Take a moment and think about your passions, your dreams and your day-to-day work. What is it you do? More importantly, why do you do it? What is it exactly that you are pursuing? When you examine these questions don't just take the surface level answer. Dig a bit deeper. Why are you trying to get new clients? What is your real endgame? Some people chase wealth, others chase fame and still others believe they are making the world a better place, or trying to. It's natural to wonder at the motives of others, and often just as natural to forget about ours. Why do we do what we do? What's it all for? For Andy Russell, it's about people, helping them and aiding them in building something.
I met with Andy on a day mixed with rain and shine in Charleston, at a wonderful space on Rutledge Avenue, the Park Cafe. It was the first time he had been here and I actually used to live down the street. Nice is not the word to describe Andy, there is genuine warmth and soul there, the smile in the picture is absolutely genuine, as his is interest in people, their passions and their purpose. He is quick and sharp, attentive to every word you say, absorbing it all, but also an eager student when in someone else's world. Andy is legitimately the kind of guy I like to share a beer with and chat for a few hours, so this breakfast was a real treat.
He is married to his college sweetheart. Hearing him talk about her is truly hearing a man in love talk. Not the simple puppy love of childhood, but the voice of a man who has found a missing piece of himself, a reflection of who he truly is that he has shared his heart with. It's a beautiful thing. His wife is not just his partner in life, but a partner in business, specifically in a company focused on providing a vertical solution financial solution encompassing all of the roles from bookkeeping to CFO duties. It's a fascinating solution, focused on the client and on a personal experience in an era where technology is seeking to replace the human factor at every turn. The personal approach is something that Andy is passionate about, you can hear it in his tone and see it in his eyes as he talks about it. It's not so much a market differentiator as it is a true belief that people should be dealing with people they know and have built a relationship with.
Relationships are important to Andy. He saw me present this idea months ago at 1 Million Cups Charleston and immediately wanted to be one of the 100. It was incredible to him, something that caught his imagination. I was going to reach out and seek to build relationships with 100 people. He loves the idea, asks about the people I have met and how I have been impacted. Like I said, Andy loves relationships, both the building and the maintenance.
Another factor that intrigues him is the way in which I began. I left my job, but I had some cushion to fall back on. It wasn't completely wreckless. In a society where we venerate entrepreneurs so much, we often see people head out with nothing and no plan, putting all of the undue pressure on themselves and often buckling because the path to success is often slow. When he and his wife made their leap, they made it one at a time, holding onto his corporate job in order to maintain some safety while she began this journey. After a little while, he joined her and now they are moving forward with this journey together. It is incredible, a calculation born of love for something so sincere, that they took the leap safely and together.
A huge part of our conversation boils down to that conversation about why you do something. We both are people who love to help people, who want to see the world made a better place. For us, money is a means of paying the bills, a source of financial freedom, but it should not be the primary reason you do something. He tells me about if he had excess money, he would seek out interesting projects and businesses to invest in. We talk about the world, about our stories, about purpose and passion. He tells me about his passion for helping people build their organizations, about being a part of that. I tell him about my love of storytelling, about how it can inspire us and make the world a better place.
We both love inspiration, my new friend Andy and I. I think we found it in each other, and took a moment to ask ourselves why we do what we do. It is about people for both of us, about building their organizations and telling their stories. It's about relationships, which is why we took a moment to start our friendship on the day before a tropical storm comes to Charleston.
Favorite Dinosaur: Triceratops
Why: He had a toy one as a child, so it was the first one to come to mind.