business, life lessons

A FRESH PERSPECTIVE


I walked into my first training with an extra bounce in my step. I was excited to start my new alternate career path of becoming a certified business coach for a company I had been born and raised with called Strategies. Because I have been a recipient of their wisdom, business strategies and philosophy since I opened my business over seventeen years ago, I considered myself already a member of the team. This is the luxury of knowing a company’s culture before your first day on the job, believing in it so much that the training in its culture is almost redundant.

some of the newbies I had the privilege of training with

This business company, the first of its kind in the beauty industry, strives to change the archaic model of pay and team found in its most often female centric businesses and was about to become part of my life. For the first time in over twenty years, I was about to become a sort of ‘employee,’ not in the sense of a real employee, but someone who would be working more as a per diem so that I could still run my own company.

The beauty industry, salons especially, are notorious for wacky compensation. I don’t know if it is because when we take a look at their history in the world, they were often wonderful entrepreneurial opportunities for women to have their own careers with less than one year of schooling and still manage to be there for their children. Business training wasn’t much more than how to ring out a client and order business cards. I am guessing that these single operating salons evolved for many over time into successful operations with no basic understanding of business and payroll. Like so many of us who have had the starry eyed notion of opening our own businesses on a scrap piece of paper, we are often technically savvy, but lack the business acumen to operate and grow it successfully. We wing it. A lot.

What fascinates me is how we succeed with barely a math course in our tool belts, but we chicks are resilient and as many men who have found their way into the beauty industry, we all need help in the way we run our companies. In fact, most small businesses could use more than a consultation with an SBA Score volunteer. Just like we had to learn our craft, whether, hairdressing, facials, nails or other industry like pizza making, donut making, gift shop running, law practicing, personal training, we learn quickly that this is only one component of running a successful operation. This is what I have learned in my business life and this is what I am excited to teach others because without the important skill of business I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What has given me the most thrill in this experience thus far in addition to the intense learning and presenting, has been the birds’ eye view of a fresh perspective on another person’s company. This has led me to consider how valuable new employees are to my own company if I can manage to get them to feel safe enough to share their first impressions. For me, this is easy because I believe in this company like it is my own and I know the owner and the president well. This translates into feeling safe enough to offer my insights into my first impressions and know I will be listened to and considered, genuinely. This is not something I take for granted and it speaks volumes of their leadership style.

When I consider sharing my voice, it is with the layer of interest and care for this company’s success. I know my intent and if I don’t share it, I am leaving valuable information in the closet that surely serves no one. It is risky opening your mouth and giving an opinion on someone else’s story, but as Strategies teaches, there are a lot of brains to be accessed in the employees who show up to work every day. We just have to access them.

As single operating business owners, it is common to leave new employee thoughts and ideas out because we get so wrapped up in our own day to day. We forget to simply ask, or even encourage their valuable opinions. My way or the highway serves no one and it surely does not make for a happy team and a strong growing culture that someone can believe in. Here are some of my thoughts and observations that I have brought back to my own company.
When someone walks into a company for the first time, they see everything with fresh eyes. How does the company clean their space, how do people participate, where do they eat, do they eat together or apart? Is the environment encouraging and supportive using simple and sincere language like, Thank you and Great Job on a regular basis? Do they ask for help and are they open to yours?

New employees watch for how hierarchy demonstrates itself. Does the leadership team show up and act as if they will roll up their sleeves to assist or do they stay away? Is the leadership team gender centric or is it diverse enough where a new employee feels like they not only could be a part of the tribe but want to be? How does leadership communicate with the new employees? Do they say hello with a cheery smile and do they make it a point to say good bye first when they are leaving the building? Or do they lack consciousness? Are systems in place for leadership development right out of the gate, does this seem possible or is it not mentioned anywhere and one can only rise up by happenstance? Is the top tier of the company a part of the bottom rung; do they have a true open door policy or is that just jargon?

Then there is the dynamic that is like a vapor. How does everyone communicate with each other, with customers, how do they discuss each other when that very each other is not in the room? All of these play an integral part in the binoculars of a new employee and it is all happening with barely a conscious thought. The vapor is both subtle, and tremendously powerful because this is the time when these belief systems are formed. Then there is the mirroring that goes on. Do the behaviors of the team and the essence of the company mirror what the new employee just learned in the employee manual on the company’s culture and philosophy?

some of the leadership team and coaches enjoying dinner together after a long day of presenting

The most revealing aspect of watching the dynamics of a company from this perspective is how much I learned about my own company and the way its very personality shows up not only to new employees, but the veterans as well. Is there a clear path that encourages movement and change for their own careers and do they feel like they have options within the company’s future? Is it career development or just a job? If a new employee is asked or made to feel welcomed in sharing their perceptions, magic can happen.

I came back to my business after my final training with a book load of actual information and also an entire new outlook on the way I welcome and honor my own team every day. I am proud to say that in this company I am about to embark on as one of these coaches, most of the observations matched their philosophy. This affirms my choice to be part of the party because as much as they said YES, Alayne, you passed the training and we welcome you to our family, I too was able to answer with a clear yes that I want to continue with them as much as they want me. This is an important lesson here. How often have we worked for companies that don’t match our own visions or that the companies don’’t even have their own vision for one to match?

