Podcast

Episode: 267 |
Lawrence E. Adjah:
Building Community:
Episode
267

HOW TO THRIVE AS AN
INDEPENDENT PROFESSIONAL

Lawrence E. Adjah

Building Community

Show Notes

Lawrence Adjah is an alum of Harvard, McKinsey, Stanford. He is a community builder, business advisor, and pastor.

Several years ago, Lawrence organized a family-style dinner for some acquaintances at a restaurant in NYC. Rule: no phones at the table, no discussing work. Treat tablemates like family.

Participants wanted to attend another dinner and bring people they knew. A movement was born.

Now, the Family Dinner Foundation that Lawrence founded has 50,000 participants.

Last year, Lawrence and his board began exploring how to build community beyond the dinner table, and that focus has now taken center-stage in the age of the coronavirus.

http://lawrenceadjah.com/

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Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. And I’m your host Will Bachman. I’m so excited to be here today with Lawrence Anja, who has an amazing background. He’s been a consultant at McKinsey, as well as a pastor, and he has this incredible foundation. I’m looking forward to talking about the family dinner foundation. Lawrence, welcome to the show.

00:36
Well, thank you for having me. Thank you.

Will Bachman 00:38
So let’s start with the family dinner foundation. Lawrence, tell me how that got started. And you know how you’ve grown it. It sounds incredible. It reaches 50,000 adults. Tell me a bit about the family dinner foundation.

00:55
Yeah, great. It you know, and again, thank you. And I’m grateful to have this conversation. If feminina Foundation started, unintentionally, that’s always what I what I share with people I had moved back from Austin, Texas, I had deferred McKinsey for about a year to finish my track career down in Austin. And when I finished I was starting with the New York office of McKinsey in 2007. So kind of pre 2008 and all that jazz that we had to go through. And when I when I was catching up, as anybody knows, when you’re ramping up, you know, back at a firm or any type of firm, you’re busy, extremely busy. And I was trying to catch up with some of the people, my mentors and people who I knew who I work with over the summer doing banking and the like. And there was one young lady who was became an early director at an investment bank, who had been my mentor during my summer. And I remember speaking to her and her sharing, you know that while things are going extremely well, professionally, interpersonally, she just felt really depressed and lonely. And the fact that she said that in a place like New York, where people literally live on top of one another, it just didn’t make sense to me. And I consistently would have conversations beyond that conversation with her with around men and women and saying pretty much the similar thing that hey, professionally, things are moving forward. But I’m just still disconnected perfectly from people who are weren’t originally from the tri state area. And from that, it hearkened to my experience growing up my parents are Nigerian immigrants came in the late 70s. Both of them were entrepreneurs. But we had no blood relatives, you know, so from Brooklyn, New York to Jersey, they kind of created their own community through the neighborhood by being hospitable. We always ate dinner as a family. And anytime we gathered people over a meal, everyone was invited. And so I similarly thought, Well, that was the way that we were able to build community and people got to know one another, then I feel some sense of responsibility being from here, for me to kind of convene that space. And so I ended up, you know, you know, hosting a dinner at a public restaurant and just invited a friend who I hadn’t caught up with in a while. And our kind of basic thing was just, hey, we’re going to treat this like we’re family being a no phone at the table. No, asking people what they do, you know, every other space that there, but people when they come in, I think they just want to feel genuinely accepted and welcomed, like family. And we did that one evening. And, you know, people, we stayed until the restaurant closed that car mine, and guess it the theater district. And from that moment, you know, we was at Oh my God, I have so many friends who would love this. And we had no name. And we were doing this every other month. And so from 35 people, car minds to 75 to 150 to 250 people every other month for years, we had no name we had no website was all word of mouth. Until 2014. I actually had moved to the Bay area for Business School in 2010. And people had heard about it with word of mouth when there and it wasn’t until 2014 when we grown between those two cities that people say hey, you know, maybe we should probably start a an organization, some sort of infrastructure. So people know that this is credible that this there’s a real organization. And that was the first time we came up with even the name the family dinner.

