Beauty, business

FIGHTING FOR BEAUTY

Hair salons are not spas. Neither are nail salons. Nail salons are not hair salons either. The beauty business is usually in the bottom of the barrel when it comes to most conversation. That is until someone needs their hair colored or their eyebrows waxed. But now- during Covid- the beauty business and all of its economics- gets lumped into one big pile.

Comparatively speaking, hair salons are much easier to get up and running than a nail salon or a skin salon or spa. Taking the obvious impossibility of social distancing out of the equation, at least in a hair salon the hair stylists are standing up above the client, they can wear a mask or a shield, and so can the client. They can sort of wear gloves, maybe a little more difficult cutting hair than applying color, but compared to a spa, a much more adaptable predicament.

Nail salons are right in someone’s face, again though easier to wear a mask since there is no direct connection with the face. But here it is a little trickier since skin is flying, cuticles, nail dust and potential of blood is more likely. Same with pedicures, and the common denominator with hands and feet is that they are known for their harboring of germs. Sanitation isn’t often what the multitude of nail salons are known for and there is little policing of it before Covid. I shudder to think of how this will be policed during.

Then there are the spas. The skin studios. The businesses of skin beauty that are not medical. Medical falls into a different set of rules and regulations for monitoring best practices. Spas fall under beauty and, again, the regulations, though they try to be clear, most sanitation happens because of the good consciousness of the owners and the systems in place for running a strong operation.

There is also the obvious to me, but clearly not so obvious to the people deciding who will open when, and that is the physical aspect of getting a service, completely different from a haircut. Logistically it is easier to separate, often the services are in separated rooms, closed off from each other so this is a plus. But these rooms are often less than 8×10 and have more of a deliberate cocoon feeling on purpose for the intimacy these services provide. These services offer respite and care.

They offer intuitive touch, closeness and deep breathing. They are about great skin so this means, lots of massage and mask applications, hand to face connection that has now turned into hand to face combat like a war instead of the love they were set out to give.

They are about pore cleaning, yes with gloves, but blood is sometimes a possibility, they are about intimate bikini waxing, closer than this writing needs to write, but I am guessing you get the point. Again gloves are used, but then there is the disposing of all of this.

I think there are three E’S to consider.

Engagement. Environment. Economics.

The latter two are pretty obvious, but the rules of engagement make it impossible to perform the services that the spa business commands. The business we are known for. Touch. Intuition. Hugging. Hand shaking. Getting under blankets, changing into gowns, more sheets and towels than I care to think about, (well… how about $1500 a month for the sanitized linen service in case anyone was wondering).

At my business, and many other spa business owners this unfortunate pandemic has introduced me to, we have always done it the right way. Despite the fact that we are mostly under regulated, often barely mentioned in this world of Covid, but employ hundreds of thousands of people, mostly women.

Women who will find it difficult to return to work for all three of the E’s. Their kids are no longer in school and they are home, home schooling, they are rethinking their entire career choices wondering if they will ever get back to the business of beauty and touch they have loved for their careered lives.

And not so much when and how, but if they even want to. And yes. These are careers for these people, not a hobbies or silly playing store kinds of jobs.

The beauty business is a multi billion dollar business employing millions of people across the world. There are the makeup counters, the retail, the gyms and yoga studios that have saunas and steam rooms and whirlpool baths. There are the hotel spas, the small one room and the large twenty room spas. There are the franchises.

Are we doomed? No. But for the next two years as we slug our way out this mess, we have some serious grown up business decisions to make. Last night, I listened to Tiffani Faison, a multi location Boston restaurant owner and James Beard nominee. She was being interviewed by Jim Braude from Greater Boston and she was saying the exact same thing I have been saying.

If we are expected to operate at less than a certain level of productivity, we operate at a loss. Our business models rely on a certain amount of traffic. We, in the beauty business whether we like to admit it or not, sell time. The more time we sell, the better our businesses operate.

Selling a certain amount of time is what sustains our companies. Without this formula, it is impossible to work unless landlords want to drastically cut our rents in our high rent districts that afford us the opportunities to have the businesses we have. And they have to make a living too, they have their set of parameters that make their businesses of landlording run efficiently.

This is a conundrum. Reinvention is a possibility, but how? My landlord said to me recently, Alayne, you’re a fighter. He doesn’t have to tell me something I know deeply about myself.

But the unique question is not whether I am a fighter, but rather, do I want to fight?

I love my business, I enjoy my team immensely. Many business owners can’t say this, but I can. Sure, I realize that they are employees and I am the employer, but my team is my heart. I go to bed, just like I heard Tiffani say last night, thinking about what I am going to do, how am I going to operate and sustain their livelihood. And mine. Because without my livelihood, there is no livelihood.

I fight for my company, but I also fight for safety. We can’t possibly open under these conditions in the way that my business model and every spa owner I know operates in. I am not willing to take on boatloads of debt for a business that may or may not be a sustainable operation in the next two years just to reopen half ass.

Clients are all letting me know they can’t wait to come back, but what does that even mean? Will they? I don’t even know if my team will be able to come back, and it is not because of their stimulus checks. I am tired of hearing that this is the main problem with people not returning to work. My team has no childcare, they have to worry about their safety in a business of intimacy like no other.

I always said that the business of beauty was one of the mighty ones.

Liquor and Lipstick, the two businesses that historically thrive during a recession. My business has never steered me wrong, but this time, I am really not sure what type of business I am fighting for.

