Z Beans Origin Stories Part 28 - Turning Back The Hands of Time
It's 2 o'clock in the afternoon. I've been putting this conversation off for way to long. I know it's going to be a hard one.
"Arturo, we need to talk."
Arturo and I walk inside Mrs. Marie and Fabricio's cafe. He knows what the talk is about.... Money.
"Arturo, we are going to move over to a monthly pay structure. I will send you money at the first of every month, and this will cover your salary for the hard work we have put in during my stay, expenses for trips to meet farmers throughout Ecuador, and any bills you may want to cover."
Immediately, Arturo looks up at me. Not saying a word...
When I first decided to take on Z Beans with Arturo, I wasn't thinking about 'scalability' or 'cash flow.' Rather, it was something fun - something new. As a matter of fact, Arturo and I never once talked about money. We went around Ecuador, meeting with farmers, spending time with them, and purchasing their incredible coffees. We had the first 4,000 pounds packaged up and shipped out, and we still had yet to discuss his 'salary.'
It was my final day in Ecuador during the summer of 2017, when I gave Arturo money for his work. He didn't count it. He took it and put it in his back pocket. We never said a word about it.
When I returned back to The States, all was well. Arturo and I talked like we always have. We'd bounce ideas off of each other. He'd tell me that he met a new farmer. I'd tell him that I finally sold 10 bags in one day.
But, two months later, something changed. I receive a message that says:
"Shane, can you send me money? I need help this month. Government officials are no longer receiving their monthly salaries because the government banned mining indefinitely even though mining was how we made money."
My heart sinks. I could never imagine this feeling. Growing up in a household where my father and mother always took care of me - always had food on the table - always had a stable job. How could I possibly feel what Arturo feels in this moment?
I send him money.
"Arturo, I think this is best for the both of us. You will have a constant revenue source every month, and the total amount you will receive will actually be greater than the one lump sum."
After another 30 seconds of silence. Arturo looks at me and says:
"Pay me for this month and next month, then never send me money again. I'm done working with you."
Arturo walks out the cafe, leaving for Zaruma.
I sit still, thinking. "I've built the supply chain to be self-sufficient. I don't need Arturo. It'll be fine... But, will it? We started this together. What's Z Beans without Arturo?"
Arturo begins his trek up the road to find the nearest taxi. I walk out the door and catch up to him.
"Arturo, please just listen to me for a second. This is the best solution for both of us. You will be able to count on having a salary every month. This can help with any bills you have to pay, any problems that may arise, anything!"
Over the next 20 minutes, Arturo and I talk. We seem to iron out the details - he wraps his mind around the idea. But, I could tell. Our friendship was broken. It wasn't the same.
A few days later, I return home. I don't receive the usual texts or calls from Arturo. I send him messages, but I receive no response.
The time finally comes for me to send him his money. I go down to the Kroger and send him his first monthly salary via Western Union. I send Arturo the confirmation code at the top of the receipt and let him know the money is waiting for him.
While Arturo doesn't say anything back to me, I receive notification that he has indeed picked up his money. I wish he would respond to me, as I miss our usual conversations, but I'm glad to know he at least received his money.
The continues over the next few months, but eventually Arturo begins sending me messages once again. Our conversations aren't the same anymore, as they've been strictly about business.
If I could turn back the hands of time, I would create an open dialogue with Arturo about money. I never thought money would be such a divisive part of our relationship, but I've also never had to worry about money. I've realized that my inability to fully empathize with Arturo creates barriers. However, if we can communicate effectively, we can overcome these barriers.
I believe, while Arturo and I have a good friendship, that the monthly pay structure requires a deeper level of trust, especially when you are receiving money from someone 5,000 miles away. I know that I will always pay Arturo his salary, but I also know that trust is earned - not given.
I hope and pray that one day our friendship will be completely restored, but if it is not, I'll always appreciate the good memories we have together.