Will Bachman 04:15
I love it. And so practically to in the earlier years, tell me sort of what would happen. Would you just have like an email list or just give a shout out on some social media or something to say, Hey, we’re meeting at car minds on such and such a date? Or would you make a reservation with the place that they were expecting 200 people to show up? How did it work

04:37
in practice? In practice, I would, you know, that was kind of my gift. So I would, you know, find a restaurant that could that had the capacity at that state. So we got to about 250 a, you know, a dinner gathering, I would try to find those that had 250 capacity, and then I would speak with them about what we’re doing and would try to find Some family style meals that would allow people to share meals, but then ultimately would allow everyone to eat. Our big thing is that everyone eats regardless of what you your restrictions, we want to make sure that everyone can eat. On the other side of it, it would be kind of the word of mouth. And then I’d ask people to then tell people to just email me right to say, you know, if you want to invite them and tell them to email me, so for the first few years, there wasn’t like a central landing place or lead generation or anything like that. It was, oh, wow, my friend, give me your email address, I’m interested in coming and attending the next dinner. And then I would essentially send the email in advance of that point. And one of the things that shifted after even the first few dinners is that anyone who intentionally said that they wanted to come to dinner, you know, whether it was me upfront, initially, I would just call and have conversations with them and try to have a conversation with them, like I was walking in them into my home. And so we our big thing was, especially even on the touch on both ends, was that, you know, people that digital, we wanted to be very careful with digital meaning that digital is great to send an email out, but people get emails from anyone but my, you know, my mom wouldn’t email me, she may email me after she’s called me boasted, how do we make this feel like family, because again, we’ve become more digitally connected than we’ve ever been more isolated, depressed than ever, the research shows. So then, you know, with our digital connection, we tried to be very careful. So if we try to make it personal, and it was essentially email, after we had already had some touch, and then we would invite people, and then on the back end, I would front the cost. And then people would it was essentially like, you know, almost like a principle of word. And afterward, people would pay me or sometimes opinion event, then as we grew up, obviously, we shifted that a bit from email, we had an email list, we had a website, I mean a name, and then establish the foundation, then it was using, you know, kind of a ticketing site, where people would purchase their tickets, we would still call and follow up individually. And then we would essentially share that information. And keep that information on the back end, and then reach out to people periodically when dinners were happening.

Will Bachman 07:05
Very cool. What were some of your tips for someone who wants to organize a gathering of any size? But kind of with this idea? What are some of the tips that you have, or some of the instructions that you gave to folks to you know, he said, you know, don’t talk about work, or ask people what they do? What what sort of guidance would you give people? And to what will help the conversation?

07:33
structure? Yeah. And you actually touched on this as interesting, what the thing that was humbling for me, and everyone was, you realize that, you know, it was hard to really get to know people without those standard questions. And so part of the fun initially was, you know, building up how to, you know, those kind of icebreakers and figuring out how people get to know one another without the general meaning you can get to that eventually. But, you know, a lot of people felt and a lot of people shared, even when they would come to this, they was refreshing is that, you know, in every other context, you feel fine, right? I know, when I’m going to a network reception. Now, you know, what do you do? Where are you from, and you feel on like, you know, this person is going to evaluate me. And whether I’m worthy of a phone call, or it’s very kind of utilitarian. Sometimes it can feel that way in these environments. And you know what you’re there for, in this context, we just said, hey, how does somebody get to feel known and our users always family, our ideal cases out but no family is perfect, right? So our Muse was ideal family and an ideal family setting. What would a family reunion look like? And so first, the first thing was that initial touch, meaning if I invited somebody into my home, their first contact wouldn’t just be an email, I didn’t have a conversation, because you’re coming into my home, I want you to feel welcome, and looked like I would have invited you. The second thing is that when people would come into the context, and this is obviously pretty Corona, everyone was getting hugs and absolutely honored space in the leg. Would you be imagine how many people just haven’t had a hug? Today, not just for such a long time. And so, you know, they would seem hugs and people would literally be present with them. And the funny thing was that the calls beforehand weren’t, hey, just, hey, we’re just been calling you to check in it was just that what can we do? You know, is there anything that you got going on or anything to celebrate? And we would ask them in advance, like moments, things that were important happening in their life that if family were in town, you would celebrate with them? So in advance, we already had some pre wiring and we had information about who is going to be coming in the room. In terms of man, we just had a baby, while we just we just we just purchased the house while I got a promotion, or I’m in remission from cancer for four months. You know, these were the the conversations that people would share in advance. So then when they came in, that person would kind of follow up with them and it was kind of a great warm touch point. So upfront, you kind of have that dynamic and then no one sits down immediately. And then as you’re saying, we have what we call family life. You know these kind of family icebreakers. Once you get to the table. And so we encourage people to sit with people that they don’t know. But the family aspect those are kind of these questions that I call like our more universal open door questions where you can kind of get to know someone around describe yourself in one word, what was what kind of an up, you know, kind of was that what was the high from this past week? What was the challenge? You know, In and Out Burger versus Burger King or McDonald’s was always, always an issue for our west coast or the East Coast, these types of questions, fun questions, but then people would ultimately take we didn’t try to over program but just give people some guardrails. But people sometimes also with in also not have their phone at the table. And that was an unsaid thing. But most people all the time, kind of were like, Oh, of course. And they didn’t realize it could be away from their phone for about two and a half hours.