Leadership in a company has a huge responsibility out of the gate. They need a deep consciousness on their welcome committee. What they say, how they say it, their tones, their assistance, the way they answer questions all speak. This is where the new person on the job forms feelings good and bad. I paid close attention to what came up for me in my training. Was the best brought out in me or did I feel dismissed and diminished by my questions? All of these feelings are so important to grow new people and as important as new clients are to our own businesses, new employees and employee retention is even more so. Employees are the messengers of our culture. They are the reason clients come to a business or don’t. Where do we compromise? Are we aware of these times and do we make corrections promptly?

Owning and operating a successful company is more than numbers. The numbers are the end result of the behaviors we encourage- the good ones and the bad ones. This new journey of mine is opening up the floodgates of possibilities. Like a great movie or a interesting eye opening book that I want to tell everyone about, this chance to teach business owners the business of their business is something I am super excited about. All because a man named Neil decided that he wanted to hire people like me. #Luckyindeed. #Becarefulwhatyouwishfor.

my new fearless leader, neil and me celebrating after completing phase 1 of the training.

business

WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

There is a distinct momentum to running your own company with no partners, solo. Ups, downs, left, right, circles, squares, triangles, zany emotional rides. Dealing with employees, clients, work life balance, (whatever that is supposed to mean) all make you hyper aware of your strengths and your flaws. After all we are humans, and as much as I try to demonstrate excellence in my business to my team, I have floundered over the years as much as I have excelled. This is human nature and the nature of the beast I get to call running my own show.

How to stay motivated, how to keep a team motivated, how to keep clients wanting to come back to your established brand over and over again. The large companies have the same struggles as the small ones and like a puzzle that is all one color, sometimes it feels like the work will never be completed. There is no such thing as Set it and Forget it in running my own company. It is challenging and exhilarating in the same breath and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I often wonder if Apple had not ever invented the Iphone and the Ipad, would the Apple stores be full of curious people every day you walk by one. Mondays, Thursdays, I have never seen an empty Apple store, but as long as they keep innovating and shifting the way they approach their technology, our quest for new and exciting will keep us swiping our credit cards.

What keeps me excited is attending classes, developing leadership and service. Service has always been my personal driving force. To serve. Being in a service business makes it easy to sprinkle magic fairy dust on our clients and team. I feel privileged to serve. Every day I get to put my feet on the floor on the right side of the grass, I choose service. This is my why.

What is service anyway? And more important why? My why is the glory of establishing rapport with humanity by random acts of kindness. Sending a typewritten thank you note or a note at a most unexpected time, a phone call to check in with someone who doesn’t expect one, a simple thank you to a team member. Little specks of kind language that inspires and delights to get someone to smile because I smiled first. This is my why. And I ask Why Not? Kindness and service is such a simple contribution to a day otherwise encumbered with too much screen time and distractions further and further away from human interaction.

As I embark on yet another business adventure, getting certified as a business coach to help other businesses be successful, I am struck by the challenge to see what it feels like to be on the employee side of the coin and I am struck by the emotional zing it is giving me. Even though I am not officially an employee in the traditional sense, goodness knows I don’t need a second “job.” I still have to show up to meetings, trainings, classes with the serious dedication to someone else’s why. What I do understand wholeheartedly is that to truly be part of someone else’s team, you must buy into their why, otherwise it feels fraudulent. I am too grown up to work in any environment that is not in line with my own purpose and intention. Actually, I am fortunate to say that I have never worked in any place that I don’t agree with their core belief.

For the last twenty years though, I have only answered to the beat of my own vision and brand. Sure, I have a team I have had to be accountable to, but ultimately it is me and only me. This can be a lonely endeavor and twenty years later, I have surprised myself with the excitement I feel in having to show up and be present to someone else’s dream. This past two weeks of training and learning has awakened a part of me I didn’t know was sleeping. The interaction with like-minded business owners who decided they too needed an alternative way to lead and inspire has been a welcome guest in my otherwise party for one I have lived in as an independent business owner. The immediate camaraderie I have felt from this group of seasoned business owners who too needed a little wake up and interaction has inspired me in a way I hadn’t realized I missed. The idea of having to be quiet and learn someone else’s mission and vision and gingerly and patiently observe where and when to speak up, but not be a bull in a china closet is in itself the most challenging. I am used to doing my own thing, leading my own party and now to be on the receiving end is unique and most startling to this sassy entrepreneur. Add to this mix a leadership team of mostly men and the party changes significantly.

I have worked with twenty women for over twenty years. All of a sudden, I am thrust into a leadership tribe of five strong men and I am not exaggerating when I say that my female essence has had a bit of a shakeup. But a good one because I get to sprinkle some much needed female fairy dust in their world too (and they need it, trust me).

As I wake up each day sandwiching my excitement between morning full throttle to passing out at about 8:30 pm every night after a well-deserved bowl of Newport Creamery Peppermint Stick ice cream, I know my why. I know my company’s why and I know this new endeavor’s why. There is nothing more satisfying then purpose and intention in work. What is your why and do you know it like the air you breathe? If not, today is as good of a day as any to take a closer look. You may surprise yourself.