I recently found myself in a business strategy chat in an unexpected place. I wasn’t standing in a bank branch or meeting room. I was standing in a 12’ x 12’ “mini-suite” in a place called “Salon World.”
Mallory has cut my family’s hair for two years. She recently left the large salon that she had been an employee of and is now her own boss.
She’s also her own receptionist, accountant, and janitor.
As I sat in her cubicle-sized workspace, I kidded that she wasn’t going to have room for the espresso machine her former employer has. (I never much cared for the “extras” in that place, anyway.)
I enjoyed hearing her talk about why she finally decided to “hang her own shingle” and the things she’s been learning about running her own shop. When she asked if I had any advice for her, I laughed and said, “More than you want to hear.”
I stressed strongly that I know she spends all day long thinking about her business and customers. They, however, spend no time thinking about her. It’s nothing personal.
Folks have lives, and they’re living them. The next time they need what she offers, they may think of her…or not, depending on whether someone else has gotten their attention.
Being good at what you do is Job 1. But marketing is Jobs 2, 3, and 4.
I shared that the only reason my family could find her was that another friend had her cellphone number. She said that her former employer wouldn’t give her the contact info in their system for her customers.
When folks call for her now, that salon states she is no longer with them and offers another stylist. When she expressed a little sadness that they would do that, I smiled and said, “Welcome to the jungle.”
We talked about life without a real marketing budget. I suggested things like networking with her new non-hair stylist neighbors for referrals, building email lists and sending out reminders around prom season and holidays (with special offers), and distributing business cards to every customer and asking them to tell their friends.
When I was leaving, she handed me her card. I joked, “Should I keep it or give it to a friend?” She laughed and quickly gave me several more.
Whether you run a start-up business or work for the oldest bank in town, always assume that customers (even old ones) aren’t thinking about you all that often. (They aren’t.)
Set out to change that.
I bumped into Jay, my former trainer and a great guy, in our local gym this week. He’s an ex-collegiate football and NFL practice squad player who looks like he lives in a gym.
I like to tell him that I look forward to saying, “I knew him when…” in the future. Over the past year, he’s been away on and off, appearing in a reality TV series and a few independent films.
He’s still doing that stuff along with a weekly radio show on a Houston station. And his full-time, part-time job now is designing and rolling out a program focused on helping at-risk school kids to seek out positive role models and make better decisions about their futures.
(Besides that, the guy’s a total slacker.)
I asked him how his new program was doing, and he shared several eye-opening stories about the kids he’s been working with. He brought up a couple of topics that he and I have discussed many times before (while he was inflicting pain on me) that he continually stresses to these young men and women.
If you choose to spend your days focused on whatever bad or unfair things have happened to you in the past, you only give those things more power over you.
There’s a big difference between recalling and learning from a mistake and reliving it over and over. Recognize and learn, but don’t dwell.
Also, success usually does not come in smooth, predictable steps. You may wake up in the morning, work as hard as you can, be a good person to all around you… and not feel like you’re reaping the benefits of those actions.
It’s easy to look for shortcuts (which never are) or to blame others that you don’t have what you think you deserve right now.
The hardships and struggles we encounter make us stronger or weaker depending on the way we absorb them. No one gets a free ride, no matter how it appears.
Life’s difficulties can either grind you down - or polish you, depending on your outlook.
And many of the greatest things that will ever come to you happen when you are helping others.
Jay and I reflected about how much of the advice he gives his kids is applicable to older folks who have “made it” as well.
Many, if not most, of the successes or failures in our lives and careers hinge more on how we deal with the challenges presented to us than on the challenges themselves.
Will life grind you down or polish you today?