- Mark Olivito
Inspiration & Purpose: The United States Coast Guard Custom Compass
I absolutely love the Human part of business. Solving problems. Learning about people. Building relationships. Growing. Like anything, it requires practice and discipline to improve over time.
We come across people from all walks of life at PAVERART and they all have their own story and journey. Some of the people we encounter we are fortunate to understand their journey on a deeper level. So with that said, I'm proud to share with you a great American, 25 year Coast Guard Veteran and now a friend of PAVERART, Mr. Joseph Connolly.
Yes, there is a beautiful PAVERART design at the core of this, but the parallels this project has to everyday small business life are hopefully interesting as well. Personally, I have yet to find the person that successfully "buckets" personal life and business as if they were 2 separate worlds. Life is messy, and lines get blurred all the time.
Below you will find 4, 2 minute video clips of Team PAVERART with Mr. Connolly, as well as the full 45 minute discussion. And plenty of observations, thoughts along the way. But first....
Dog Walks, Mental Health & Purpose
A couple of Pugs and a 15 year old (NON-morning person) on a 6am walk before school with dad usually has at least one aha moment. Dominic uttered something recently that broke through my mind:
"That Person has anxiety issues."
My first, NOT better instinct was to think back to the early 90's and the phrase anxiety issues wasn't really a thing. Or at least we didn't talk about it. Visions of an old school coach yelling "rub some dirt on it" come to mind, but I digress.
The truth is, Dominic hit a nerve.
FEAR. The UNKOWN.
IF not managed they can reek havoc on one's mental health. My mind, especially at early hours in the morning is like a mental freight train. The best way I can describe this?
IF you've ever seen a state lottery broadcast where they pull numbered ping pong balls that are flying in a glass container at warp speed.....those ping balls are like my mind at this hour. I sometimes think of this as inner demons rearing their ugly head.
Yesterday when talking about the Mental Freight train, Mike said we need to do a POD on this topic, so we did. Hopefully talking about these challenges creates a bit less loneliness in the world....
For me, a 4:30am walk is the best method I've found to keep the freight train under control. It's usually pitch black, and in the NJ Winter, pretty bitter. The routine follows a predictable pattern:
First 15 minutes, absolute struggle. But the walk through our little town, the mom and pop shops and the train station perks me up a bit. But the freight train is in full force, all the worries/pressures/unknowns associated with topics all business owners grapple with. The freight train has been around for 20 some-odd years. It's something I do NOT dread, but expect and have to confront.
Next 15 minutes its more pleasant, a 24 hour convenience store is en route and fresh coffee!
The next half hour to 45 minutes the magic of endorphins caused by increased heart rate work their magic. My mind slows down. I start thinking about all that is right with our country, all that I'm grateful for.
Like clock work, ONLY after I cross minute 60 do the brain waves start to fire a bit and look forward. What can be done to make a difference? It's only after crossing the 60 minute mark that the freight train goes away, and things start to fire in a positive vibe.
I'm not sure if this could fall into the "anxiety" category and the way I personally try and deal if it is relatable, but there it is for me. The walk is a difference maker. And after 60 minutes something more powerful then the walk.
GRATITUDE. It's probably the #1 word I would use to combat ANXIETY. Like many things, understanding it's power doesn't happen overnight. And it's hard to impart this on youngsters.
Building a successful, growing and sustainable business has similar challenges. Like the gratitude discipline on my walk, I've found that having a broader purpose has real value.
It's why I've always been drawn to all things Military. Working with Veterans. Talking with them. Listening. They embody Mission. Service. Team. It's about MORE than just the individual, and understanding that is critical.
We were blessed in late 2022 when Mr. Connolly, came to PAVERART.
Like many potential clients, he had a general idea of a Compass Rose with the US Coast Guard Seal as a centerpiece. This level of detail in a SMALL diameter (small equals less than 6' diameter) is impossible with PAVERART CUT pieces, so other durable solutions need to be found. We knew our custom engraving and Eco-Fill technology could solve the problem.
The JOY of PAVERART for me is in part, the products that we create. Products are the tangible output of our team's work. Building great products you are proud of, with wow factor and a built to last structure matters. But the more impactful part of our work has to do with the second part of our name: ART.
ART tends to be emotional.
ART tends to have deep personal meaning. There's often a story behind it.
ART tends to be completely unique.
