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Hi.

Welcome to my blog on company culture! I’m traveling the country visiting companies with great workplace cultures and writing about them. Why? Find out here.

Julia Kortberg

julia@touringwithpurpose.com

CV #13 Scribe Media Pt 1: A Story About Radical Generosity

CV #13 Scribe Media Pt 1: A Story About Radical Generosity

SCRIBE MEDIA AT A GLANCE

Founded: In 2014 by Tucker Max and Zach Obrant. The company was born to solve the frustrating and time-consuming process of writing a book. In 2016, Tucker Max fired himself as CEO and brought on JT McCormick to do the job. To learn the whole story of how that happened, check out the blog here.

Employees: 37 | Location: Austin, TX; however, they are a majority remote team!

Mission: To unlock the world’s wisdom.

Values: 1) Results  2) People 3) Learning

Fun Fact: Recently, voted #1 by Entrepreneurs Magazine for Top Company Culture.

LET THE TOUR BEGIN

Before I can even begin to tell you about the phenomenal culture at Scribe Media, I have to share a bit of JT’s personal story with you, as it sets the framework for everything else in this blog, especially this short story about radical generosity.  

JT got to know the founders of Scribe Media, when he decided that he wanted to document his life story for his children. Together, JT and Tucker, Co-Founder & previous CEO of Scribe Media (formerly known as Book in a Box) wrote JT’s story “I Got There: How I Overcame Racism, Poverty, and Abuse to Achieve the American Dream.”

In short, JT grew up with an orphan mother and a father who was a pimp and a drug dealer. He moved around often as a child, described himself as “po” because they couldn’t afford the “or” to be poor, has 23 half siblings, and suffered abuse from his father’s prostitutes both physical and sexual. He started his professional career by cleaning toilets, worked his way up through various careers––exceeded in sales–– and eventually became the President of Headspring Technology. After a couple of years as President, JT decided he wanted to write a book about his life so that his children would know where he came from, which is how he stumbled upon Scribe Media and unintentionally became the CEO.

I share this because JT is as real as it gets. He’s all about hard work, being prepared, and seizing opportunities. JT’s also very big about being on time –which is why I made sure to go to a coffee shop across the street from Scribe Media about two hours before our conversation, so that I could ensure that I arrived punctually.

At 11:15AM, I walked over from the coffee shop to Scribe Media for our 11:30AM conversation, got to the second floor, looked around, only to realize that it wasn’t Scribe Media.

I was at their PO Box.

Failure #1

I called J Smith, JT’s Assistant, and let her know I went to the wrong place and would be there in 15 minutes. It turns out, this happens all the time, she informed me. Scribe Media uses their PO Box address on their website to avoid random drop-in visits to see their founder, Tucker Max, who is a bit of a celebrity.

I arrived, late, at 11:45AM and apologized profusely to JT. I explained that I knew how important being on time was to him – I’d read it in his book: his Uncle Bobby actually left his family behind when they weren’t on time to go on family church vacation and took JT with him because JT was on time. And while JT jokes with his wife and kids about that experience now, it’s certainly important to him.  

We laughed about it and moved on.

I spent the next two hours having an incredible conversation with JT on leadership and Scribe Media’s company culture, followed by a chat with Kayla Sokol, Publishing Manager, and Jesse Sussman, Author Marketing Coordinator. But, instead of jumping right into the culture piece, I’ll first tell you a story about how JT and Scribe Media showed me radical generosity.

Failure #2

It was 5:45pm and I was just about to pay for the iced americano I ordered, when I realized I didn’t have my wallet, ID, or purse. I was supposed to board a bus to Dallas in one hour and from there I would fly to Chicago and eventually Detroit– so there was no way I’d be able to travel and make it without those things.