I myself have been getting pedicures, waxing, haircuts and facials since I was sixteen years old. That is forty years of beauty. My mother got me started with beauty early and I knew that this was my calling early on. For the past nine weeks I have missed at least eight beauty appointments that I would have had if not for Covid.

Oddly, I have managed. I am still alive. My toenails don’t look as bad as I thought they would, my long hair easily mends with a pony tail elastic. I miss my facials, but there is enough of my product to virtually learn an at home facial, not nearly the same, but it is good enough for now. Waxing is really the only thing I really need, but thankfully it is not short season so I have lived without this service too. (And for the amount of calories I have consumed on a daily basis, shorts will likely stay right where they are for quite some time anyway).

What I have found amazing is how much I have lived without. I have saved enormous amounts of money from not spending it on my beauty routine. And I was pretty simple before. So this leads me to think that as much as clients will want to return, will they return at the rate they did before?

The greatest thing about aging is that the fight is not based on ego anymore. Sometimes choosing to not fight is the person who wins.

We shall see.

Beauty, business, grief

LET’S FACE IT

Churning. This describes my brain. My stomach. My heart. I try to meditate. I meditate. I walk outside almost daily for fresh air and to keep my heart energized and calmed, a contradiction out of the gate. I attempt to workout with my variety of accoutrements, a Pelaton, a Nordic Track, weights, virtual workouts from my gym. 

I say (every night before I go to bed), tomorrow is Day 1. 

Day 1— again. 

It is so easy to plan for Day 1 the night before with a belly full of sugar and wine. 

But this is my pattern, when the times are the most stressful, the most chaotic, I decide to do some twenty eight day fitness challenge. 

I’m in a master mamma group with two powerhouse female business owners. One  said, with a frankness I have come to appreciate, “Alayne, why would you quit drinking in the midst of this disaster?” 

“This is just what I do.” I replied, so matter of factly, it almost sounded normal. When the times are at their most dismal, these are the times I decide to take on a brand new health challenge. 

I laugh aloud. If I didn’t, I would be sobbing aloud. 

Let’s face it. The beauty business, the business I have raised myself in, raised over fifty women in for the past thirty years will never be the same, or at least will not be the same for at least the next two years. 

And it is the next two years that are what concern me. I know that if I look at the after, everything will be back to a new normal, social distancing will likely be a thing of then, but it is the next two years that frighten me. 

My Providence landlord, who has unintentionally mentored me for the past eleven years, has given me at least three unsolicited pep talks. “Alayne, you are a fighter.” He says this with so much confidence that I have to remind myself, Yes. I am a fighter. Just being a small business owner equals auto fighter status. 

Every single day, we small business owners have to think in a way that employees don’t. We are mostly a group of control freaks that don’t know what to do when we are out of control. This is the work we do as leaders as we transition through the growth from playing store to grown up bad ass leaders.

And I wouldn’t change this for the world. I love being an entrepreneur. There are facets to this title that define my brain. Creative power, charitability, kindness, strength, linear thinking, leadership, direction, grooming, beauty, humanity, lifting, figuring shit out. Empathy. Seldom do we let our employees see our vulnerable sides. As entrepreneurs, it is our duty to keep our chins held high and to lead our troops, no matter how much of a sinking heart we may have.

This time, though- this time, we are amidst a global crisis. Together, with no clear direction. The how. The when. None of it is really obvious. And I, in turn, am part of the crisis rather than the head of the pack. Someone said to me yesterday that I am a leader in the industry. It is true that I have a big voice in my community and in my industry. 

But I am tired. 

Maybe if this was happening when I was thirty, I’d feel more of a passion to fight the battle and come out badder ass than ever, but I am fifty-five fucking years old. I have had enough battles already and I can’t see how this is going to be repairable in the short future. 

As I write that, I feel like I am letting my industry voice down, my team, my clients, but how much life coming at us can one business owner take? I wish I did, but I don’t. And this in itself is a revelation for me. It actually feels liberating and powerful to say aloud, I don’t fucking feel like figuring it out. 

Let’s face it, my beloved beauty business, the business of touch, the business we already have one of the best sanitation procedures in, will not be able to perform the way it did. My employees and I will be expected to reinvent our entire business model with no clear direction that when we do, it will even work. This is a traumatic event, and we haven’t even started to repair from, let alone grieve its loss. 

So I write. I write my heart out, my guts out. I share my thinking so that it leaves my body instead of taking up permanent residence and I feel better saying it aloud. 

Writing is therapy. Letting my brain relieve itself of its busy and constant yapping calms me immediately.  I feel better just admitting what I know many like- minded entrepreneurs are thinking. Recognizing that there is an elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged is my superpower. Saying what people are fearing out loud is the quality I enjoy about myself when I get right down to what I really would miss if I was no longer. 

This is the crux of the problem I now recognize through this piece today. I don’t have a fear of not having my business, I have a fear of not getting to be the leader I have loved being. 

I have worn and grown into my leadership cape with every trial and tribulation that has come into my life and fought it with a fierceness to be reckoned with. I know now that what is surprising me the most is my lack of interest in the fight this time around. I am releasing the need to fight and instead just lying back waiting for the course correction I know is there, but I don’t want to be the one to have to make the decision. This has never been who I am, lying back in the wait and see. I am an action figure. Running to the trunk to get the cape before I even know that there is a fire to be put out. 

What I realize about the cape and all of its superpowers is sometimes not putting it on is a strength, just allowing it to stay in the closet or the padlocked trunk and not trying to figure out how to solve or fix a problem is the lesson. 

I don’t feel like redoing every single protocol, figuring out how to communicate this to every client so that they feel less afraid to walk into my business that is already clean and sanitized and safe. The cape is put away and after all of this sugar and wine partying, I am not even sure it would fit around my expanded girth. 