Will Bachman 10:43
Oh, my God, two and a half hours so that no tweets or anything. So so then you you kind of gave this thing, a foundation, a bit of a home website in the name. It’s now grown to, I think over 50,000 adults. Tell me a little bit about, you know, at least until before the Coronavirus, maybe put a halt on public gatherings? What what, tell me about that growth after you established it and what was it? What was the situation like maybe as of As of December, January? Yeah.

11:17
Yeah. So So what’s interesting is, uh, once 2014, you know, we kind of, you know, put make things a little bit more formal, institutionalize things a bit, you know, we kind of went back to the why. And, and, and this is kind of going to kind of tie into kind of what’s happened over the past two years. And so, you know, I kind of, you know, I, you know, I was class of 2006, Harvard undergrad, and so, you know, you know, Facebook was started on my campus, but my classmates and so, from that time, you know, I was paying, you know, I was very sensitive my entire life to like community, because that’s what my grandfather was a political organizer ever, you know, my mom was very much into kind of like Salvation Army, how do we, so I was always attuned to kind of community and people relationships. And I realized that even in my 20s, fundamentally how we were interacting with one another, like, we were meeting our most important relationship building years behind a computer screen. And so once we kind of started to build this is the backdrop. So once we started to build up some steam, right, and we were, we were growing all the things with word of mouth, you know, we had to kind of figure out, Okay, what is it? What is it that we do that’s unique? Because we didn’t necessarily fully know what exactly we were doing at that time. You know, we’re trying to, you know, building the plane, as we’re flying it. But as we essentially grew, so that also, you know, kind of the partnership, so we started doing a number of partnerships, we partner with AARP, right? Because that, you know, the statistics show that loneliness and chronic loneliness is particularly acute in the 55 plus 60 plus community. So we would do dinners with them so uniquely, to be the 55 plus community, we would then partner with cities, we, and we partner with brands, and we were starting to do this. But then we realized even pre Corona, we realized that we were had an issue like there’s always a problem. The problem was, we It was hard to quote unquote, scale. Now, I’m not thinking of scaling in a traditional sense of how do we just could do to grow this, but we couldn’t meet the need with our model. Because our model is a very, I will call them the center of excellence model Center of Excellence means that we centralize all the resources for hosts and the cities. So city, city hosts are volunteers, who would essentially organize and lead these dinners for the course of the year. And they do two to four dinners in their city from Chicago to to Lagos, Nigeria, or London, you have hosts. Now, we would give all the resources, we would do all the contracts, we would centralize everything. So they didn’t have to do anything. But the challenge is, is that in a place like New York, where New York was about 20% of the population is about 15,000. So 15,000 people, but the 10,000 people, I think, especially before the 2017 2018, even if we did we did a dinner in front of a live nation that larger than it was about 400 people. So you could imagine, even if you did four dinners of completely new people, you’re touching less than even like 20% of the need. And so at some point, we said, Well, what does you know, you know, this can’t just live as these large public dinners. And at the end of the day, I think even beyond the dinner table itself, people still just seek relationship and community. And I think over the past couple of years, until 2017, we did a big partnership with Ford. We went down to essence Music Festival and we did an amazing tour of them around the country. And it did another partnership with AARP. We took some time right after that to say before dinner come family dinner is just an expression meaning you know, we love the dinner table is great. It’s a great gathering but you were a family before the dinner table. The dinner table strengthens it. So in our mind, we said how do we one make it more, you know, kind of be able to meet the needs And so we wanted to test that at home dinner. And so it’s kind of the same thing that people thought when you would, you know, wait even allow strangers into your car. It’s similar. We said, Oh, for these next three years, we’re gonna test this thing out. And we’re gonna do at home dinners within these communities and see that if there’s enough trust based on the existing community to do that, on top of that, if we can’t do dinner, this is where we ended, we said, you know, how does somebody communicate at like family? And so we just started to build a lot of content around checking in what type of conversations you need to have what how do you engage in someone’s life,

