Phind Out Phriday: Three Guys, One Goal- Common Ground Management

On a cold snowy icey wet all things nasty Saturday afternoon in October, I went to a really great event, had a really great time, and met not one but three really decent guys. The three really decent guys, Jimmy Burks, Sherman (Sherm) Washington, and Dominique (Dom) Landry weren’t just three really decent random guys however. They were the brains behind the event.  They were the ones in charge of securing the space, vendors, performers, an MC, and ensuring a full house. That’s right. It was a Saturday afternoon with snow and ice, and people showed up. In fact, people were standing because there were no more seats.
Now, I didn’t immediately ask for an interview. I wanted to see what else these guys were about. So I did a little more homework (the usual, following on twitter, liking on facebook, and talking to a friend of mine who knows them pretty well), and then sent a twitter message inquiring about an interview. The response “Just give us a date, time, and place and we say thank you and we’ll be there.”
So I did just that, and on a mild December evening the four of us met at Cosi to discuss Common Ground Management (CGM), an urban lifestyle company that unites Philadelphians through art, fashion, education and entertainment.
Phreedum:  Tell me a little bit about how CGM went from an idea to an entity?
CGM: We were roommates at St. Joseph’s University. We were just talking one day about life after college and the goals we had. As we talked about our goals, we realized they were similar. As we talked even more we saw that our goals centered around some commonalities, including a love for Philly, serving others, art in all of its various mediums, and an appreciation for diversity. 
Phreedum: And how about the name?
CGM: Initially we didn’t have a name. It was recognizing the commonalities we had in our goals and interests as well as wanting to create something in Philly that was based on unity through commonality that we came up with the name Common Ground Management. 
Phreedum: Most of the interviews I do are with individuals, although I’ve definitely talked with a few dynamic duos. But it’s three of you guys.  What are the team dynamics like?
CGM: We’re team oriented and at the end of the day we just want what’s best for CGM as a whole. It’s really important to us to communicate openly and honestly and we don’t do the arguing thing. We also work well together because certain qualities are important to us, such as integrity, having an open mind, humility, and trust.
Phreedum: What about specific roles each of you fill?
CGM: We all do everything. No one person represents the team; no one person is solely responsible for one operational function.
Phreedum: What do you consider your greatest resources?
CGM: We’re a really strong team. We’re not just dedicated to the idea of a team but actually doing what it takes to be a team. We also try to stay humble. At the end of the day we never want to be too big that we can’t go to 16th and Diamond and volunteer, host an event, or support another organization or business.  
Phreedum: What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learned thus far?
CGM: Everyday there is a lesson.  For as much time as we spend planning and executing quality events, we also spend a lot of time evaluating the event and really soliciting and listening to feedback. The feedback helps us as we plan the next event. We also trust that we are doing the right thing and we stay true to our vision and mission. People will offer their thoughts and ideas which is cool, but at the end of the day we have to trust and stay true to CGM.
Phreedum: What about a highlight?
Jimmy: This past October we hosted an event called “Word of Mouth.” It was a combination of musical artists, poets, and comedians. We had it on a Saturday that it decided to snow. The weather was horrible and we still managed to have a full house.  I felt like that was a huge step forward and really said to people “We’re here.” Oh and receiving our LLC papers. We found out no one else had our name which was such a relief and just made it real for us that the sky’s the limit.
Dom: I think setting goals every day, working towards them and seeing them culminate into events that people attend and enjoy. Like Jimmy said about the “Word of Mouth” event, the weather was really bad yet so many people came out and showed us a lot of love.  And, just knowing CGM is ours. Any success or failures that occur are part of that, and it’s all charged to the game.
Sherm: Just to see how far we have come. We hosted our first event on Black Friday in 2010. It was a bus trip to the shopping outlets. Now here we are in 2011 still going strong. In January of this year  (2011) we hosted our first “Word of Mouth” event and after it was over the question was “What’s next?,” so we did another one and like Jimmy and Dom said, we did a second one and we had a full house. Plus, at the second one, I was able to actually see a little bit more of it than when we did the first one earlier this year. It was great just to see all of the hard work of the team and artists come together and the support.