I panicked, thought quickly about where I was that day and made a list:

1) airbnb

2) uber 1

3) coffee shop 1

4) uber 2

5) place I thought was Scribe Media but wasn’t (just their PO Box)

6) uber 3

7) actual Scribe Media

8) uber 4

9) hip healthy eatery, where awesome Chief Purposologist of the Purpose Institute, Haley Rushing, paid so I didn’t need my wallet

10) coffee shop 2 – where I went to pay and realized I didn’t have my wallet, ID, or purse

The last place I could remember having it was Scribe Media, and since business hours were fast approaching, I figured this was my only shot to find out. I quickly called J Smith, JT’s assistant, confirmed there were still Tribe members at the office, hopped in another uber and crossed my fingers. J kindly asked the tribe to look for it and they scoured the place.

But 30 minutes later when I arrived, no one had found it.

To make myself feel better, I double checked everywhere myself, but couldn’t find it either.

Failure #3

Missed my bus to Dallas.

I looked at my list and started calling everyone else.

1) airbnb – didn’t call b/c I knew I paid at the coffee shop

2) uber 1 - didn’t call b/c I knew I paid at the coffee shop

3) coffee shop 1 – called – no answer, nowhere to leave message

4) uber 2 – called – no answer, left a message

5) place I thought was Scribe Media but wasn’t- no point calling, was there for .2 seconds

6) uber 3 – called – no answer, left a message

7) actual Scribe Media – clearly not there

8) uber 4 – called – no answer, left a message

9) hip healthy eatery – called, they didn’t have it

10) coffee shop 2 - no bother calling, that’s where I realized I didn’t have my things

I accepted my fate and sat down on the floor. I wasn’t getting my purse back and it didn’t make sense to stay in Austin, when I already had an Airbnb and a car rented in Dallas. Better cut my losses, and figure out a plan B.

PLAN B

Sitting on the floor of Scribe Media, with my phone plugged into the wall and the wifi password in hand, I made a plan B:

  1. ID – I’d call my parents tomorrow and ask them to ship my passport to Dallas.

  2. Transportation – I found a Greyhound Bus to Dallas at 9:30pm, only $25. Since neither of my parents were answering their phones (love you mom and papa!) I’d ask my uncle for his cc number and pay him back. I’d arrive in Dallas around 1am and uber to my AirBnB from there.  

  3. $$ -- I’d ask someone at Scribe Media if I could borrow $20 in cash just incase and venmo them back. Then I’d see if I could borrow a large sum of cash from either A) my parents or B) someone in Dallas (Deanna Walker, one of the awesome Dallas business leaders called me during this min-crisis and when I explained to her what was going on, she told me she would give me however much cash I needed!) #radicalgenerosity

JT texted me and asked me to call him. Feeling confident in my plan, I gave him a call.

“What do you need?” JT asked. “You’re welcome to stay with me and my family or I can get you a hotel, just let me know.”

Touched by his kindness, I thanked him and let him know that it wasn’t necessary. “All I need is $20.00,” I told him. He laughed.

I told him I was serious and shared my plan B with him.

Except JT’s response totally caught me off guard: “No you’re not,” he said. I was silent. “I don’t want you on a Greyhound bus that late. Give me 10 minutes.” He hung up.

I sat there confused about what was happening and also started to feel guilty that JT might be going out of his way to help me. I didn’t want to inconvenience him in anyway, especially after him giving me two hours of his time (despite being late!)

RADICAL GENEROSITY #4

Meanwhile, as I waited for JT, Scribe Media Manuscript Creative, Greg Larson (who was a huge emotional support during this rollercoaster of a night), disappeared to grab me the $20.00 I asked for. However, to my surprise, he came back with five, $20.00s, courtesy of JT.  I was dumbfounded.

RADICAL GENEROSITY #5

Five minutes later, one of the four Uber drivers called me back—HE HAD MY PURSE! He told me that I had left it in his car that morning, but wasn’t able to contact me through Uber. I started crying tears of joy. HALLELUJAH, I thought to myself. I thanked him profusely, and we arranged a place to meet.

