I grew up in Seattle so I was born a Mariner’s fan. The most vivid Mariner’s memory I have isn’t from the 7th inning stretch or crushing on Ken Griffey Jr. The memory was the day after a game I attended when I was between 6-9 years old. That next day my dad realized that the team pendant he purchased for us had stuck to another pendant – a freebee! Lucky, right!? Not to Jim Endicott.
My dad wrote a check to the franchise to pay for the second pendant because, to him, that was integrity.
Fast forward nearly a dozen years. The night before moving into my freshman college dorm room, I dumped my high school boyfriend because I was convinced that I’d find my soul mate in college (spoiler alert: 3 years later I married said high school boyfriend). I didn’t waste time looking – within the first few days at college I was skipping arm-in-arm with my friend Carley to every boy dorm, going door-to-door introducing ourselves. (Cringe). So imagine my delight when a vase full of beautiful flowers were delivered to my dorm room later that year. But they weren’t from the new boys on the block.
My first flowers were from my dad with a note, “I just wanted to be the first guy to send you flowers.”
Fast forward a few years, I’m developing my career. I’m working at a PR agency, learning the corporate-life ropes: managing emails, filling out self-reviews, and contributing to a 401k. Three years in, I get an awesome opportunity to work closer to home (closer to my newborn daughter). It’s a great new job, but only lasted 18 short months when I got another job offer. One I couldn’t refuse.
My dad offered me my dream job at his speaker coaching company, with a clear invitation of succession someday.
Fast forward 10 wonderful years and that day is here.
In a sense, Jim has spent 39 years preparing me for this moment of taking over his business.
First, by modeling integrity.
He ran his business with integrity – with honesty, hard work, and honoring every client’s dignity while coaching them through uncomfortable experiences – but I observed his private pursuit of integrity, yes with a Mariner’s pendant, but also as a young girl every morning. I’d wake up and stagger downstairs to find my dad reading scriptures under a lamp in the living room. I’d crawl into his lap as he started his day with humility and perspective. And when he closed up the Good Book for the morning, he spent the next 12 hours trying to honor God through decisions of integrity.
Second, by offering affirmation and love.
My dad never held back affirmation or affection. He showed up to my dance and piano recitals, when I was crowned May Day Court princess my senior year of high school, when I published my first book in 2021, and recently, cheered me on at my first TEDx talk in front of 7,000 people in May 2022. He always offered a post-event big embrace while whispering in my ear, “I’m so proud of you”. (I was grateful when he shaved off his mustache when I was in middle school – his whispers of affirmation became way less itchy!) And when my TEDx talk was postponed in 2020 due to COVID, I received flowers from my dad, “Today was supposed to be your day. I love you.” I never had to earn my dad’s love and pride. Not as a kid. Not as a college student. He generously poured it out, always.
By the time he invited me to join his business in 2012, I felt supported, empowered, and ready.
But a wee bit intimidated.
Jim built an impressive business. He did the grueling work of getting it off the ground, evolving its services, developing a credible reputation, building a deep well of happy clients, and seeing its favor and influence grow in astonishing ways. (“If only our global clients could see that we’re a small business, answering emails from rural Oregon while watching deer out our home office window.” – he said all the time.)
I may have had confidence to step into the business that year, but not the experience. It was intimidating. I remember within the first year of coaching I showed up to train a sales team at a hotel venue in Portland. As each client walked in that day, they asked me questions as if I was the hotel staff. Surprise – I’m your 29-year-old expert coach offering you constructive criticism today.
Those first years, maybe the first 4-5, I was hesitant for clients to know that Boss-man was also my dad, lest they assumed I didn’t earn my coaching role. But slowly, as I developed my coaching instincts and credentials, instead of it being a point of insecurity, it became a mark of pride.
My boss is my dad. We’re a healthy family business.
We get to do our dream jobs side-by-side.
We didn’t coach or speak together much, but we did coach concurrently together at an HVAC company in Minnesota, a solar-power company in California, a lifestyle apparel company in Portland, and at a swanky law firm in Seattle many years in a row. The one speaking gig we had together was in New Orleans. I remember it vividly because afterwards, my dad and I strolled together down the street sipping cocktails out of huge Styrofoam cups!
But probably my favorite memory was at the Logan airport in Boston. We both were supporting a medical security company – he was there for a few days, then I flew in for the next few days. Unbeknownst to me, the plane I took into Boston was the same plane my dad was flying home on. When I stepped off the plane into the airport, my dad was standing at the gate with my favorite coffee in hand. We laughed, high fived, and went our separate ways.
But it wasn’t always smooth sailing.
In 2016, we barely survived a company rebrand and website redesign. We tried hard to find a unified voice between us for the brand, and even though it was painful, Jim never played his trump card (the one that read “I’m the expert who started this business while you were still learning your middle school locker combination.”). He treated me like an equal owner of the business long before I was and we survived the rebrand!
And then COVID hit in 2020. All forecasted revenue fell off our training calendar within days as clients closed up shop until we all ‘flattened the curve’. Luckily, we just came off the biggest revenue year to date (yeah 2019), which meant we had cash in the bank to carry us through because Jim was a wise business guy. Within a few months, we pivoted to virtual coaching (something we refused to do before 2020). In hindsight, COVID forced our hand to offer a service that we probably should have offered all along. The scope of our client reach grew, obtaining new clients all over the globe. We survived a global pandemic.
Then, in December 2021, he sat down in my living room and handed over the keys to the coaching kingdom, making me full owner of the business effective January 1, 2022.
After one year of speaker coaching as my employee (we had fun with that, as you could imagine), Jim retires December 31, 2022 from the 24-year-old business he spun up in 1998.
What a ride.
Most people don’t know this, but a few months after spinning up Distinction Communication, my brother Jeremy died at 18 years old. In some respects, this business was a gift that year. When the suffocating cloud of grief finally settled just enough to take a breath, this business offered a sliver of hope. It offered an earthly purpose – to serve clients with class, expertise, and compassion.
Distinction has always felt more like a calling than a career, first for Jim, and now for me.
It’s not just professional – it’s deeply personal.
I get to honor his rich legacy of integrity and love, first in my personal life with my family, and secondly in the way I lead this business and serve our clients.
People found it strange that I called dad Jim in work settings and he always signed his emails to me Jim. It’s just what we did. But last week he sent a work email to Jake and I and wrote, “So time to sign off. No more emails signed Jim anymore. After 10 years, I get to be just dad again. Love you guys. Dad”
Dad, it’s been an amazing ride together in this business. Cheers to your immense impact as speaker coach over the last 24 years. And cheers to many more years of impacting people with your integrity and love.
Partners for life,