15:35
that that that precedes the dinner table, but the dinner table has been an anchor for us. So now leading into now, which is kind of like Corona, we’ve had two years of actually testing the at home dinner to realize that it works. We also changed our mission over the past year to our historical mission was to connect the world as a family across the dinner table. And our mission. Before Corona, we said, You know what, there’s more here, we want to really have a community that’s built on the same values and culture. But the dinner table happens to be a beacon. And we said, Our mission is to connect the world as a family and beyond the dinner table. Then little Do you know, we have this crisis happening and wonderful at AARP. And they’re struggling to say, We need people to call in their their people in the city, by themselves even have children. And right when we’re testing these things, to some degree, it was right on time, you know, in terms of us thinking about this, but that’s where we are now this, like, how do we build this out so that it doesn’t just exist, you know, at the dinner table, but beyond it, so people really have family? And that’s what we’re trying to prove that thesis.

Will Bachman 16:38
Yeah. And so what’s going on now, during the pandemic? How are you leading it now?

16:45
Yeah, yeah. So right now, the conversation has been personal touch. So there’s two things that we wanted to do personal touch. And that’s just been phone conversations, and checking in with people and making sure that they are, you know, they’re, they’re accounted for, I think, you know, our struggle, I think many consultants, I called it like reforming in the light is like, you know, sometimes perfect will be the enemy of good. And I think one of the greatest skills that I learned McKinsey over the years was iteration, you know, it doesn’t exist, it was not on the deck, right? But it was pretty much like, you know, yes, as of today, this is my answer. And so for us, we said, as of today, I know even in where I live in Jersey City there, you know, I gather myself, you know, every third Thursday, I gather my neighbors, I open my door cook, and people come over. And that’s just been the done that’s existed for years. And in that time, just making sure that everyone within our community has received some sort of touch point, call check in from there. That’s number one. Number two, we establish two things, one of which, which we’re we’re in conversation with NPR about now, which is a family unit, and a family group. A family unit, is essentially what you would think it is. It’s essentially a group of people that is organized for mutual care, meaning the family units comprised of 250 plus 260, plus, you know, men or women, a young family, kids or no kids, and a young adult, and then up to 10, that comprises of a family unit. In that time, we’ve given guidance on communication, you know, that’s ultimately it’s just a different game plan. But we’ve given guidance on how to communicate how to care for one another, what it can look like. So right now it’s look like calls and, hey, we’re gonna make a grocery line, we’ll pick up groceries for you, while we’re there, hey, we’ll do a check into coffee, you have a birthday are things happening. So we’ve kind of taken all those things virtually. But we’ve put them in actual units that people can understand. And so from the New York and this area, testing that out and actually doing that interpret the call, as well as in DC Neff. Now we’re tying that into the 60 plus community. So they’re actually now being able to see Oh, wow, does this work? How do we actually continue to do this? So we’ve been doing it a few cities testing those things out.

Will Bachman 19:00
It’s amazing. So after Harvard, you got a degree in sports management right at University of Texas at Austin, and you mentioned that you had a track career going on, I think.

19:13
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. So hook em horns. We, so I actually had my goal when I got to Harvard was to, to compete for one year, and then go back to Nigeria to represent Nigeria, Athens, I end up getting injured my first year at Harvard and retaining a medical redshirt. And so it actually shifted the course of my career because I, you know, I was a multivendor you know, trying to be a catalytic athlete. I was a national champion multivendor. And then, you know, the damage I did to my hamstring was so bad that I Well, you know, I can’t do that anymore. But I could learn a new event, which was where my best friend, you know, really excelled and was an Olympian himself, which was a triple job, but I retained my eligibility so I had a red shirt So when I actually was going through my senior year, I was re recruited. Because I was still nationally competitive in the triple jump as well as my, my, my best friend. And we were we recruited to Texas, it was actually a blessing was like I, well, I get to finish my tracker on my own terms, I get to get a scholarship and then also do kind of feel a study that was ultimately kind of what was my initial interest in business, even when I went to McKinsey, which was kind of sports, and the sports business. And so that’s what led me down to Texas.