It has been seven weeks today that I closed my beloved company and I haven’t even grieved that loss yet. Though the money is what makes it function, it is about the integrity of everything I have worked for. It is about feeling a deep sense of responsibility to my team in thinking about how the hell am I going to afford to bring them back when we can’t operate the way we used to. It is about the loyalty I have to our clients who trust that we will figure out how to reopen and the pressure to do it “better than ever.” 

But then, like the magic that comes with the rewards of reinvention, I was invited to be a guest on some national calls to speak on this unintended reinvention. The beauty company, Gloskinbeauty I do business with, asked me to speak about my virtual beauty ideas and curbside product delivery. In the midst of the chaos, little golden nuggets come at me reminding me that what I am doing does make a difference.

Yesterday, after finally taking my head out of the sand and facing the inevitable budget I had been avoiding like the plague, (if only this was a pun), I came home to a hand delivered bag on my front porch. My account representative, from GloSkinBeauty, had driven from her home in Boston and delivered a fully stocked bag of homemade Italian goodies. 

Apparently, she hadn’t received the memo that yesterday was Day 1 and along with the homemade delights were two bottles of my favorite wine and a card that said, “You’re kindness made a difference.”

My kindness? Hardly. This changed my night. Made my heart sing and yes of course, Day One got bumped to Monday where all Day Ones happily reside.

As this essay works itself through me today, I feel better already and more hopeful.  I stopped writing for a brief moment to film my fox family that has taken residence in my backyard for the past seven weeks. I took a detour to my email and Facebook where I found lovely comments on a video I had posted from my team that made me remember that I have one, the strongest and most caring group of women who work for me and alongside of me for twenty years. 

As I checked my email, I came across a note from a client we have been taking care for our entire twenty years in business. Its simplicity and timing brought me back to my reality and out of the nightmare that closing my business has been. Sure, the product order itself is lovely, as I have said, we need money to make this business clock tick. But more important is the word TRUST and EFFORTS. 

Alayne,

How are you? I miss seeing you, and of course my other fav goddess, Jenna! Thank you for your continued efforts in promoting self-care during this time. I always trust your beauty feedback! I would love to place an order (your video was awesome). Could I purchase the Glo hydrating gel cleanser, Pro5, Super Serum, and toner (whichever you recommend for my 46 yr-old-skin)? And I would love to take a drive to Bristol whenever it’s ready 🌞. Talk to you soon 😘

With gratitude,

Catherin

There has never been a shortage of effort from me, and trust is how I have built my business, one client at a time. I realize now that the cape I own is not something that needs to be worn for people to have to visually see my strengths and goodness. After all this time in business, this is just something that my clients and my team know about me. This is what makes me get out of bed to face another day, cape or not. 

With gratitude, Catherine, indeed. 

business, Health, life lessons

THIS IS NOT A STAYCATION

Five weeks ago, while I was lounging comfortably on the white sands of Siesta Key visiting my beloved grandfather, my manager was sending me what seemed like moment to moment text messages about what was unfolding in her home country of France. I didn’t quite roll my eyes, but in full transparency, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and I am confident I said this to her. 

 This was the last week of February. 

Twelve days later, two of my favorite yoga studios close by voluntarily closing their businesses. My initial knee jerk thought was, are they overreacting? I didn’t say this aloud, but I thought it. It was the week of March 11th . My team was looking for me to make a decision. After much discussion, we decided to take on the role of a respite from the outside mayhem. 

We would sanitize, keep clients at reasonable distance, and clean clean clean. Clients needed us. They needed our business to wind down, to relieve stress from the outside world. We would be of service.  Just like we always were in times of grief and sadness of what was going on out there.

Meanwhile, my dear friend from Madrid, began giving me her daily updates. News of Italy dominated the news. We marched forth. After all, if it were really that bad, wouldn’t the leadership of our country or our state be giving more clear and concise direction? One week later, as my 55th birthday fast approached, three weeks ago today, I went out with my girlfriends to day drink to drink our woes away. The news in Europe was dismal. California and Washington State was showing signs of demise. So we did what we do, soothed our worries with some local faire. That night, I went out to dinner with some clients, then out again for some dancing and more drinking. After all it was my birthday weekend. 

On Saturday, I woke up with a terrible feeling that was more than too much wine. Information had changed overnight. It was March 14th. I reached out to my former breast surgeon who is also a great friend and asked her opinion. She forwarded me a letter written by a Boston doctor and I immediately did a 360 degree flip in my thinking. 

We needed to close. But it shoud have been in hind site.

This was not mandated by anyone. This was the decision of collective leadership. Searching for more information, listening to my team, and taking action with the most difficult business choice of my life. It is not easy to close your business not just because of the loss, but of the economics of each woman I employ. Heart wrenching. 

At the time, and it seems like a billion years ago now, we had decided to close for just two weeks. March 16th-March 28th. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the naivety of this with the now unfortunate wisdom of retrospect. I did a self imposed two week quarantine because of my Friday night shenanigans. I had already taken my son shopping for a two week supply of food, more because I wanted to spend time with him for my birthday weekend and since discussion of toilet paper shortages was starting to seep into our brainwaves, I did what most mothers I know would do- stock up. 

Little did I know that just three weeks later, we would be living in what seems like Armageddon. I have watched my business and every other business in my community close, but as I reflect back on the week we closed, when I started my personal mission to tell every beauty business I knew in the country to #stayhome, I am happy that I was ahead of the curve. I am even happier that I got my team of twenty out of harms way. I am glad we didn’t expose our thousands of clients and vice versa. We did our part as responsible business owners. 

