think I work well in that role and I’ve built up that experience over time working in these four different settings, with four very different people but all following the same founder mentalities.
A lot of the founders have that. We’ve done different personality profiles on the COO Alliance members and also their CEOs. We have an event where we’re inviting the CEO to come with the COO and we’ve got some behavioral scientists and people coming in. We’ve got some marriage counselors coming in, not because people have problems but to take the relationship to the next level. Tell us what you’ve learned about the founders, even the four distinct types. What commonalities have you seen with them and what have you learned in terms of how to help them execute their vision? How to stay on the same page with them? If you were to give yourself advice several years ago, what would you do in terms of how to work with those kinds of people? What have you learned? It’s probably the stuff you take for granted. I’d like you to spend some time there with us.
I personally would love to sit with more and reflect on. I would say one thing that I’ve learned is that I think early on I would get frustrated by just the amount of ideas and the high expectations to move things forward at what felt like an unreasonable pace. What I’ve learned is that all of them and Todd especially, they’re absolutely brilliant. They’re driving change forward and what they need help with is clearing the path to express their art and their craft. Helping organize, receive their ideas and put them down into a system that can help get them out of their mind and be somewhere where we can follow-up on them.
First and foremost, going back to how we started this is to be grateful for who they are because none of this would be possible without them. Every company that I’ve been and has represented, the culture of that company has been a direct reflection of the founder. There is a degree of intensity that comes from someone in that role but it’s necessary in order to create something like this. You have to and all these ideas are amazing. We’re not going to do all of them but be there, be present with them, put them into a system that we can move them forward and track them.
What system do you use?
It’s an ever-evolving one. I would love your thoughts on how you’ve evolved your systems over time, especially because you have this unique experience of switching between the two worlds as COO and CEO. We’ve evolved it quite a bit. We now do what we call weekly campfires, where it’s essentially a weekly admin meeting. Todd and I sit down and we do it with each department also. We track in Google Docs and in these campfire meeting notes the projects that we’re moving along. We use Trello and some spreadsheets to track the progress of those projects. It’s definitely an evolving process.
It’s interesting that we’re going to talk through this, but you’ve answered one of my questions around the meeting that you have with Todd. I want to spend a little bit more time on that too. We did a call with a group of the CEOs that I coach. There were about six of us on a call and we were talking about project planning. We all were on Zoom together and this was one of the questions that they had. We netted it out that at the end of the day, a tool like Trello and Asana or Basecamp or Jira are all good project management tools. The two that we netted out as being the best would be Trello and Asana, but those are like a shovel and a shovel doesn’t dig a hole. A shovel is a tool that if you pick it up and use it, it will work for you. A lot of companies go sideways very quickly when they say, “We need project management, let’s use Trello, let’s use Asana,” without having a good methodology for first understanding what projects to even green light or yellow light or red light.
What we start with is a vivid vision where the CEO has to clarify the vision for the company three years in the future. The CEO can start putting the plans and the projects in place to make that vision come true. The CEO’s random ideas, all great that come up over time get placed into a system, whether it’s Trello or Asana but they don’t get started. They’re in a holding pattern. Almost like every project was a one-pager and you get us a stack of these one-page project ideas together. We use a decision filter to clarify the projects. Every quarter you vote on which projects to put into the stream. Which projects to start on? Which projects essentially to green light? Which projects to yellow light? Meaning, “They’re good we’re going to do them, but not yet.” Which projects to red light? Meaning, “We’re going to kill them. It was a good idea but no longer is.” That process of every quarter is deciding which projects to get started on and then using a system like Asana and Trello.
We also said that it’s important to get your employees trained in it. We often assume that people understand how to do it. We just keep using it and we stumble our way through. Getting a one-hour training session every month or every quarter over video for all your employees to get more skills, even from random people training on how to use Trello or Asana, that can be impactful as well. I think you’re on the right track with it. I will maybe get into a little bit more of the training if you don’t do that already and use the decision filter as a way to decide which projects get started. The rest of your methodology is quite fine.
It’s a good idea to train employees and tools and train everyone on the team. I’ve seen that over and over where we tried to adopt some new technology and it’s only partially adopted. It’s such a simple thing to set aside an hour once a month or once a quarter to do a training session. I love that idea and that’s something that we’re definitely going to start implementing more here.
Our team started using Asana and we went out on Upwork and found somebody for $200 to run a two-hour training session for us on Asana and just over Zoom. They trained us and use screen share and gave us a couple of good crash courses. We’re going to do it again.