RADICAL GENEROSITY #6

I immediately texted JT the news, hoping he would let me stick to my original plan of the Greyhound bus. The last thing I wanted to do was inconvenience him – especially after he had already given me a few hours of his time today and a hundred dollars, which I intended to pay back, once I had my checkbook.

Our text message exchange was as follows:

Me: “JT! One of the Uber drivers just called me and let me know he has my purse. He will be returning it here in the next half hour! I can totally take the bus, no worries!”

JT: “No Ma’am! Car is already on its way.”

Me: “Wow. Thank you JT. I can’t thank you enough.”

JT: “Let me know when you are picked up.”

15 minutes later, a car shows up.

But not just any car. IT WAS A TESLA!!!!

RADICAL GENEROSITY #6

And there was a driver, named Max!

RADICAL GENEROSITY #7

And Max told me he was going to drive me all the way to Dallas, which was  3.5 hours away!

I was shocked.

RADICAL GENEROSITY #8

Completely overwhelmed with excitement, gratitude, and disbelief, I finally stood up and gathered my things. I hugged the Scribe Media Tribe goodbye, but not before they sent me off with a non-vegetarian millennial’s dream care package: three La Croixs, organic venison jerky, and a 70% dark chocolate Lindt bar.

I thanked them for everything, and I jumped in the car.

Max drove me to meet the Uber driver to pick up my purse. I gave him a $20 as a thank you and let him know that I was sending good karma his way. I gave the rest of the money as a tip to Max for driving me 3.5 hours on a whim and so late at night.

I shared the day’s story with Max and sat for most of the ride in disbelief. I reminded myself to enjoy the ride and the experience, but I mostly felt a strong sense to pay JT’s and everyone’s kindness forward.

  Max and I stop on the journey to charge up the Tesla. Great opportunity to go late night grocery shopping.

Max and I stop on the journey to charge up the Tesla. Great opportunity to go late night grocery shopping.

WHICH LEADS ME TO MY CALL FOR ACTION…

On the 3.5 hour ride to Dallas, I brainstormed everything from pizza parties for the office, to sending JT and his wife a gift, but it occurred to me that there’s nothing I could buy JT or Scribe Media that they couldn’t buy for themselves. This led me to think more deeply about how I could pay his generosity forward.

Growing up, JT never had any school supplies. He wasn’t allowed to bring books home because teachers were afraid they wouldn’t come back. He rarely had a pen or a pencil in class and felt embarrassed asking someone to borrow their school supplies.

Which is why I want to start paying his radical generosity forward by ensuring that a classroom of 22 second grade students in Detroit Public Schools (DPS) — my local community — have school supplies.

I’ve researched various platforms and found that donorschoose.org is the most transparent and effective platform to donate school supplies directly to classrooms, with over 95% of their budget going directly towards providing services. The platform enables teachers to create a list of school supplies they need for their students and delivers the supplies directly to the school. Donorschoose is also a 501(c)(3) and sends tax deductible receipts via email after making a donation.

I’ve worked closely with Ms. McFadden, a second grade elementary school teacher (and dear friend of mine) at Bunche Elementary-Middle School to set up a donorschoose account for her classroom. With over 75% of her students in low income, her classroom of 22 second grade students are in dire need of the following school supplies. They are currently $2,000 away from reaching their goal to buy these supplies for her students this year (~$100 per student for the year).

If you were inspired by this story, would like to pay radical generosity forward, or support kids in need, please donate to the 22 second grade students in Ms. McFadden’s classroom.

For the next seven days, by using the discount code “RIPPLE” your donation of up to $50 will be matched by donorschoose, doubling your impact.

Support Ms. McFadden’s Students

Stay tuned for Scribe Media’s company culture blog post: CV #13 Scribe Media Pt 2: The Power of Language, Defining Your Culture, & Bringing Your Whole Self to Work.

my deepest gratitude,
Julia Kortberg

CV #13 Scribe Media Pt 2: The Power of Language, Defining Your Culture, & Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

CV #13 Scribe Media Pt 2: The Power of Language, Defining Your Culture, & Bringing Your Whole Self to Work

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