Business ownership, when I first started, felt a bit like playing store. But with more and more experience, I realized the depth of seriousness business owning is. Money and economics are certainly a major part of owning your own business. This isn’t a hobby, but it has never been my personal driver.  If I really cared about this as my main priority, I would be a better money manager. I have just never been directed by this. But the fact of the matter is, in order for your business to work, you must have cash. Closing ceases this unless you can come up with something creative fast. 

 I saw the challenges we faced as a country in our struggles with the need for economics. I saw people in the service industry not make the decision because of money and because they chose a different business model that would offer no protection to their “employees” or independent contractors, their decision to stay open was misguided. This has come back to hurt our economy more than we ever thought possible. At least in my situation, my team can collect unemployment because I have paid into it for over twenty years barely using it. This is responsible business ownership, yes expensive, but now as a country we can see the ramifications of under the table and 1099 business models. More on that later.

Information during this unusual time is free for the taking. Yes, it can be confusing, but if you read the paper, and watch the news even in the smallest snippets, you are informed. As business leaders, it is imperative that we stay informed and do not solely rely on our government to make business decisions for us. In this case we all had the information to make informed decisions the first week of March at a minimum. Yet here we are, with certain states seeming to just get the memo (Georgia, Florida, Alabama to name three, instantly) missing a window of opportunity to stave off this horrible disaster. 

In my need to get fresh air, I have seen troves of people at parks and out and about not adhering to the recommendations causing our state Governor, powerhouse ball of Italian fire, Gina Raimondo to have to tell us like we are kindergartners to KNOCK IT OFF as she has tried to give her state residents the benefit of acting like grownups and adhering to the advice. 

We have missed the window. We should have started self imposed quarantines the first week of March at least. We didn’t. Those extra two weeks are going to set us back for months if not quarters. I have spoken to the plethora of women I am privileged to know who continue to tell me that their kids are getting invited to gatherings while school is now virtual. These families are smart and educated proving that a college degree doesn’t always equal common sense. 

I had a meeting with my team, as I have been trying to keep this all as communicative as possible, to begin getting them to wrap their head around at least a three month closure. The fact is, though, that with half the population not following the advice of our heath care organizations, we will be lucky to get back to our work in three months. 

This is beyond staying home now. It is a stark realization that we have a country filled with people who are so distracted, that the thought of being “stuck” inside their homes for two weeks is worse than taking the risk and risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. Ou health care workers, our police and firefighters, our prison guards, our food bank volunteers and first responders need us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. This is not about an individual’s tolerance level of home confinement. This is chump change compared to the amount of people who will be forced to die at home, alone. 

This shit is real and it is about time we come together as a country and make a decision collectively to STAYHOME. We are individual states with each of their own chiefs and cheiftresses, but for this global health and economic disaster we need to take charge of our own humanity, put on our grownup pants and not wait for anyone to make another decision for us. We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Lets take our call to action by the name of our country verbatim. Let’s unite and do the right thing. It is not forever, but it could be if we do not act UNITED. You have enough toilet paper by now. 

#Stayhome.

business, life lessons

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED AS OF DAY 5

I sat at my computer yesterday looking at my payroll expense account knowing that this would be the last payroll for some time. I took a deep breath and pressed the send button. This was the final major part of my business activity I would be doing since no money is coming in now and this was the last big expense. The action was saying, finally after 5 days of mayhem, holy shit, this is real.

I am a fixer. Chaos and I get along just fine. When things are going right, I get bored easily. I like to solve problems and help people solve problems. This is why I am so active with writing and on social media right now. I am in all hands on deck mode. How can I help? How can I serve? This has always been my driving force of small business owning. I never stop because of my love for small business and its ability to take action on so many levels beyonf the day to day operations. For my little business, I have a big payroll. This one is on the smaller size because to conserve money, I chose to not pay myself. I include the amount so any non business owners out there can see the impact of what just one business closing will be haivng. This is real.

The only thing that is keeping me going is that we are all going through this together.

Continuing on with my day to day of the shut downs, thinking that this would be helpful. Take what you need and leave the rest.

There are lots of “little,” seemingly insignificant charges, we small business owners, who wear every hat imaginable, incur on the day to day month to month operations of our companies.

A two week shut down is a stark difference to a two month shut down, but I was raised as a pragmatist, so I err on the longer shut down of my business then a shorter one. The realist in me says that as much as people may WANT a spa service when we come out on the other side of this, my business may not be their first call. Hair color, Waxing, Haircut, facial, lash extensions maybe not so much, in that order. I am guessing this all, but I am a planner and I am basing my thinking on human nature. I hope I am wrong.

DAY 5

Here is what has happened and my additions to the check list. I am capitalizing the first few since they are of utmost importance.

GET YOURSELF A NOTEBOOK AND BEGIN DOCUMENTING EVERY CALL EVERY DATE, EVERY TIME AND WHO YOU SPOKE TO. Keep the name of the company and the phone number in one place according to the date. You will need good records, this will save you a lot of time later.

CREATE A FILE IN YOUR EMAIL TO MOVE EVERY EMAIL EXCHANGE BETWEEN INSURANCE UNEMPLOYMENT, INTERACTIONS, REFUNDS, CREDITS ETC and as the emails come in just move them to the file to find easily later. When later comes. And later will come.