We have a pretty young team and so one thing that we have done is some training in Google Sheets and Excel. It’s such a basic tool that is used across the board. It’s something that we’re going to start doing for additional tools as well.
Walk me through a little bit about Todd’s vision. Todd is the CEO and Founder of Dry Farm Wines. You joined very quickly after he’d started. How did he get you on the same page with his vision of what the organization was looking like? What parts of a vision did he communicate to you and what parts have you contributed to?
Todd has an amazing mind and a very clear vision of where this is going. One thing that helps pass this vision both to me and to our entire company is the morning sessions that we do. Often, we’ll add visualization into it. We’ll do a short team meditation and then he’ll talk through some of the vision for where we’re headed and many things that will be coming into our future that we’ll be grateful for. That’s helped a lot and he’s from the beginning seen the progress of this. He’s always thinking about where this is eventually going to be going.
He tries to balance it between seeing the long-term future, the outcome that we want but recognizing that how we’re going to get there isn’t very clear. He’s always known that there’s only so much of this wine that’s available in the world because it’s being made. It’s a natural product. You can’t mass produce it. There are not that many growers in the world who follow all these practices. At some point this will hit a cap and so then, the vision for expanding beyond that, adding new elements to our membership and building out additional revenue streams. He’s passed that vision through all of us.
Do you think it will hit a cap or will awareness start to expand the market as people become more and more aware of it? They’ll start to require more, demand more or growers will convert.
Both are likely the answer. We’ve already created an increased demand for this. We are the largest buyer and seller of natural wines in the world. We’re in Europe a couple of weeks every month, meeting growers, building deeper relationships and working with them to produce more wine of this style. We’re increasing the amount of demand which is going to increase the supply a little bit. The challenge is that it’s a very long process to take a vineyard that is not being farmed organically and convert it to a vineyard that will be farmed organically. It’s a multi-year process. By doing that, the farmer has to make a decision that they’re okay accepting less profit, less yield and less control over the final product. It’s likely to increase demand some especially in the US, but there will be a cap still at some point.
We’d be remiss to not dive into not only what you do as a business, but how you do it. In fact, you’re one of the only companies that I’ve encountered who do dive in so deep related to the areas of gratitude and meditation and how you tie that in and leverage that for business. Can you walk us through, give us the specifics of how you guys have incorporated this into your culture and why it’s so important to you?
At the beginning too, I’m grateful to Todd for this, because companies take on the personality of their founder. We have a very unique culture unlike any that I’ve ever seen or experienced. It’s all a result of who he is and who he’s become over the years. One of the values that he decided early on in his company is that he only wanted to work with people that he truly loved and that he wanted to spend this time with. It’s this whole idea that you go to work and then you come home and when you’re home you’re living life and when you’re at work, you step away from that is a broken model. We try to think about it differently. I legitimately feel like everyone in the company is my family. I love everybody here. I love spending time with everybody. We start every day and we try to protect our mornings. We have our cultural manifesto that we call peace and profit. It all begins with peace. We protect our morning, we meet at 10:00 and we go through our morning session which takes about an hour.
It involves a quiet and silent meditation and then a round of what we call a gratitude therapy, which is an opportunity for every person right after meditating, eyes still closed to go around the room and say what they’re grateful for. We may add on visualizations or anything else journaling. We started a little book club also. It’s an incredibly powerful practice that connects you with everyone else in the organization at a level that is very uncommon. Even to do among your true family, to sit there and tell other people, in a very vulnerable setting or very safe setting why you’re grateful, and what you’re grateful for. From there then to start our day at 11:00, to think about works as a craft.
Not that we’re working, but that we’re contributing, that we are providing value and sharing things with our members in the world. We are ending the day often with a wine tasting because we have to taste wines almost every night in order to source enough of this wine. We often cook together, have dinner together and taste wines together. Then after you’ve drunk a little bit of wine you’re not going to go back, you have a quiet and peaceful evening. In addition to that, the number of events that we go to and we all travel together, 100 events a year. We get the opportunity to go out, experience all these different health conferences, triage in a very intense setting, but go out to amazing dinners together. All that builds into this wonderful family culture.
I want to go back to this one-hour meeting again in the morning. How much time of the one hour is meditation?
The first twelve minutes typically.
How much time then goes into gratitude?
It depends. We’re now at twenty people and so often we’ll take about 40 minutes. Some people only have a few things that they say. It’s obviously very short but heartfelt and other people will go on and say the things that they need to say. It’s pretty surprising and amazing when you are given a safe space what you’re willing to share and sometimes what you don’t even realize that you need to share.
