I guess like me, you were waiting anxiously for the Prime Ministers address last night to gain some clarity on the ease of the lockdown. After the announcement I went for a long, blustery walk - without my phone!
I wanted to be alone with my thoughts and this morning my thoughts are in limbo whilst we wait for some clarity on the situation. Apart from the continuing worry about my business, my team, the industry and my family - I have had a pleasant VE weekend. It has been a nostalgic weekend of looking back - photos, stories and memories abound as I celebrated with Mum who is living with me, and Family members by FaceTime and messenger. Throughout the weekend my thoughts invariably drifted to my business of over 30 years.
I cannot think of a word whose meaning is more profoundly apt than ‘unprecedented’ - in the words of Boris Johnson -"this is the most vicious threat this country has faced in my lifetime". What I can tell you is that as I reflect nostalgically about my salons I realise that my position has completely changed. I went back to an article I wrote - originally about 15 years ago. It has been published multiple times, in multiple countries, translated in different languages and updated as time has gone by. Suffice to say it has been the most published article I have written. The article - which is reproduced below, is a chronolog of business success as I have experienced it. It has a new relevance today as I realise I have moved backwards from' growing the business' too ‘hang in there’- like a game of snakes and ladders. Luckily I like a challenge and am naturally competitive, so when some order emerges from the chaos, we will work to get ‘back there’.
Is Your Business Working For You?
My new business had been running for just over a year and I was sitting in my accountant’s office for our first annual review. I examined the documents he handed me representing my first year of trading and was shocked to discover that I had paid two of my stylists more than I had made myself! They had earned their wages fair and square but there was not enough left in my business to pay ME fair and square. That was the day I realised I would be better off working for me then being me. I’d been working six days a week on the salon floor cutting hair and I had personally put nearly half the salon takings in the till. I was the first to arrive and last to leave every day. What’s more, when I looked at that profit figure I knew I had not taken that amount of money out of the business for myself. So where had it all gone?
Working for my salon.
My accountant, a nice man offered encouragement and congratulated me on what he said was a good result for my first years trading. He said that many businesses did not even make a profit in the first year! But my enthusiasm for my salon had turned into total despair. I left his office confused and frustrated. I simply could not face another year if it meant more of the same. I was smart enough to know that if I carried on doing the same I would get the same result. I was working for my salon - my salon was not working for me!
Michael Gerber said in his book The E-Myth, ‘Most people that start their own business are technicians moved by a short lived entrepreneurial seizure.’ I was a great Hairstylist and my Clients and family kept telling me I should open my own salon. I thought it was a good idea. Oops! An entrepreneurial seizure occurred and I found myself in business. As a technician I was already working hard and I could not work any harder, I was working in my business whilst entrepreneurs work on their business. I had traded one job, working for someone else to another job, working for myself.
Building a successful business
Unfortunately many salon owners find that over a period of time the work they love, cutting hair, becomes a chore as they try to squeeze in all the other stuff that has to be done. In other words, as their business grows and demands more systems and supervision from the manager, the technician’s time is squeezed. The problem encountered at this stage as the business moves from infancy to expansion is twofold:
1) If the salon relies on the owner cutting hair to survive financially, there is little time for management.
2) The skills and knowledge required to manage the business are rarely the skills of a hairdresser.
The Choice is Yours
Every business owner has a comfort zone. For the technician it is how much work they can do. For the manager it is how many people they can supervise. For the entrepreneur it is how many people buy into their vision.
There are basically four choices you can make.
- Stay small –keep the business in infancy where life is simple. This route comes naturally for the technician owner.
- Bat out of hell –work hard as a technician and grow the business fast hoping that you can generate enough cash to provide the resources needed to manage it before time runs out.
- Hang in there –hoping that some order will emerge from the chaos. Salon owners will often describe this course as ‘we are getting there’ but without knowing where ‘there’ is.
- Grow the business –from infancy through to expansion and finally into maturity. To achieve this the business owner must be willing to adopt a new way of thinking about business, learn new skills and set different priorities for the use of their time. This is the position of an entrepreneur
Need to know more!
If you are lucky enough to have been born an entrepreneur all this will be second nature. I envy you. If, like me, you find yourself a technician who suffered an entrepreneurial seizure, you must find a new formula before you run out of energy. Lack of energy for your business will lead to loss of passion and creativity and your salon will seem like a millstone around your neck. Michael E. Gerber says: ’The people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know, but because of their insatiable need to know more.’
Business, like life, is a journey. Through good choices, often perceived as luck, successful salon owners carve a path that helps them move from technician to manager and eventually onto entrepreneurial leadership. This journey enables a business to move from infancy through expansion to maturity. Think forward five years from now and imagine your success. Create a path to take you there and consider that everything you choose to do takes you either one step nearer or further away from success.
Entrepreneurs are rarely born; they evolve from technicians who have spirit, energy, and a passion they never let die.