THIS IS NEW FOR EVERYONE. STAY KIND AND PATIENT. OFFER SUGGESTIONS TO SOME OF THESE COMPANIES WHO ARE NOT ON THE FRONT LINE OF THE BRICK AND MORTAR BUSINESS MODELS LIKE WE ARE. They are open to suggestions. This may surprise you, but this is only week one for them too. My suggestion was to create a checklist for their accounts and send them out to stay ahead of the panic. Don’t freak out- we are all in the same boat. 

THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO ORGANIZE ALL OF YOUR PASSWORDS, ACCOUNT NUMBERS, LOGINS IN ONE PLACE. You will be needing them and the more orderly you can keep everything, the calmer you will be the longer this goes on.

CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: If you are trying to cancel those pesky monthly charges that happen with or without business have your MERCHANT ID and your BUSINESS TAX ID handy. Keep it handy because you will be asked for this over and over.

They are on the receiving end of our panicked calls. We are chump change compared to the restaurant businesses that have alcohol instead of haircuts or candles to sell. I called mine and after one hour this is what I learned to ask for. 

Salon Software told me to call Gateway company- in my case it was Salon Biz + PaySimple. I called Paysimple they told me to call the credit card company, WORLD PAY. World Pay told me I needed to call Paysimple. YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS WAS HEADED. Here is what I learned. You can ask for a cancelation or a temporary suspension or a seasonal suspension. In PaySimple’s case, it was a cancelation. I will have 6 months from the date I canceled to reactivate or I will need to close and then reopen the account. I chose this as my option. The fees aren’t a lot but with no money coming in, 15.95 per month per location adds up over time. Right along with Pandora, Apple Music etc. Pick and choose your battles. I am being fiscally ultra conservative so that I have a business when we do reopen. 

This process start to finish took from 9:30am-10:38 am, over an hour. I ope this will save you some time. Many of us small business owners don’t even know how much extra we pay PER MONTH in addition to the fees PER TRANSACTION. Time to rise and shine, my beautiful small business owners!

If you have a separate credit card account for ECOMMERCE like I do, I didn’t cancel this. Just double check what you have and make decisions accordingly. 

SBA DISASTER RELIEF LOAN: Yes, taking out loans sucks. But I still say, fill out the paperwork anyway. Don’t do it on your phone. Sit down with your tax returns from last year or this year and have your debts, company names of mortgages and any other outstanding debt information at your side. It will take some time to fill out the form. You can save it and return to it later if it boots you out like it did me 3 times yesterday. I just turned it off, and am headed back to it today. Here is the website: spa.disasterloan.gov

My thinking is to get in the system so if I need it, I have the paperwork done. I hope I don’t need it. I hope none of us do. 

BUSINESS PHONE+INTERNET+SOFTWARE etc. I am in wait and see mode here. I reached out to them to see what their thoughts are and they are not ready to make decisions yet so I will revisit this next week. 

TEAM: Check in with your team. See if they need anything. Check to see if they received the unemployment confirmation. Send them a checklist that you have found helpful in your personal life. Set up a company zoom meeting so you can stay in touch. Not now, but keep this in mind as this situation progresses. Especially single moms, or moms home with their kids 24/7 for the first time. Work outside the home can be a very important outlet and identity for moms, this is a big shift for them.  A call, an email, a group text, letting them know you care during this craziness. You need them and they need you. The bonding between leaders and their employees shine the brightest in times of turmoil.

LEADERSHIP: Owning a business is easy when everything is going great. When the shit hits the fan like it is globally right now, we must take action. Make difficult decisions. This is not a popularity contest. Leadership is what you do when the going gets tough. It is the hardest job and this is a test of our ability under pressure. Not everyone is going to like your decisions, but this is a great thing too because it separates the people who you want as part of your continued tribe when and if you do reopen. This is a traumatic event. Ration your news feed. Put some music on. Light a candle. Call a neighbor and set the example by staying home. Encourage your team to stay home. Encourage your friend’s kids to stay home. Be a big voice in your business community. This is how we help.

SOCIAL MEDIA: I am in a lot of Business Facebook groups because I enjoy helping people. If the information you are reading is helpful then by all means share it, if it is causing you more worry and fear, then turn off your notifications and take a long bath, or a shower or make brownies with your kids. Don’t get sucked into the vortex. We need to keep our immunity up and strong during this time and health is priority number 1- physical and mental, spiritual too.

EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH: Health is of utmost importance. If you are a gym person, and you don’t have access to it, you already know there is a plethora of videos and apps to keep moving even if you can’t get to the gym. For those of you who have been meaning to get to the gym and find yourselves hanging out on the couch more than ever- start small. 1 jumping jack, 1 ten second plank,  1 sit up,  1 deep breath. The next day try to add one more and keep adding until the end of the month. It is amazing how quickly these small additions can become easier and more important keep you sane. We have the time now. Take lots of deep breaths, write, draw, jump up and down, use your stairs, write letters to people instead of texts and emails. Keep moving. You need your health and you need your mind. 

TO BE CONTINUED, my friends. Stay safe. #Stayhome. #wewillgethroughthis.

business

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED IN THE LAST TWO DAYS (AND I HOPE IT HELPS YOU)

So much as happened since Saturday when I decided to close my doors. We are all in shock that we have found ourselves in this situation. 

But here we are so we, as the bad ass leaders we are, will march forth and make the best of an unprecedented global situation.

The following list in no apparent order is what I have learned and hope it saves your some time in your spinning minds. Some may apply to your business, some may not, most of these tips are in relation to a service/ appointment business, but I am sure that many reading this will get something out of it even if this is not your business model.

My business is in Rhode Island. Some things may not apply in your states, but I am guessing most will. 

