Cup 55: Joey McGirr – Barista turned business man, connectivity advocate, loving husband and dad.

Joey McGirr Cup 55 Coffee With a Stranger

The Place: Monkey Nest

The Cup: Joey had a meeting prior to ours, so his cup was empty by the time I arrived. When I visit a new coffee shop, I rate them by the deliciousness of their iced coffee, so I had to give the Monkey Nest version a try. It did not disappoint.

Background: This will not be a shocking statement to anyone who has read a few of these posts. Cup 5, Steve Harper is the reason Joey and I met. I might safely say Steve is the reason 20% of the people in Austin know each other. Truly, that wouldn’t be a stretch. He hosts a monthly event called the 8 Minute Ripple that is the most fun a person could have meeting a house full of strangers. If you’re in Austin, I highly recommend you go!

The first time I met Joey in real life (we were already connected on Twitter) he was speaking at a Ripple on the topic of “omnipresence”, a term Joey uses to describe his social media philosophy. It’s not so much about actually being everywhere – it’s about using the vast array of tools out there to make it appear that you are everywhere. Despite how many of us feel when we consider that (overwhelmed, for example) Joey contends it’s not so hard and takes less time than you’d imagine.

He’s so passionate about this topic, he’s made a career out of doing it and teaching it. More on that in just a bit. First, let’s cover some:

Common Grounds

  1. How did you make your first buck? When I was six or seven, I had a wagon and I went around the neighborhood collecting flowers from the neighbors on one side of the street. Then I went to the other side of the street and sold the flowers to the neighbors on that side.  I also had lemonade stands. My first real paying job was at Chuck E. Cheese’s. I had the best job because I dressed up in a rat suit and played with the kids in the ball crawl. It was a lot of fun.
  2. What’s a food you can’t live without? Burgers.
  3. What is your guilty pleasure? Music on Spotify, TV shows on Netflix and coffee.
  4. What is your favorite way to unwind? Put on my pajamas, turn on the TV and watch a show on the couch with my wife. We have amazing furniture – I’ve never had couches that were more comfortable in my whole life.
  5. What was your favorite TV show as a kid?  I was a big fan of Duck Tales. I also liked Transformers. When I was in High School, I loved Star Trek The Next Generation. My wife and I recently went through all seven seasons on Netflix.
  6. What’s the best place to eat in Austin? Trio at the Four Seasons for my high-end choice, and Cheddars for casual. Moonie’s Burger House is also good.
  7. What is the last thing you fixed? I’m not really a fixer – I’m more cerebral. Our garage door broke recently and I tried to fix it, but then I realized it was under warranty so I got to wipe my hands of that project. My wife is more of the fixer.
  8. What is something you’ll regret not doing, if you don’t do it? I really try to challenge myself to never have any regrets. Plus I have a poor short-term memory so I just forget I wanted to do something and don’t have to regret not doing it.  I do regret not having done something though. My passion all growing up was to be a film maker. I wanted to go to Cal Arts and be Steven Spielberg or the guy who made The Pirates of the Caribbean and make totally unbelievable, over the top movies. I regret not going down that path. But at the same time I don’t regret it because I’m a big believer in ‘going with the river’ and if it goes to the right, you go to the right. I’ve learned to go with it.

Joey, like many of us here in Austin, came here from somewhere else. For Joey, home BA (before Austin) was San Diego, where he grew up and lived until fate would intervene, and leave him making what he calls “the best decision of my life”. Unfortunately, before we get to that happy moment, we’ll make a pit stop at a little place known to many as “Rock Bottom”

After high school, Joey tried the whole college thing, but never seemed to find his groove there. He says he “floundered” for a while before dropping out. He started his first business, a professional photography business, at 18 and managed to do pretty well for a while. A gig he told me about as a highlight was being hired to do the concert posters and album covers for a band. Pretty much any 18 year old guy’s dream. 

Joey ended up in sales, selling Pre-paid Legal, and he flourished. His success was in part due to the fact that he was, as Joey puts it,  “a hyper-connected kind of guy”.  The other part of his success was his willingness to tell his story to anyone who would listen, anywhere. He laughs as he tells me he was, “ignorance on fire.” I laugh too and decide that would make a great name for a rock band.

Eventually, his successful career would come to a screeching halt when Joey met a girl. A girl who liked him so much, she wanted to see him more than his 14 hour work days would allow. So he quit and took at job at Lens Crafters, so he could have a more regular schedule.  He married this girl and in 2006, when they went through a painful divorce, Joey found himself on the steep road to Rock Bottom.

