Hey Cartel. How are we doing?

Marko and I are spending the next two days together at a little offsite retreat in Carlsbad.

Believe it or not, it’s taken about 6 months to get this on the calendar. We’ve needed to do it but just been too busy. Heck, we’re not in the same place for 2 days very often without a heavy to do list. So it’s not been for lack of need or desire. It just took this long.

It’s 2-days to not work on day-to-day stuff. We meet fairly regularly to do that. Those are “who’s got what” meetings. They are high function and typically looking at things that are happening right now.

This is what I’m calling the Phase 3 meeting.

Phase 1: Launch phase… who the heck is The Youth Cartel and what are we going to do? We started with a ton of ideas and a ton of energy and started a lot of stuff.

We’re a bootstrap business. Meaning, we didn’t have an outside investor or financial backers. So we had to do phase 1 mixing what we wanted to do with the need to pay our monthly bills.

I think Phase 1 lasted the first 7-8 months, roughly summer 2011 to February 2012.

Phase 2: We’re in Phase 2 right now. Since about February 2012 we’ve settled into some things. Publishing, evens, coaching, and consulting. This second year of that phase we actually started to feel like we had a rhythm, which was cool. We had a season of planning fall events. A season of developing stuff. A season of publishing new stuff. And a season where we were out doing our fall events. (Overlapping all of that stuff, the outward stuff youth workers see, is an amazing and life-giving array of consulting and coaching.)

This has been a season where we’ve worried less about making it financially or wondering “Is this little start-up going to survive” and more about managing it all. Sometimes we got the timing of it right and sometimes we gotten it wrong.

So part of what we’re doing right now is evaluating the existing stuff we’re doing, celebrating a little, and measuring effectiveness.

But, the meteoric growth is also stretching us thin. It’s pushing the boundaries of our business model. And we can look into what’s happening in 2014 (and beyond) to see that we’ve got to adjust some things knowing what we know now that we didn’t know in summer 2011 when we got started. Think of it as a big box… when we started this the box we were imaging was really, really big. But the stuff we’re doing just doesn’t fit in that box anymore. We need a bigger box!

Phase 3: Where we are headed is towards a model of long-term sustainability. Sustainability in phase 1 was… “Are we going to make enough money to sustain this thing to year 2?” Sustainability in phase 2 was… “Are we going to be able to push ourselves to the limit to make everything God is blessing with us a reality?”

Phase 3 is setting the longer course.Are we building a company that accomplishes our big goals? Are we creating something that’s bigger than us? Are we creating an environment where others can come and grow for the long haul? How do we make this the thing we do… for ever?

So pray for us as we have those meetings this week. It’s not going to be a 2-day meeting where we nail it all down. But it is going to be time where we sit down and really evaluate the ministry side of things and set some course for getting to Phase 3.

This isn’t my first start-up

Youth Ministry Exchange (YMX) was my first real start-up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been thankful that the Cartel isn’ my first start-up. I know why so many fail. You get caught up in having too much business plan. You get caught up in all the legal paperwork and associated crapola. And you have to get an MBA the hard way as you fail forward.

To have a lot of that stuff nailed coming out of the gate put TYC ahead of the game. And I’m big time thankful for that.

Your Input Gladly Received

Leave me (and Marko) a comment. Knowing what we’re up to give us some feedback. How are we doing? If you don’t want to post it publicly, send me an email.






6 responses to “Hey Cartel. How are we doing?”

  1. Todd Porter Avatar

    I will be praying for you guys. I think what you are doing is amazing and it has been fun to watch it from birth til now and I know it is going to keep going. What you are doing for youth workers is great. Two big thumbs up from me.

  2. Dustin Avatar

    I think it would be good for you to host a webinar with a variety of YM topics. Also a opportunity to have one on one mentoring 3 times over x months. I find that having good resources to pool from is beneficial and helps to draw from experience that can be done in confidence. I’ve enjoyed what you have done and look forward to being able to be a larger part of that as time goes on.

  3. Markus Eichler (@MarkusEichler) Avatar

    Thinking of you as you are having this important time together!

  4. Jeffrey Avatar

    2 days together….a good thing to do, glad you have taken the time. Truly appreciate your support of youth ministry and the folks who make it happen. Look forward to Open GR. Appreciate your blog posts and creative ideas that you share. I have shared much of what you offer with my volunteers – we have no paid youth staff. Your sensitivity to differing theological backgrounds is great. Your sense of humor and ability to see the obvious is great. Lastly, so much of what I read and see about youth ministry is geared toward large groupings, nice to have folks who speak about ministering with and to youth – regardless of size. Blessings for a wonderful time together and in the new year.

  5. kolby Avatar

    Love all that you are doing for the world of youth ministry. You have become a game changer. Love it.

  6. tom Avatar

    I’ve been through a coaching cohort, which changed my life pretty dramatically. So there’s that. I just took my team to the NYWC for the 2nd year (my 5th) and I came away feeling differently than before. Every other year I came away with a new energy and a couple of times I think it probably saved my career, but this year when I sat down with my core team afterwards, the general consensus was, “That was cool, but I think we’ve grown out of it.” The conversation immediately turned toward youth cartel and how we wish we’d gone to The Summit. Not to knock YS, but I think it (like most large churches) “kind of” fits most, rather than fitting some really really well. I feel like the Youth Cartel is exactly what your header states – instigating a revolution in youth ministry. It’s for those of us who are tired of a meat market exhibit halls displaying expensive youth ministry technology of old (ski resorts, big box camps, etc). When talking to our leaders about the insane amount of curriculum and marketing out there, we ended up realizing that your store serves as sort of a filter for us. I believe one quote was “I feel like Marko & Adam wouldn’t promote or want to profit from crap, so if it’s in the YC store, it’s probably pretty good.” Meanwhile our junior highers are learning proverbs from zombies and our high schoolers are finding more meaning from staring at still life pictures than they ever found in a guided talking head dvd curriculum. And our leaders arent killing themselves trying to live into a saddleback sized way of thinking…but instead reading about values from founders of Zappos and Patagonia and thinking about surviving church politics while reading about giant hairballs. I suppose this is all a really long winded way of saying kudos…I am so glad YC exists. I sincerely hope that your current model pays the bills and then some, because I love The Youth Cartel As-Is. And if it’s not, charge us more in the store…I’ll pay it.

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