What’s happening in this? Is it because you’re giving people this safe space to meditate and to be grateful, are they then caring more about the company than they would otherwise? I’m sure anyone reading this is probably thinking the same thing as I am. How do you spend one out of your eight hours a day, 12% of your company’s time is not “productive,” getting stuff done? Do you end up getting more done because you’re giving them this zone?
I was very skeptical of these practices early on too and it sounds woo-woo for sure. We meditate together, we hold hands and we share gratitude. It’s a very new-age type of process. In addition to that, if you think about it from the number’s perspective, an hour a day for however many people. We’re now at twenty but it changes over time. Every day of the week, the cumulative number of hours that that builds up to over the year and we can do some math to estimate the value of each person for an hour. Just to say what their work value would be and multiply that by every workday for an entire year. The investment is well over $100,000 a year spent doing meditation and gratitude. When you think about it in that regard, it seems like a huge investment in something that is somewhat woo-woo.
I will say, the research is extremely strong that there are benefits to both meditation and gratitude practices. It’s extremely well-researched. Everyone becomes happier, more connected, more vulnerable, more positive and more optimistic. There are associations with increased productivity and resilience. There are even studies that show that people in the sales department after they start doing gratitude on a regular basis, sales go up. There’s less stress, less burnout and less turnover. Those are all intangible benefits and when you do that every day and you do that very consistently for two years, you see a drastic change in the individual. There’s the individual growth.
There’s something that I’ve noticed as well and this was from talking with Todd. I think your company has gotten to a level that you don’t even care for an ROI from it. You’re going to do it anyway. You know so deeply the impact and enjoy it so much with this action of meditation and gratitude. You’re not doing it because of an impact, you’re doing it because you like doing it and you want to spread it that way. That’s almost the real power of it. If the company has tried to do this to get an ROI that’s when it wouldn’t feel the same.
In looking back, there was a very measurable ROI that has come from it, but that isn’t the point. The point is that in business, the time that we spend here is about developing ourselves and it’s about living at peace and a life that we all want to live. It’s designing a life that we would all be proud of living and to us, a big piece of that is meditation and a mindset of gratitude. That happens to change who we are in a very meaningful way and that therefore changes the interactions that we have with each other, with our members, with our partners that impact the business in ways that can’t be defined.
In going from zero to $25 million in revenue in a few years, you’re getting to success.
It’s showing for sure and it’s an amazing team and everyone seriously loves being here. I’m sure every company says that and I feel that very intensely.
I’ve been thinking a lot about meetings and meeting rhythms and meeting structures since I put my book, Meetings Suck, out. Can you tell me what practices you use in your team meetings and your one-on-one meetings? Walk us through some of the meeting rhythms that you use.
I read your book and I’ve started to evolve how we are doing meetings. They have been often a little ad hoc and not necessarily following the recommendations that you have. What we’ve started to do is this cadence of weekly campfire meetings. We do it with each area of the business and they last an hour. We go through the gratitude, the wins at the beginning and then dive into the different projects that we have. What I’ve started to do is make sure that we have agendas always before starting which is going to guide us through and make sure we end on time. It’s a process where we still have a lot to learn in terms of having efficient and productive meaningful meetings. I appreciate your book because there’s some amazing advice in there that we’re going to distribute to everyone on the team.
Meetings are something you have to keep working towards and working on and they will refine. I tried to give a lot of the best practices in Meetings Suck. A third of the book is written on how to run meetings. I also wrote it so that every employee at every company would read the book because a third of the book is written on how to show up and participate and attend meetings. It’s powerful when you give the tools to the employees because they often don’t even get trained, let alone how to run them but just what’s their role in meetings. The third part is what real meetings we need to scale the company, what specific meeting rhythms we need? Tell me maybe a little bit about your interviewing process, are you guys all in one office? It sounds like you’re all in one office in Napa.
We’re all in Napa and anyone that joins needs to relocate. Almost everyone here has relocated and come out here. It’s part of that whole lifestyle experiment that we’re doing is being together, having the opportunity to meditate and practice gratitude together. You can certainly do all of that being remote but it’s not the same. I’ve worked in remote companies before this and I love it. There’s a lot of value and a lot of benefits but for what we’re trying to do here, it’s just so much more powerful to be together in person.
It also lends itself to the fact that if you’re a wine company, you have to be in the wine country. You can’t be living in Chicago and San Francisco or St. Louis and wherever. You’re close enough to the Bay Area that it’s not that big a deal. If somebody’s going be living in Napa, they can still hang out with friends if they want to.
Napa is one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Todd loves to say, “This is living in a place where other people go on vacation.” If there’s anywhere more beautiful than Napa, we would all be living there.
