Wishing You A Happy New Year

Another year and one more chapter of life is closing, and what better way to end 2017 than with a brief update, and to take the opportunity to wish you the joy of the season and happy new year!

So what happened in 2017 that is worth sharing?

Europe Spring Break 2017

Chris and I traveled to Europe in March to reconnect with our exchange student, Emile and his family in the lovely country of Belgium. We had a few days in Bruges, and quickly fell in love with this cobblestone street filled city with history in every direction. We then met Trey and Andrea in Madrid for a week long trip through Spain. Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona were our three visited cities, with a brief stop at the Castillo de Peñíscola. The highlights of our trip were the Fallas Celebration in Valencia, the tapas in Barcelona and the opportunity to experience this trip with two of our favorite people. After saying goodbye to Trey and Andrea in Barcelona, we headed to Munich for a few days, including the day we drove through four countries looking for lunch.

Career Moves

After starting the year with Starbucks, I was fortunate to be asked to join the new team at Frontgate at Legacy West. This transition into retail has been a surprising one, and a rewarding one. After opening the store, I transitioned in a store leadership position, and then transitioned again into the Concierge role which focuses on the guest experience, a role which I am naturally good at.

The biggest news of 2017 was Chris starting his own company – Compass Risk Services LLC – in October 2017.  This was probably the best thing that happened for Chris’s career to date.

Friends and Family

Both of our parents have had some health challenges through 2017, and 2018 is a year where we are hopeful that these will continue to be overcome and improve.

TreyOur “little brother” Trey, continues to mature into an amazing young man. He is in his second year at UT Austin, and transferred into the McCombs Business School in the Fall, where he is moving forward on his Finance degree. He continues to make us proud in everything he does, and Chris and I enjoy the “Trey times” we have throughout the year.

Through 2017 we have continued to build our relationships with our friends, connect with some new friends, and say goodbye to others. We appreciate all our friends, and while we haven’t spent as much time with many as we would like, we have a stated goal in 2018 to change that.

No holiday letter is complete without giving you the option to check out some pictures from our year. You can do that right here!

Looking forward to 2018!

As the new year begins, we will continue to face challenges head-on, and spend more time with our family and friends. Travel will once again be a heavily featured focus through the year, with trips already being planned.

Most of all, we both look forward to finding the opportunities to connect with the people that we care about more regularly, and exploring new friendships throughout the year.  We wish much happiness, peace and love to all our friends and family.

With love,
James & Chris

Customer (No) Service

I never thought I would be any good in the service industry, but after working for a time with Starbucks, I quickly discovered that I was actually pretty good at it. I loved the customer interaction, getting to know them and their drink, and bringing a little bit of coffee joy to people each day. It really isn’t difficult, and one of the things I loved about Starbucks was their focus on customer service. It defines who they are, and as a Barista trainer, I focused on making sure the guest/customer experience was consistently good, or better than good. People are paying $4-6 for a coffee drink AND the experience. Connecting with the guest – that is the Starbucks way.

And as a trainer, if I found someone wanting to work at Starbucks I’d look for their ability to connect with a customer. I’d focus on the importance of writing their name on their cup. Everyone loves to hear their own name, and what better way to connect with a guest, than using their name to call out their drink. It’s really very simple, and if you couldn’t do it (or wouldn’t do it) then maybe Starbucks was not the right choice for you. Sadly, it seems that this is fast becoming the exception, not the rule.

With the new technology of tapping in a name, or with mobile orders doing all the work, a drink is ordered and a drink is placed on the counter. I’ve noticed more and more that drinks aren’t called out any more, baristas don’t watch their customer as they take their first sip to make sure their drink was made right. And the customer focused LATTE mantra that every Starbucks employee should embrace is becoming a thing of the past. At least based on my recent experience.

I love Starbucks. I love the company, and I love the story that each customer brings to every Barista. And the fact that the positive customer experience is not a focal point anymore of many of the Starbucks that I go to, brings a sadness that – mostly – confuses me. Why do I care if a name is on my cup? Why do I care if the barista looks at me when they hand me my drink? It’s just coffee, right? And I don’t really have an answer. While not trying to be dramatic, it came to me yesterday – as I was having a bad experience at Starbucks – that it was like watching a family member die. I felt like there was nothing I could do to change the outcome. And that is how I felt as I took my warm drink in hand, and watched the once joyful life of that store slowly disappear.

31,557,600 seconds

But only one first!

Today is the first time I’ve turned 49. It will also be my last. Over the next 365 days, I will incrementally become 50, and providing I continue to look after myself, those numbers will continue to rise. But today, today I am 49.

There are 31,557,600 seconds in a year, and while many of those seconds were spent sleeping, and a vast majority I have very little recollection about, I have also been blessed to have achieved some amazing things with some of those. And what has made those achievements and “things that I’ve done” all that greater, have been the people that are a part of my life.

So today as I celebrate turning 49, I want to celebrate the people who have helped me enjoy the last 31,557,600 seconds of my life. To everyone with whom I’ve shared seconds of my life, thank you!

Some highlights from my past year include:

  • spending a phenomenal amount of time with my family in Australia, and getting reacquainted with members of my family from years past,
  • traveling to Europe in March and meeting our former exchange student Emile’s family, traveling around Spain with Trey and Andrea, and experiencing new parts of the globe that I look forward to returning to,
  • new jobs and opportunities as I continue to work towards achieving our long-term dreams and goals,
  • new friends and long-term friends and continuing to build relationships, and
  • being able to celebrate Chris’s birthday in a unique way.

Every year for the past 18 years, I’ve thanked Chris for being my rock and being a solid foundation sharing each second as it ticks by, and this year is no different. Many of my special moments that I’ve experienced this past year has been with Chris by my side. I’m a lucky guy, and I am thankful for him every day.

Yes, today is my birthday, and I want to celebrate everyone who has helped make my year another one of those that I will look back on fondly. Thank you!