Still licking his wounds from his failed marriage, Joey was dating casually in 2007, when he and the girl he’d spent four dates with decided to be “just friends”. Perfect! Until she showed up 21 days later to let him know she was, you guessed it, pregnant.

Crap! Now what?

They considered the options and when Joey’s “baby momma” (which he jokingly referred to her as) suggested adoption, Joey said, “OK, I’ll adopt it (“her” he’d later know). Based on how life had been going at the time, I was more than a little surprised when Joey tells me about his response. Joey says, “I was in my early 30s and at that age, you just have to make things right.”

While things would get worse before they got better, Joey says, “When you make a decision, it puts you on a course. That choice put me on a new course.”

Joey’s daughter, Madison, arrived 14 weeks early and spent her first 3 months in neonatal intensive care. Not quite ready to handle a newborn with respiratory issues, completely on his own as he worked a part-time and a full-time job, Joey found himself living with the parents of Madison’s mother, in their trailer in the corner of a room that doubled as an office. All of his worldly possessions tucked into a few boxes that were crammed under the twin-size bed that was his home. He’d arrived. At Rock Bottom.

Of this time in his life, Joey says, “There were tears every day and a lot of anger.” Joey and Madison’s mom weren’t meant for one another. The lesson that had taken then only four dates to figure out, would play out every time they tried to interact and make decisions about parenting. Eventually, fate would intervene and set them both on separate courses, interestingly, to the same place. Texas.

The part-time job Joey had been working in San Diego was as a barista at Starbucks. His family had relocated to Texas a few years prior, so Joey made a few calls to the Starbucks stores near his family, and one of the first managers he spoke with had only one question: how soon can you get here?

Shortly after arriving in Texas for a fresh start, Joey would meet another girl. Determined not to repeat the mistakes of his past, he moved slowly. Actually, I need another word. What’s slower than slow? Turtles are slow. Sloths are even slower right? Oh I know! Have you even gotten a terrible haircut? Everyone’s response is  the same, “Don’t worry, it will grow out.” Then, for the next few weeks, or months even, with hope in your heart, you look in the mirror every morning and holler, “When? When will it grow out?” Joey moved slower than hair growing.

Luckily, his apprehension and fear was matched by the patience of the girl. They started off by going to the movies alone, together. Gradually, they moved on to watching DVR’d TV shows together. By six months, Joey tells me, “A friendship had formed.” That’s where things would stay for the next two years. Eventually though, they began dating and within the year they were engaged and then married and Joey says he’s living the dream! He tells me his wife is the greatest mother in the whole world.

Joey’s daughter Madison is turning six shortly, and she’s a lucky girl! Her parents managed to find a way to put their differences aside for the sake of the one thing they could both agree on – the fact that they loved their daughter and that she deserved a healthy, happy childhood. Joey says everyone gets along, for the most part, but it’s something they have worked really hard at. I’m really impressed with this. Too many people carry around their anger and resentment, afraid to let it go for fear that it will make them look weak, or send the message that what was done to them was OK. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

Joey has obviously got this figured out.

Filled with no shortage of entrepreneurial ideas of his own, I was surprised to learn that Joey’s business was inspired by a similar business that Joey felt he could be doing better.

It was Thanksgiving and he and Madison were watching TV waiting for the parades to start up. As they watched, a story came on about a guy named Jason Sadler who started a company called I Wear Your Shirt. And that’s what he did. He used his network and influence to convince companies to pay him to wear their shirt, start a dialogue about the company or product and then share the story and conversation across a few channels – You Tube and his blog primarily (at the time). Joey saw that idea and knew he could do it, but better.

So he did.

Today, McGirr Enterprises employs a handful of full-time employees who work with Joey to fulfill their mission which is – Be helpful. More specifically, they help businesses connect to the community and create lasting relationships within that community which equates to advocates. Joey’s position is that traditional advertising doesn’t work (or at least not on him) and says that getting people to support your business is much easier and cheaper than putting up billboards all over town. It’s about telling your story and making friends.

Joey says that people want to be a part of a community, communities want to help and people want to be a part of doing good, cool stuff. He reminds me of a story I first read about in Inc. Magazine a few years back, about a kid who saved his mom’s bookstore with a Tweet. Check out this video for the story  (it’s less than two minutes long).

Unlike any time before, we have many ways to get connected and to stay connected. Joey loves helping people understand what the tools are and how best to use them. Regarding his approach to his business, he has this to say, “I love to teach people to fish. I feel good about getting them on the right track. Then I can move on and teach someone else.”