Tell me about your interviewing process. How do you interview and select people?
It’s a very long process. It goes back to this idea that we want to work with people that we would truly want to spend time with that we would love because this is an important part of living a good life. In addition to having a successful business that makes a difference in the world. We have on our jobs page a listing of our jobs and in that job description, each one is probably twelve pages long. We’d be very clear of who we are. You get a very good sense of who we are from each job application and that filters out a lot to people. When they start reading about the abundance in the universe and gratitude and meditation, a lot of people just drop out, but the people who are passionate about that, who understand everything about biohacking, they get excited and they loved that. Those are the ones that move forward and we have a questionnaire as part of that. That’s about fifteen questions long that is also pretty challenging to get through and it’s very unique.
I ask people some things related to their skill but mostly questions to get to know who they are and to get to a more vulnerable side of them. After that, we read through all of those, schedule a short meeting and greet calls to get to know and ask a couple of questions to kick things off. I schedule a larger team call that lasts about 30 minutes with five of us from the team. We assign two small projects and do a project review call to see how people present and how people approach and think about problems. If we still think that we’re a good fit for each other, we fly them out to Napa to spend three days here, all on us. We do a two-hour interview, but it’s just a conversation. We jump all over the place and it’s mostly getting to know who they are from weird questions like, “What’s your favorite raw vegetable?” A more personal question about who they are, where they grew up, what they were like as kids.
One of the unique parts of what we do also, they come work at the office for a bit, but afterwards they go shopping with Todd to start prepping for a team dinner. Todd learns a lot by shopping with people. This is one of the most interesting pieces. Seeing how proactive people are in the grocery store and how active they are in the kitchen, looking for small things to do, asking where they can help and cleaning dishes when they’re dirty. Just getting a sense for who they are and what type of person they are and the questions that they ask. You can learn a lot from cooking with people and that’s one aspect of the culture. Almost everyone in the company is an amazing chef and so there are a lot of great dinners. There’s this intensity, this collaboration and this group flow that happens in the kitchen. It’s a good learning opportunity when you’re there together in that time.
Whenever I do company retreats, I lead a lot of strategic planning meetings for companies. Whenever I’ve done our own planning meetings in the past, I get the group, the leadership team to stay in a winter cabin, a chalet at a ski resort or a big summer home off of Airbnb place. It’s typically a place where you can sleep eight to ten people and we don’t go out to restaurants. We break the group into two groups and I give both groups money to go grocery shopping. They have to go grocery shopping and each group has to prepare breakfast, each group prepares lunch and each group prepares dinner and we’d split the days. Day one, you alternate. One does breakfast, lunch and dinner and then the next day, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You’re not doing three meals a day. It’s fun where half the company gets to hang out and sit and joke around and have a drink and the other group is sitting, prepping lunch or vice versa. That’s all the team building you need is when you’re going grocery shopping together. It’s amazing to see the meals that people pull together and the creativity and the fun they have just overcooking food. Doing those basic things of living, cooking, eating and hanging out together is all the team building a company needs. We don’t need these hokey team building exercises that the government seems to try to do at their retreats.
There’s a lot that you pick up in cooking because I wasn’t a very good chef or a very good cook before I came out here. Being in a kitchen together and seeing how people identify what needs to be done, how situations or triage when not everything is in the right proportion or things are missing. You do learn a lot and I’m sure with the way that you’re setting it up and doing it in that group, I’m sure you get to identify different traits of different people depending on what role they take in the kitchen.
For one of the next COO Alliance events, I’m going to line up a cooking class. We all go and cook and eat together. I did a fun mastermind dinner a few years ago now. It was twelve very high-level people that were invited to a dinner. None of us were given anyone else’s name. None of us knew the industries anyone else worked in. It was called the Influencers Dinner. We got there and we were all sitting and having drinks and every five or ten minutes the host would tap one of us on the shoulders and say, “Rotate.” He was breaking up a discussion when he saw the discussion getting too in depth so that you had an in-depth discussion with everyone in the room.
We all started making dinner together and there were food stations, two per station and after about fifteen minutes, we rotated stations. Some people stayed and some moved to the next station and then we all sat and ate dinner together. After dinner, each person had to guess what the other person did for work because you weren’t allowed to talk about what you did. It was cool and there were like academy award winners. There was a guy who had just spoken on the main stage at TED and it’s funny because I’d been at the main stage at TED and I didn’t recognize him. When he told us what he does, I was like, “I know exactly who you are. You’re the genome guy.” There was a woman from Young and the Restless, a very famous actress who was in the room. It was a fun event but all we were doing was making dinner together and drinking some wine.
