The Fishbowl Story

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In 1999, Chad was living the life. He worked for a publicly-traded software company, had a big corner office, and a personal assistant. He reported to the CEO and was profiled by the Wall Street Journal. Who would have thought that one year later, he would be in his basement with no income, reporting to none other than a 50-pound rescue dog who barked when the doorbell rang?

The story of how he got to that basement explains his purpose in life—and why Ecosystems was founded.

Rewind a bit to his life pre-basement, when he worked at the publicly-traded software company. The company had a receptionist who greeted everyone coming through the front lobby with a smile, warm demeanor, and helpful spirit. She was more than a receptionist; she was an ambassador of the company. Regardless of who walked through that front door—a young, nervous college grad dropping off a job application, or a busy customer executive headed to a meeting in the boardroom—she treated everyone with genuine warmth. She was the first and last “experience” everyone encountered each day, and represented the company in many interactions.

One day, Chad walked into work and she was not there. The company had missed its earnings estimates, and cost-cutting measures were underway. Chad found out that the receptionist was one of those cost-cutting “measures.”

Not too long after that, he walked into work to see that an enormous, 100+ gallon saltwater fish tank had replaced the receptionist. He was told the tank was there to project “warmth” to visitors and employees.

The company had traded the warmth of the receptionist for the “warmth” of a fish tank. The contradiction was too much, and Chad felt physically ill.

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He decided to speak to the CEO about it. To call the talk a “conversation” would be generous—it was an uncomfortable monologue on Chad’s part. He resigned shortly thereafter. That’s when Chad and several partners started a company called Ecosystems, with the purpose to make value clear. If the value of the receptionist had been clear, she never would have been replaced by a fish tank. To keep the purpose of Ecosystems alive in the company’s thoughts, we have a small fish bowl in our lobby today.

That’s why we’re here and why Ecosystems exists. To make value the focus—not costs—so that each person we work with can clearly articulate value to their customers, potential customers, and within their organizations.