Mr. Connolly allowed us to work with him over the course of a few months to let his vision come to life. Brian did the lion's share of the work, at Mr. Connolly's side going back and forth. Dominic played a role on the color side of the equation. Than the entire team tends to touch the product in one way shape or form when it comes to building it.
Here's a 90 second clip of the design process narrated by Mr. Connolly himself. When clients share their story and walk down memory lane, I can't thank them enough!!
I tell people that are contemplating business ownership or the glamorized world of entrepreneurship to go into it with eyes wide open. I describe it as ....THE GRIND. It is hard. There's a massive difference signing the FRONT of a check vs the back. It is NOT glamorous, the process to get to whatever your definition of success is. Unless you learn to embrace the HARD, the UN-glamorous, it can really beat you down. Incidentally, I think business owner's tend to have a mental freight train that runs a bit different. I personally wouldn't trade it for anything, but the freight train is real.
At PAVERART, we have our fair share of GRIND. In fact, GRIND is on the back of our shirts. We think of it as a CORE Value. It's in our DNA and we don't run from it. That does not make it easy, but it does make it manageable.
Back to Mr. Connolly and the co-creation of the Compass Rose, some thoughts and observations.
It's a real thrill when our clients become invested in their PAVERART creations. It's even MORE of a thrill when they share their own talents, decision making and collaborate as partners. Here's a mockup Joe created as he was working the Compass Rose Development in conjunction with his material selections.
The PAVERART custom design process does require patience, communication and a bunch of give and take. I encourage all manufacturers NOT to dabble in the world of custom manufacturing if you wake up and think about anything related to VOLUME. In other words, get MAXIMUM QUANTITY of X out the door. Custom and Volume under the same roof are arch enemies and should not be joined together.
I've often poked fun at owners who refuse to name their personal favorite product their business puts out. It's as if they are going to offend one of their other children!
For me, our MILITARY Designs are at the top of the list. Followed closely by our Compass Rose collection. Service + True North (purpose/direction). It speaks to me. Mr. Connolly's Compass Rose merges the two, with personalized components that hold true meaning.
So obviously we are proud about the creation. But I'm MORE proud of the PROCESS. Getting to know Mr. Connolly and hearing his story.
We talked about how he became interested in joining the US Coast Guard. This 2 minute clip sums that up nice:
There are some subtle learnings I had with our conversation.
Gaining new people (recruits, customers, team members) usually starts with some level of gaining attention. That's table steaks. But the PRODUCT matters too.
I talk a ton on podcasts, writings, etc on career choices. Here's some thoughts on solid reasons why someone should consider the US Coast Guard (or military in general).
Team. Mission. Values.
Purpose really does matter. Going back to the GRIND for one moment:
If a fair amount of the journey may be challenging, un-glamorous, stressful, would it not make PERFECT SENSE to believe in the organizations mission? And WHO you are doing it with?
Some final thoughts, kind of random.
In life, there tends to be a "Bell Curve" distribution of talent, performance, outcomes. 10-20% are exceptional, an equal portion are BELOW expectations, and the vast majority "average." Finding the extremes on both sides is fairly easy. Working with exceptional people is the name of the game in small business. They tend to energize you. They help you deal with your own mental freight train. But you need to have your antennas up at all times for the exceptional to enter your world.
I'll give you an example, utilizing our experience with Mr. Connolly.
When emails and communications happen, are they responsive, or do they take 3 weeks to happen? Do you have some type of emotion (laughter, smile) or is it arm's length/transactional? Do you LOOK forward to the connection or does it become another task? Does the communication/process make you BETTER, more ENERGIZED or is one of many. Exceptional people tend to leave clues fairly quickly, as we had with Mr. Connolly.
My overwhelming bias with Military is that they fall into the EXCEPTIONAL category. I can't tell you if this is my "good fortune" or it's a FUNCTION of the Military training, but I can tell you that I have DEEP experience with 5 individuals (one is a PAVER-Artist) and they all fall into this exceptional category.
I've encouraged business owners everywhere to seek out Veterans in any capacity you can. They embody all that is great about our country.
I now encourage HIGH School Students to consider the Armed Forces as a career option. Mr. Connolly gives his perspective in the interview and shares the following link for the US Coast Guard as well. A tremendous opportunity with one of the greatest organizations in our great country.
As always, thank you for taking the time! If you'd like to listen to our entire conversation with Mr. Connolly, here's our conversation. We'd love your feedback.
If your the texting type, here's my cell: 908-873-7522
All the best, Mark