That’s so cool, that’s such a great way to get to know people. I wonder, were you able to guess or have a better sense for who people are after you spend some time cooking with them?
There was a woman who worked in the book industry and I guessed her as a writer. She was a former journalist and now she’s a senior editor for the New York Times. She’s in a very senior role. The girl who was the actress, I was pretty sure she was an actress because we were in LA, but I didn’t want to cheapen my guess. I guess that she ran an eCommerce business because she was quite smart, but it turns out no, she was just on Young and the Restless. The funny one was there was a couple, a husband and wife who were both participating as guests and they didn’t let anyone know that they were married. What happened was one of the guests had dropped out like a couple of hours before the dinner. The woman was like, “I’ll bring my husband and he can be somebody too.” He was a guy. He was like, “I’ve got a job. I worked for this company. I’m a nobody,” and meanwhile his wife was published in Vogue Magazine or something.
Are you a good chef? Do you cook a lot?
I do cook a lot. I used to cook a lot more. I love to cook. I enjoy going off and getting all the ingredients and I made beef short ribs for eight people. I love being in the kitchen because it decompresses me. It slows life down for me and it allows me to put music on and enjoy a glass of wine and prep. I always liked that I’m doing it for other people. I do enjoy cooking.
If you were to cook something to impress someone, you were taking someone out and you wanted to impress them with a good meal, what would you cook?
It depends on how conscious they are on their weight. If they’re super weight conscious, then I would lean in one direction. I do beef medallions and morel cream sauce that is ridiculous. I also do a lobster dish that is tarragon cream and saffron sauce that’s very French. You put the lobsters to sleep standing on their head. It’s cool because the lobsters are all standing and it is like yoga positions on the counter. I’ll probably do those. How about you?
I got into doing this French-style omelet that is incredibly simple but when you do it right, it is the best omelet you’ll ever have. It’s life-changing. It’s amazing.
You’ve got to send me your recipe for the omelet. I will send you a recipe for the best appetizer that I’ve ever served and it’s medieval dates that are stuffed with chorizo sausage and wrapped in a double smoked bacon. You bake them in the oven and then drizzle them with balsamic and serve them with aged cheddar and it blows people’s minds. They’re amazing. It’s got the sweetness of the dates, the saltiness of the bacon and then the spice of the chorizo and it’s pretty awesome. I have one last question. If you were to give some advice to anyone moving into a second-in-command role or even one of the other COO Alliance members, an advice of some big leadership skill that maybe you’ve pulled over the years, what would that be? How could you pass on some good insights for us?
I’ll give two because one would be a skill but the other would be a practice. Meditate with your CEO, which sounds like an intense thing to do but if you can get your CEO to meditate. I have seen such a dramatic change in Todd even over the two years. I can only imagine who he was before but the practice of every day sitting down, and especially when he and I would do it together, when I first came out here was not only incredibly bonding for the two of us. It’s made me a much better person, a much better listener, much more present in everything I do but it also has done that with him. It’s been absolutely game-changing. It’s something that I wish I could have gotten other people that I’ve worked with in the past to do also. It’s something I wish I had done much longer when I started a long time ago because I felt such a dramatic difference. The other thing is to be patient, to be an active listener and to know that if you give things time, they tend to develop exactly as they need to.
The patience component, I was on a briefing call for our camp at Burning Man that we’re going to again and someone was all worried and I was like, “Relax, the playa provides. Everything that you need will show up. It will be there and you’ll be taken care of. Everything will be good and it will work well.” We need to know the vision of where we’re going and drive in that direction. Trust that what we need along the way will be provided and hold hands when we cross the street and milk and cookies are good for you. I love the meditation part too. I want to thank you, Mark, for the time that you shared with us and everyone in our audience.
Cameron, thank you so much. I’m grateful for your work. I’m grateful for Meetings Suck that I’m starting to adopt more and more with our team. I’m grateful for the community that I met at the COO Alliance. I’m grateful for the time that you’re taking to share all this knowledge. It’s helped me a lot and I know it’s helping a lot of people.
You’re welcome. Thank you very much. I appreciate it and I’ll make an introduction for you to Jonathan Levy who runs the Influencers Dinners too. You guys should get some of your Dry Farm Wines out to some of his dinners.
We’d love to.
Thanks so much again.
- Dry Farm Wines
- COO Alliance
- Todd White
- Genius Network
- Meetings Suck
About Mark Moschel
Master of whiteboarding and stick figure drawings. Fueled by lots of Bulletproof Coffee.