Good luck and I hope this is helpful as it intends.

  • Once you say finito, your team will be in panic mode. As much as you are freaking out, they are freaking out more. Help them with unemployment. If you are a w2 business who pays their staff the way employers of real businesses do, filing for unemployment is easy and should be the first step. When they file, make sure you have their starting dates before they go online to fill out the paperwork, it will time out so having everything they need on hand makes the process less stressful. When asked the question, “Will you be returning to work or do you have a date?” Have them answer no. Don’t worry about it now. Just get them in the system.
  • If you have been paying yourself the correct way in a check, you will likely be eligible as well. Don’t hesitate. Fill out the paperwork. As a matter of fact, if you do it at the same time they do, you can be helpful to the process. Not that you need to be humbled, but it is a good dose of humility.
  • Unless you have boatloads of cash reserve and many businesses do not, I would not suggest paying them right now for the time. Get them in the unemployment system. You will need your cash. I also asked my team not to drain the PTO/ sick or vacation time since that would also drain my cash reserves and they were fine with this. 
  • I removed any of the extra deductions for this last check, IRAS, Health insurance etc, just for them to maximize their final check. They were appreciative.
  • If you are a 1099/ Independent contractor/ booth renter, traditional unemployment will not work for you. The Federal government is actively working on activating something called Unemployment Disaster Relief or something to that effect. I spoke with someone on the state level today from the Department of Labor and they were very helpful and this is what they told me. This will be a wait and see relief. 
  • If you have a linen service, trash service, cleaning service, call them and tell them the date(s) to stop. You are not going to be open, so you don’t need the services right now.
  • Call your banks and deactivate your debit cards. This will help you gain control rapidly over all of the auto debits. Don’t forget Apple, PayPal, Google, Pandora or any other peripheral account that withdraws automatically. 
  • Prioritize the absolute musts of your bills. For example, business insurance, car insurance. Yes it totally sucks to be late on any bills, I am never late, but in this case, you need to reserve cash so pay what you must, but don’t overpay.
  • Business loss insurance at this moment does not cover this loss. This is a pandemic, call your state congresspeople and ask them to pressure insurance companies to create a window of exemption. It will take a lot of us calling to even make this a possibility, but I definitely think it is worth the time.
  • Credit cards for your business- call and ask them to reduce the rate and to temporarily stop the monthly fees they charge. There may not be any business coming in, why should you pay a fee for this?
  • Clients- What we did was keep every single client on our schedule. We called them and told them we were postponing their appointments until we reopened and then we would call them and prioritize their rescheduling when we had an exact date of reopening. This will help you keep track of the clients and also how much potential business you are losing should insurance companies rally. (Thanks to my dear friend and salon owner, Claudia, for that last idea).
  • We sent out emails announcing the closing then another email to tell them they didn’t have to call and cancel any appointments. We would leave them where they were so we would know to call them when we reopened. 
  • Remember to turn off confirmation emails if they are automated. We forgot and it was confusing. 
  • We also turned off online booking so that we didn’t have to block out the times for the next few weeks in case someone did happen to schedule online. It also saved us time for the future so we wouldn’t reschedule everyone, just to have to call them again and do it a second time. Clients were so nice and understanding.
  • If you have any marketing or social media automated, please turn it off. There is nothing worse in a crisis situation then getting something irrelevant. 
  • If you are using a company like mind body, mail chimp or something like this, you may consider pausing it or asking for a temporary deactivation to save some money. I did this with Mailchimp. I tried it with my software company and just kept asking for a supervisor so I could get the word out that if they paused our monthly fees for even one month it would speak volumes in good business and kindness creating more loyalty than ever. Don’t hesitate to ask for this. THE MORE THEY HEAR FROM US….
  • Check in with your team. I do have a cash reserve so I offered to loan anyone any money if it gets dire. No one has taken me up on this, but I know they feel better knowing it is there if they need it. Also especially check in with team members who are solo, living on their own, just to make sure they have what they need. Many of my team have partners income they rely on, many do not.
  • Remind your clients that purchasing a gift card if it speaks to them is a great way to support local businesses. Though I don’t want to be selling a lot of them for the unknown that lies ahead, it sure does make some clients feel like they are helping a business they have loved to do business with.
  • Remember the food pantry’s in this situation or if that is too big, remember to check in with the neighbors across the street and next door. Just a phone call makes a big difference in depression, and isolation.
  • This could be a fun time to have zoom meetings, zoom dance parties, face time dinner parties with your friends and clients and your team. Wacky miraculous forms of entertainment are coming out of this disaster.
  • Use this time to clean closets, work on that book you have been meaning to write or read, art projects with your kids, get fresh air, do jumping jacks and planks, call people. Try to use this unique global pause to disconnect from the media and stay connected with the people you love, family, friends and your team. 
  • This is badass leadership and you are a badass leader. If you don’t think you were, you are now. 
  • Good luck, stay safe. Any questions or comments email me alayne@alaynewhite.com I am two full days into this new paradigm and two days is a lot of time in this business is closed world we are in. 
  • One more thing- if you want to get inspired, read OR watch anything about Winston Churchill. He was one of the baddest ass leaders around. Especially his quotes. Try to keep off the 24/7 news. Watch a little, turn it off. Turn on some calming music, open your windows or your curtains if it is too cold, light a candle.
  • We will get through this. JUST KEEP SAYING IT. 