What is a ritual Joey does or a habit he has that contributes to his overall success? He has this to say about regular, daily routines: “I try, but I really fail at that. Every day I’m going in 10 different directions. It’s so important for me to know what’s going on before it actually happens. My routine is to work really hard at following the signal. And it’s not just about reading everything that comes through, but being skilled enough to know what to read and where to find it. There are constantly new avenues for exploring. So I guess you could say my daily routine is exploring.”

I ask Joey about something people might be surprised to learn about him. I love watching people’s expression as I ask this question. Everyone has a least a micro-expression of some sort that I like to pretend I know how to interpret. Most of the time, I see a thought enter their mind and immediately can see them smile (or smirk) as they shoo the answer away with (I’m only assuming here) the thought, “Well, I certainly can’t tell her that!” In fact I did have someone tell me once, “Well if I told you, then everyone would know.” Good point. I’m not fishing for deep, dark secrets here, but I love to see the wheels turning as people comb through nuggets to find an appropriate one to share.

Joey never really manages to come up with one. Which is OK. “I’m out there,” he tells me. Which is cool. I get that answer at least 50% of the time. People tell me they are an open book. Usually though, these folks end up sharing something fantastically wild.

Why do I love the question? We are complicated. What we put out there for a stranger to see is only one part of who we are. For me, the question serves as a barometer for “How am I doing connecting to you?”  There, now my secret is out. This question is a secret agent – on a mission to determine the level of connection I’ve managed to achieve. Everyone is very similar and very different, all at the same time. And I love it!

Joey does wind up telling me that while most people work for fame and riches, these are not his motivators. He tells me people would be surprised to learn that he actually works as hard as he does because he wants to pay his team. He adds, “I want them to love working for me.”

OK. That’s awesome. There’s just one problem with this answer. If I went up to Joey’s best friend, or his account manager, or one of his clients and said, “Joey McGirr once ate an entire ghost pepper on a dare,” they would be surprised! If I said, “Joey McGirr made his first buck wrestling alligators at a local theme park,” they’d be shocked. If I told them, “Joey McGirr can play the bagpipes,” they’d be in awe! But if I went to them and said, “Joey McGirr cares more about his team than he does about making money or being famous,” they’d say, “Duh!” (*By the way, one of those Joey tidbits of trivia is true, and this is where I discovered it.)

So that got me thinking. Are there things about us that people pick up on after five minutes, that we assume they don’t know? Yes! Which is why we love to tell our stories. When I tell you about the big backpacking/hiking trip to Big Bend I went on this past spring, what I want you to hear is: I enjoy the outdoors. I like to be active. When I add the detail that I had to carry all my own water – 25 pounds of it, when I’m really saying is, I’m not merely an adventurer, I’m kind of a badass. And when I tell you my companion was my younger brother, I’m really saying, I love my brother and am proud of the close relationship we share.

A mantra that played out in my life countless times before I finally recognized its truth is this: When people show you who they are, believe them. How many excuses have we made for people? How many stories have we edited to put a happy spin on things? How many times have we expected someone to be different and then been disappointed when they weren’t?  While I don’t believe in the black and white version of the statement “people don’t change”, the fact is, for the most part, they don’t. Which is why when someone like Joey tells me there isn’t much about him that people don’t know, he’s more accurate then I first gave him credit for.

We can’t hide from our truth. It’s written all over our faces and we prove it, time after time, with our actions.

Joey’s business mission statement is no different than his life mission statement – be helpful. If given thirty seconds to make a speech to the world, he tells me he’d say, “Connect with everyone you meet. You never know when someone in the room may change your life. Invite connectivity. There is nothing more important in life than your connections and no skill more important that your ability to connect.”

Joey’s philosophy isn’t just valid as a recipe for business success, it’s true for life success. Connect with everyone, every chance you get. Help people. Listen, care, be open and share. And perhaps the greatest lesson of all, people learn exactly who you are by listening to you and watching you. When they challenge you to tell them something surprising about yourself, you may scratch your head as you consider witty responses to the question, but the truth is, they already know exactly who you are. Happiness is understanding that and being proud of who they see.

To learn more about Joey, follow him on Twitter or check out his website.

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10 thoughts on “Cup 55: Joey McGirr – Barista turned business man, connectivity advocate, loving husband and dad.

  1. Joey McGirr is one of my favorite people in Austin. One of the few I actually consider a true friend. I’m embarrassed to say that in all the time I’ve known him, I haven’t unearthed what you have in this short article. Bravo. What you’ve shared about him in this article simply makes me respect him now on a much deeper level. Thank you Melissa for cup 55.

  2. What a great interview! I enjoyed every word. I also met Joey through Steve Harper at a Ripple Event and so glad our paths crossed….as with you Melissa. I love your project and your style of writing.

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