Will Bachman 20:30
Okay, that’s very cool. So then you got a master’s in education in sports management. And then after an MBA at Stanford, you have a master’s in divinity from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, and you were pastor in residence at Renaissance church, tell me about your time as pastor and residents. And like, What part? Would that kind of what role that plays in your life today, that idea of being a pastor, and how that fits in with your with your business career?

20:59
Yeah, another one of those I never really thought in a million years, things, you know, it was actually my eyes were open to it through the work. So family dinner, I started getting invited by large churches around the country, you know, who were curious about how we were able to gather a number of young adults, because as you probably know, in the in the West, and I would say Western context, United States, young adult attendance, and many churches, they struggle to attend to attract, you know, young adults. And so they were curious about what what we were doing in that time, I realized that beyond just beyond that, that the tactics that we were doing, for me was much deeper. For me, it always was kind of an expression for me a place of just saying, Man, no one deserves the kind of not to not be in community, no one deserves not to, to have a deep relationship where people deeply care for you and know you fully. And so in that time, it kind of had my wheels turning it was it was during those times, going through these workshops, I ended up receiving some calls to ministry, by these churches. And I said, I don’t know, I never thought that I would ever go into ministry in that way. But it got my mind going to say, Well, part of my inspiration, part of my muse of this community was kind of what I would call like this alternate reality, which always view as the faith community and was what it’s intended to be. And so for me, it kind of connected the dots, because I said, even if you put people in community, I think people still gonna wrestle with the same issues and challenges. Because people are imperfect, even in communities, communities are difficult, right. But I think people just yearn to have a deeper relationship, that I think, quite frankly, human human being an offer. And so I think that’s where the thinking happened. And so actually, when I moved back to New York, from the Bay Area, and family dinner was growing, I moved to Harlem, I was gonna move back to Jersey City where I am now I love Jersey City, and I’m always Jersey City. But one of them one of my good friends was starting a church in Harlem, and who had been a part of even the community that I was building, he just saying, Hey, man, you have a, you have a gift to gather, you know, disparate people, people who would normally be at a dinner table together. And I’m trying to do that, you know, through a faith community here in Harlem, and I believe in what he was doing, I said, I don’t need a title, I’d love to be happy to serve. And things started to go. But again, you know, when I was receiving those offers to go into ministry formerly at these large churches, and I never had a drop of theological education beyond just, you know, church and having great mentors. I said, oh, maybe that’s my indication that maybe this is going to, I need to prepare for something a little bit later. And so just, you know, I never thought I would go into even pastoral ministry, I just thought it was gonna help me be a better leader, to be honest of the people who are volunteer, we have volunteered to volunteers on an annual basis across all of the cities. And I said, Hey, for me, I view those relationships in my pesto early, which means caring, being very caring, being very sacrificial, and serving of them, because they’re doing this for free. No, none of us can really be paid for these things. But yeah, it kind of expanded beyond that. And in the work I was doing, as the pastor read that I was also the community life pastor. It really optimizes that wow, this is this kind of rounds it out for me because it’s a little bit deeper than even physical relationship. I think people want something more than that. But you know, that’s kind of what led led that work.

Will Bachman 24:26
What surprised you about getting the degree the master in the master divinity degree or in the pastor in residence? What was what sort of surprised you about that whole product experience?