“Sure I am of this, that you  have only to endure to conquer.” Winston Churchill

business, Health, life lessons

THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

March 14th will go down in history as one of the most tumultuous days in my already busy brain. In the morning, I was comfortable with my decision to keep my business open, mistakenly thinking that I was providing a “respite” from the outside world. After all we in the beauty business of touch are not large gathering crowds. 

But as the day went on and I spoke directly with a dear doctor friend who is soon to be on the front lines of this pandemic, I learned much more. I read a detailed and very concise letter written by an esteemed professional doctor and that changed my mind. 

I closed my business voluntarily yesterday at 5:00pm after painful and deep consideration.What I have seen and heard is the next two weeks is the most critical. I didn’t realize this as I made my way out with the masses on Friday to party before my birthday weekend. I didn’t think about the seriousness of the next two weeks. Like the masses of people who decided to head out to the bars in Newport and Boston yesterday to celebrate the no parade St. Patrick’s Day, I was foolish. 

I am no longer foolish.

Our leadership, federal and state, doesn’t seem to want to say. CLOSE YOUR BUSINESS. Why would anyone want to say this? It is economic suicide not just for business, but for the people we employ. The Federal level has taken action to make it more streamlined for emergency money to help compensate the people we have to layoff for fourteen days. But no one is talking about the impact that my type of business has in the country. Spas, hair salons, nail salons, gyms, yoga studios, wellness- we are all touching people in the most intimate areas every day. We are then going home to our families, to the market, to restaurants. 

In my opinion, now that I know what I know, I would rather voluntarily close for two weeks and ask my team to self quarantine for that time, to help prevent what is happening in Italy and the rest of Europe. This is not a two week vacation. This is a time to self quarantine because the likelihood of exposure is the highest right now. We in the beauty and wellness businesses have likely already been exposed. I am not one to freak out. I usually weigh with much consideration the pros and cons when it comes to making these difficult decisions.

Europe is our countries Ghost of Christmas Future right now. I hope I am wrong and that my colleagues can laugh and point a finger at my for being “overreactive” a month from now. I am willing to take the laugh. Closing my business yesterday was the hardest decision I have ever had to make as a leader in my company and in my community. I am still in shock. My team is in shock. This is no joke.

But at this point, I do feel that it is each of everyone of our civic responsibility to voluntarily make these hard decisions. Hands down- our state leaders should be speaking about the beauty business, one of touch, and finally stop ignoring what a major part of the economy beauty and wellness provides for the citizens of our country.

For my colleagues out there, please voluntarily close. Self quarantine for two weeks and ask your team members to do the same. We are all in this together and if we set the tone for what the right thing to do is, we will be better as a community a month from now. 

Running a business is a day to day tricky business. We must make rough and tough decisions and in this case, we must not be making them from our pocketbooks. I know it is scary to think that income will cease for two weeks or more, but these are all great lessons in our lives to re think what we have, what we need and how we operate when we do get to open again. 

My friend said that he is hoping for a V upturn. Quick dip, quick return. Imagine when we all come out of our homes after this madness, the way the trees and the light will seem. The first delicious meal at our favorite restaurant will taste, the first workout at your gym or that glorious facial at your favorite spa. In the darkness when it seems like light is absent, that little spark of brightness means so much more. I am confident that we will see a business boom like we have never experienced when we get through this. This is not forever. 

For those of you out there who think some of this maybe hype, or politicization, I for one thought this a bit too last week, but when we see France close its restaurants and bars, when airports are closing and borders are closing, I would rather err on the side of caution. The glory of our free country is that we get to make our own decisions, but this is unprecedented and as a community, we have an opportunity to speak up and do our civic duty.

Please voluntarily close your business. Our communities are in prevention mode. Two weeks now could prevent three months later and we have the capability to take action now. I hope we can come together and support each other during this time and I thank you for considering this. And I am sorry to freak you out. I have attached the letter below so you can make an informed decision too.

https://www.alaynewhite.com/closing-update.html

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.

business

BEING IN BUSINESS

I was destined to be an entrepreneur. My grandfather along with his brother started a successful textile business shortly after WW2 that sold boys and men’s suits for almost 40 years. My father worked in the business for most of his life until the end of the textile era happened when China took over. Dad went on to open many small businesses throughout his remaining life before he passed away too young at 68 from cancer.

His final business was purchasing a 100-acre campground in the Great Woods of Northern New Hampshire. Everyone thought he was crazy for doing this, after all what is a nice Jewish upper middle class white boy doing buying a campground in gun carrying ATV riding New Hampshire? But that is exactly why, because creating business is about risks and stepping way outside the proverbial box. Opposite thinking. This is the legacy my father gave to me. Doing the opposite of things not just because it is opposite, but because it is part of your gut so deeply that you can’t imagine doing anything but this.

There is a trendy buzzword today for this type of thinking, called disruptive thinking. Who knew that my father’s out of the box thinking of having his employees go roller-skating during break time in the 70s would today be a type of disruptive trendy?

My father was the black sheep of the family. Ironically, in his quest to veer away from all things traditional and all things his father did, he ended up marrying by eloping with my mother when he was 20 and sent a telegram to his very surprised parents to let them know. As it turned out I came around 11 months later so now he was hooked into the life he had really thought he had escaped from when he impulsively married,

He worked at the factory for and with my grandfather for as long as I remembered and I understand it wasn’t something he enjoyed. What I learned from him is never do something for work you don’t enjoy.

I never did.

When he finally broke free from his marriage and from the factory, he went on to do numerous start up companies, but the one that gave him the most joy was when he finally bought the campground and sold his share of the factory building to his longtime partner. That campground was his joy and as much as everyone in the white collar family thought he was off his rocker, he didn’t care. He was happy.

