WORDS TO WORK BY If you’ve interacted with our team here at O2, you know our core values are honesty, humility, and hustle. But why choose these words in particular? Sure, they’re great virtues, and together they’ve got some good alliteration, but they become more than just words when you have a real connection to them. For me at least, that connection stems from some of my very first jobs, where honesty, humility, and hustle got me through my summers as a teenager. Let’s start with honesty. Growing up I had a vague understanding that telling the truth was the right thing to do. But seeing a business where honesty and transparency weren’t valued made me realize how important the truth really is. I’d had some experience in food service and worked my way up to busing tables for an upscale BBQ joint in Cincinnati. The restaurant billed itself as one of the fancier places to eat in town, so I expected to see a ritzy operation behind the scenes. Boy, things didn’t run like I thought they would. Beyond the silken dining tables and behind the kitchen door was an absolute pigsty. There were flies, chefs who didn’t wash their hands — food dropped, scooped back up off the floor, and handed to servers, and these “dishes” were going for $30–$40 a plate. It was horrifying. I couldn’t watch customers eat without feeling nauseous and sick with guilt. So, I left. From then on, being transparent with people in my life wasn’t just some vague value — it was a must. The food service also taught me plenty of humility. My first serving job was at a restaurant in a retirement community for wealthy families. The patrons were used to a certain degree of preferential treatment and were more than happy to let me know when I didn’t meet their expectations. Having a bunch of wealthy folks take out their old age frustrations on me, a 14-year-old, quickly dispelled any illusions I was unique or special. My hustle came to fruition in college. I’d been a slacker in high school, and it became very apparent as a college freshman that my old attitude wasn’t going to cut it at Ohio State. Sure, it wasn’t Harvard, but, if I was going to make it, I’d have to work my tail off at school and my work study job helping me make tuition.
To my surprise, once I put my head down and got serious about doing the work, I didn’t just stay enrolled; I thrived! I went from being a B student to being in the top 1% of my graduating class. I managed this while working as a computer lab proctor and a TA. But this wasn’t because I was special, or gifted — I saw my studies like a job rather than an obligation. That made all the difference. While these little vignettes capture some of my lessons in O2’s core values individually, one job captured all thee. In fact, it was my very first job that introduced me to honesty, humility, and hustle all at once. I was 12 or 13 years old, and I was paid under the table for a contracting job in Over-the-Rhine. For those who aren’t familiar with the area, Over-The-Rhine is the Brooklyn of Cincinnati. Today it’s filled with craft breweries and avant-garde art galleries, but back in the 90s, it was a rough-and-tumble neighborhood. And there I was, a kid from the suburbs, putting up drywall in dilapidated tenement buildings for renters who didn’t want me there. Needless to say, literal hustle was a must — the last thing I wanted was to draw the ire of residents. It may sound strange to say I learned honesty from an “unofficial” job, but I had to be forthright about my actual work. But most importantly, I learned humility. Those trips to Over-The-Rhine were my first taste of the real world, the first time I could see how lucky I was to have the opportunities I grew up with, and what life was like for folks who weren’t as fortunate. Whenever I get worked up over my own struggles, I remember those old apartments and what those folks had to put up with every day. So, those are the roots of O2’s values. It’s great they all begin with H, but they’re certainly more than just words. They’ve helped me become the man I am today and kept our team focused on doing all we can to help our customers. Honesty, humility, and hustle are great values individually, but together, well, they’re refreshing.
–Dave Colina Founder, O2
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