24:41
Oh, yeah. What surprised you? I would say that trust takes time, you know, or I’ll put it this Well, I think it’s a similar it’s a similar, I think comparable to business often when and I’m not saying face in business what I’m what I’m saying is that a lot of times, on the outside things seem so, you know, like individuals or you meet somebody they seem so put together and you know, that they have their life together, things are perfect. And you see that with organizations and great brands, we love the like, Oh my god, they must be extremely well run. And even in the most extremely well run, places where you have people who are just genuinely trying to be the best they can be. There is a heavy level of dysfunction. And I think what surprised me is I think sometimes you have these, these glasses, you kind of are this very, I’m very optimistic and hopeful person and I and then shift that, what it did, it did, it just humbled me to the reality of the work of any human endeavor is hard work. I knew that from growing up, my parents were entrepreneurs who knew everything they ate they worked for. And for me, you know, being, you know, tied into that and building a business myself. But you don’t realize that the weight of human suffering, you know, the people who you think have it all together, who have all the connections who have all the things, they’re they’re smiling in their their marriage photos, and they’re fighting, like you realize that really suffering is more of the norm as opposed to anomaly. So that was the biggest surprise to me, I think that actually really set in to say, in general, people are struggling, that’s the best the baseline. And in helping people to get to that place where it’s not this just slog, but life is something worth living, I think is was the joy. And I was surprised from it. I’d like how much joy I found in the best of life. And then also, I would say that those are the two things for me is this guy found a lot of joy. And even in hearing the worst things that people are going through things that they’re struggling with, just being able to hear them and just be excited about, hey, I want to be with you on that journey. And I think it’s a similar thing, when I would say that the struggle with the consultant in relationship is like you’re much as you’re as much a problem finder as a problem solver. And so for me, I just said similarly for business, I get joy when I hear about business issues and problems that I think I could help solve. It just brings me joy. So similarly, with human beings, I found the similar joy of like, wow, we all were all messed up in some way. And we’re all trying to do our best to live better lives and be the best we could be for each other for our loved ones for the world. And I found such great joy. And I still do find such great joy in helping people to navigate that

Will Bachman 27:39
your point about sort of projecting onto people that seem like they should have ever, you know, be all set rings true. I mean, I know that some friends of mine who have been very, very professionally successful, and have networks that are an order or two or three of orders of magnitude higher than mine. They go My God, if I had, you know, had an exit like that, I’d be all set. But when you’re friends with people, and you’re just chatting with them, you realize that problems don’t go away. Just you have different problems. And so that that, that that resonates. Tell Tell me a little bit about you are also running your own consulting practice your advisory practice. Tell me a little bit about the you I think you’ve been doing that for a while. Tell me a bit about that side of your set of activities.

28:37
Yeah, yeah, I’ve always had a bit to kind of, you know, make it think of things as being multi vocational by vocational partly because in one sense, I never, you know, and I really honor the work. But I also ultimately was always struggling with I wanted people to know genuinely the work that I did in ministry was because I really cared about them, not necessarily because this is how I make my living. I think it’s a very, very clear distinction, I don’t think and no think that that takes away from anyone who does do that. I knew from just just my colleagues and people just want to know, like, Hey, I’m doing this because I generally want to and I also think that it frees me up to be more of a truth teller, my livelihood depended upon people leaving the one I think, too. I just always love business, I love the idea of building things. And whether I was the one building it or you know, someone else was, but I think the story the genesis of the story, is this like an McKinsey I think, you know, I did my summers at at Merrill Lynch at that time before the Bank of America Merrill Lynch and the fake the financial institutions group and investment banker was I think, it kind of gave me kind of a taste a bit of just kind of industry and the you know, how things work in general, but for me, I just had, I still wasn’t sure what industry I really really had an interest in, but I just loved sports, and I loved entertainment. I love film, but that’s another big passion of mine. I sit on the overall Film Festival. work, I love film. And those are the two areas that I love. I love sports. I love film. I love content, like the newspapers. And I like that the thing I love about movies, the thing I love about sports is that it brings people together. And it was kind of something connected. And so when I joined McKinsey, I, you know, I didn’t even know before McKinsey that it had just a robust throwing sports practice. But I ended up meeting