Every job I had I loved and if I didn’t I learned why and didn’t repeat it. Being in business means that I am a conscious activist in my business. My business model is shaped by my own objective and the choices I make as to how I want my business outcome. What defines a successful business is not always monetary success as the main outcome. What defines success is different for every single person with their business dream tucked away on a napkin in their coat pocket when its in its just a spark of a thought.

1. Establish Your Objective

My first question to everyone with the dream of owning her own business is first and foremost “what is your objective?” This is a really important question because owning your own business is hard. It will give you as much excitement and thrill as it does sleepless nights. Without a clear objective from the very beginning, you will get thrown from your path when the times are not all joyous and happy. AND THERE WILL BE THOSE TIMES. You will never know what and when they will hit, but trust me they will. And when they do, your clear objective (the one that is tucked away in your pocket on that napkin) will come out and give you a big sigh because you will know that the rocky stretch is just an opportunity to remind you that you are indeed a female entrepreneur and this is all part of the thrill.

Yes I said thrill. You are an entrepreneur right? The thrill is about knowing how to tame the chaos when it comes at you, to organize it, to go through it and be able to sleep at night knowing that you are the mistress of outcome because of that beautiful objective. And guess what, your objective can change over time. Remember, it is your business so you get to sculpt and mold and play with the dough however you want.

Establishing your objective is the why of the equation. Why do you want to do this? Sure money may be the first answer, but think about where that answer is coming from. When I first started my business I had to release all of the preconceived notions that were implanted in my brain by my grandfather’s definition of success. Once I released this, and it took me awhile, my own definition became clear as a bell.

For me it was to have my business run efficiently without my physical presence. This meant that I had freedom, time with my young son and a business that was positioned to have value without me. This way if and when I wanted to sell it, I wouldn’t be such a major part of the equation that I wouldn’t be able to get its true value if I didn’t come with the package.

This used to drive my grandfather crazy. He worked like 80 hours a week, so did my father. He couldn’t imagine that a business could run like this. But his objective was to make money, lots of money. He had to be in on every single moment to control outcome. My objective was more about time. Yes of course I wanted to make money, but that wasn’t my main driver. Mine was time for my son and my family and as my son grew and became less needy, I would change my work focus to accommodate and the money would come. Maybe not as much as if I was there 80 hours a week, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed my business or my time as a mother. This is often where the fork in the road of male and female business ownership divides. I don’t know what it is to be a male business owner, my only experience was watching my grandfather and my father.

What I did witness was this, though: my grandfather had his wife taking care of the house and the kids and his life. Female entrepreneurs may have their partners support. Their partners may even stay home with the kids and the house as role reversals are so much more common these days. But most women I know are hard wired differently and life outside of work, kids, house, partners, family, usually occupy at least a part of their brains while they are working. I don’t know if this is as true for our male business owning counterparts. Women who own and run their own business and have families as well take on much more mental responsibility because of the guilt factor we bring on ourselves.

Are we missing our kid’s first steps, or his school play, t ball or dance recital? These thoughts are always around mom brain, at least they were for me and every single woman I know whether they were employees or employers. I see it with my team of 23 young women and all of their peers. Maybe it is a broad generalization but feminism and women’s liberation has only really influenced women in the workplace for the last 40 years, if that, and we still have a lot of work to do to get our cellular makeup to change if ever.

The way I see it is that someone needs to be thinking about all of the things that need to get done with our lives, our partners, our spaces we live in, or our children and if you have a partner at home that is doing this, awesome. I am willing to bet, though that even if you do, there are likely not too many moments where just a little guilt blasts into your radar a few times a day. So for the purpose of this guide, I am going to make some assumptions and give some scenarios about where you find yourself in your life right now. Every one of these needs a clear objective so take some time and brainstorm yours before you start writing your comprehensive business plan, before you look for financing. This seemingly little exercise will pay off big for all of your next steps.

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS: (I have probably not covered every single scenario, so if I have missed one, feel free to send a comment back to me and I will add it, pronto.)

  • You are a single woman who relies solely on your own income.
  • You are getting ready to graduate from college and you never wanted to be in the major you just completed, but your parents wanted that for you so you obliged.
  • You don’t have children, but are going to want them at some point and you are thinking about starting your own business, establish your objective around the timing of this major decision.
  • You have been diagnosed with something with your health giving you some time contemplate your remaining time on this planet.
  • You are getting ready to get married or move in with someone.
  • You never want children or a live in partner.
  • You have a child and want more.
  • You have children and are done.
  • Your children are all grown and you are in your empty nest phase.
  • You are ready for a second or third career. (being a stay at home mom counts as a career)
  • You are married or sharing life responsibilities with someone and not working but want to start your own business.
  • You are married or sharing life responsibilities and are working but are not the primary breadwinner.
  • You are married or sharing life responsibilities and are working and are the primary breadwinner.
  • You are getting ready to get divorced or are in the process of a divorce.
  • You have been in a career that you want to get out of and have a supportive partner.
  • You have been in a career that want to get out of and don’t have a supportive partner.
  • You have unlimited amounts of support, money and time.
  • You have unlimited amounts of support, but not much money.

You may want to start up a business but need to go back to school or get additional training, this part of the business start up process will follow in the next steps, but before you move on to anything else, you must begin with WHY so onward to the light my superchick entrepreneur.

WHAT IS YOUR OBJECTIVE?

WHY DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THIS LEAP FROM EMPLOYEE TO EMPLOYER (and yes, when you own your own business you will have employees: accountants, lawyers, vendors, for starters and YOU.)