Phreedum: Who are you in 5 words?
Laughter erupts then silence ensues.
Jimmy: Okay, I’ll go. I would say I’m family oriented, driven, loyal, laidback, and respectful.
Sherm: I’m family and goal oriented, humble, respectful, and a learner. I like to learn about others and through experiences.
Dom: Humble, inquisitive, independent, caring, and a question mark.
I give him the side eye but with a smile as I write “?”. (I’m confused, I’ve never gotten that response before.)
Dom: I’m random, no spontaneous. If I need a change of pace then I‘ll do something to change it up.  I’ll just get up and got to New York for example. Not planned, just get up and go. But I want you to keep the question mark.
Phreedum: Done. 
(So readers, in 5 words Dom is humble, inquisitive, independent, caring, and ?)
Phreedum: How does CGM change the lives of others?
CGM: We try to connect people and give people an opportunity to be exposed to and explore something different. We have and will continue to host events that range from the arts to sports and are appropriate for the 24 year old and the 84 year old.  We hope we change people’s lives by providing real opportunities for connection and unity through common interest despite what part of the city they are from, cultural background, or what they’re used to.  Also, if we’re really honest people have changed our lives. We have gotten a lot of support. People help before, during, and after events. Our families support us and help us stay grounded.
Phreedum: Where do you get your motivation and inspiration?
Jimmy: My mom, sister, and grandmom have been there every step of the way. Going to college was the only option I had and that’s where I met these two guys. My grandmom brags about me. It’s really important to me to make them proud and just be a positive example for my sister.
Sherm: My parents, grandmother, and my brother have been a huge source of support. They are excited to see CGM thrive and to see young Black men do something positive. They are proud of me and I want to keep it that way.
Dom: My mom died when I was a teenager, but I still carry her with me. I didn’t want to disappoint her when she was here and I don’t want to disappoint her now. I’ve also been fortunate to have other people like Jimmy and Sherm’s families look out for me and support me. That motivates me to stay and do well.
Phreedum: What’s the best thing about being an entrepreneur in Philadelphia?
Sherm: I feel that it further allows me to represent my city in a good light. I can give back to my community/city more than I could have ever imagined. Also Philly has a reputation of being rough and rugged. So with that being said, if I can make it here and build a reputation for CGM I feel like the sky is the limit for us.
Jimmy: Being entrepreneurs we have the ability to organize and participate in any event that we like and wish to see done. We don’t have to sit on the sideline and complain about Philly's nightlife and/or diversity of events as we can say "we want to see this happen" and work toward putting the event together.
Dom: Being a Black entrepreneur in Philly, or being a Black man in Philly, period, means we can set positive examples for the people younger than us. I think we are also able to show people that you can do what you’re interested in, and that it's only a piece of who you are. 
Phreedum: Speaking of setting examples for younger people, what would you tell the Jimmy, Sherm, and Dom of 10 years ago?
Jimmy: “You can’t dream too big.” I knew I wanted to go to college, but to go to college and graduate, to work a 9-5 and start CGM, I don’t think I thought I could do so much. But when you believe in yourself and have good people in your life, you can.  Oh and I’d tell myself to watch my temper.
Sherm: “Never be afraid to ask questions.” Growing up I was taught to just learn for myself so I didn’t ask questions. I’d just try to figure things out. I think I could have had a different experience had I asked for help. Now I ask questions a lot and it’s expanded my network and knowledge base.
Dom: “You’ll be ok.” Growing up you have all kinds of influences. I’d tell the me of 10 years ago to trust your gut and you’ll be fine. I was also extremely impatient then, so I would probably tell myself to work on that. I’m a lot better now.
Phreedum: What can we expect to see from CGM in 2012?
CGM: Monthly diverse high quality events. We’re excited about 2012 and we want people to expect more good stuff from us.
Phreedum: Okay, final question. If CGM had a theme song, what would it be?
Jimmy: I Get Up by J. Cole
Sherm: Renegade by Jay- Z featuring Eminem.
Dom: You Don’t Know by Jay-Z.

For more information about CGM follow them on twitter @CGMPhilly or like their CGMPhilly Facebook page.

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