30:25
who’s my mentor, now, Chris Walters, and Dan singer, and the team in New York, and otherwise, you serve the NFL, wow, you serve the NBA, you know. So So for me, it was just like, you know, I realized early on that I’m more, I’m driven more by the industry than so much the function. And from that time, the great thing about that was that you get that exposure, as everyone knows, you get that exposure, you learn so much in a short amount of time, the struggle though, with even once leaving, you know, what I would call sometimes the I would say, the biblical deck, you know, like you do all this work. And then they have their data, and they may or may not take the guidance and recommendation, I was so invested in it. And so we were once I left there, and I joined the sport entertainment agency, and I was doing work, learning sales and all that. I just said, I really care about building a relationship with the clients that I work with and maintaining that relationship, whether I’m serving them in that season or not, I want to be a thought partner more than anything, because for me, it’s I’m driven by relationships, you know, and I think many people relate in listening to this is that relationship for me, I made it and I was curious about the business, I was curious about sports and entertainment. That’s curious about I loved how the impact that had on society. And then I also thought that the people that I would work with, were just remarkable and extremely brilliant thinkers, and I just love being able to talk shop with them. Hold on. So what ended up happening was that after I left the sport and entertainment marketing agency, at that time, we initially wanted to invest in what I’ll call a multicultural division, because most of their work with general market. So think of this as your traditional sponsorship fail. Right? You know, city City Bank went through sponsored a PG PGA Tour of Citi Bank pays for commercials, out of home billboards, the like, I was doing that type of sales, but I said, hey, there’s an emerging opportunity, specifically in the area of what people call now multicultural, you know, marketing. And so I kind of started there, there were a number of properties, you know, initially with the film festival, or who just said, Hey, I need someone to help us think through how to grow this film festival. It started from just doing work out of out of hide in that way, then to just saying, Wow, I literally like helping things grow. And then it became Wow, okay, let me just focus on these in these verticals. Well, what are exhibitioner is what people call the movie theaters, what are they doing? What’s AMC theaters doing? What’s Annapolis doing in India? What are these things going to bring people in the movie theaters, because, for me, that’s my interest, I want to bring people together physically, soon, because we’re at the stage now in world where we soon will have to leave our house for anything. Now we don’t have the choice. But before we were doing it voluntarily, we’re like, I don’t have to go to the supermarket, I don’t have to go anywhere, I can get everything from my home. So I always was pushing against that. So I started to build relationships in those in those areas. And then what I would present to them would be a vision, and just say, hey, and these areas of growth and bringing people together, rethinking your space to be more than just a theater, it should think of it as like a public square, how do we help? How do we go on the journey to kind of get there? What could we do? And that became this kind of my approach to kind of building business. It’s just saying, here’s what I’m seeing happening in this industry. And here’s some things that I think would be interesting, what are you guys doing in these areas, and then even if not, if they’re not open, or they’re not they don’t have budget, or things are committed a lot of times to spark a relationship that I would just maintain, and then trust and credibility has been built. And then they’d come back and say, hey, let’s try something. And that’s how I kind of built that business over the years.

Will Bachman 34:00
That’s fantastic. What what’s your what’s your prior? What’s your focus of it? Is it primarily like exhibitioner, like this multicultural marketing piece? Or, like, what would be your core core client?

34:13
Yeah, I would say I would say the it I’ll say, particularly sports and entertainment broadly, but go strategy. Right, so growth strategy, as the function of sports and entertainment. The I think the outlier is I have a unique love for purchasing and procurement. I think you could blame the NBA the NFL for that I spend a lot of time doing that for them and all the teams, but but you know, that would be my air. And so for me, that’s a big bucket, you know, so that could be the digital content. It could be movie theater. But all of those things for me if the industry and the impact is what kind of like Helms thinks together but growth strategy is a function that I’ve that I’ve been specifically focused on.

Will Bachman 34:55
Fantastic, Lawrence for folks that want to find Find out more about you reach out to you what’s the best place for people to go either online or on Twitter or just any, any virtual links you want to get?

35:10
No problem. And thank you. So if anyone was out, they can go to my website, which I think is the easiest way to go to WWW dot Lawrence arja, la, w r e n c e, an apple D as in David, David jack as an apple ages and hello.com. Clearly I say that a lot when calling customer service. So large id.com is the great way or they could find me just on kind of social media, my last name ad j. h underscore L. I tried to go to social media to have conversation so you know, definitely feel free to reach out to me through there as well.

Will Bachman 35:49
Well, thank you. So Lawrence, you’re an incredibly incredibly impressive range of accomplishments. And you know, I so admire your efforts to build community which so many of us lack you know, that sense of connectedness and Orson Orson or the opposite sense of loneliness and what you’re doing to address it. It’s really, really inspiring. Thanks so much for being on the show today.

36:14
Well, thank you. It’s a privilege and I’m grateful and I really admire the community you build. So I’m really grateful for this privilege. And I hope that people were inspired and, you know, to get to build community where they are at

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