self improvement

OUT OF MY COMFORT ZONE

“Why don’t you think about being a Strategies Coach?” Neil Ducoff, one of my mentors and friends and also the founder of the consulting company, Strategies, asked me in a conversation we had a few weeks back. We were talking business, one of my favorite topics and certainly Neil’s too as he has been a strong voice in the consulting world of all things beauty business for well over twenty years. I had been speaking to him about needing some jolting. I was feeling a little redundant and complacent after sixteen years in the beauty business and his suggestion was something I had been toying with adding yet another layer to my already pretty full life. But this is how I roll. I like action, movement, challenges and though business ownership gives me that trifecta sometimes I need a little more of a wake up.

I haven’t worked for anyone but myself (and my team) for almost twenty years. I haven’t had to report to anyone, answer to anyone, request time off from anyone. This has mostly ups and on the surface most people who are employees rather than employers may look at this with a bit of envy I imagine. But what many don’t see are the sleepless nights, the weeks when I may have to forgo a paycheck, dealing with floods and employee theft and all of the other inside details that hide in the backround of the gloss that the outside often shines with. The notion of having to be accountable to another company intrigued me. To having to follow a set of someone else’s rules, dress code, time and process gave my heart a little extra flutter.

So after sleeping on this for the past two weeks and doing the due dilligence of speaking with the head honcho of the training for about an hour, I decided to march forth. I accepted the challenge of learning something brand new, out of my box of always having to create and enforce and instead rather follow some rules and regs of a company I have worked with for over sixteen years since I began my own business.

In this decision that I deeply considered before saying yes, I weighed the pros and cons. The pros are numerous especially as it relates to my own business development. I will see what it feels like to experience being spoken to, critiqued, encouraged. I will directly feel what my employees feel when I have to review yet again how to properly clean a room from floor to ceiling or what it feels like to get a not so positive comment about a treatment for the first time. These examples may seem like the cons versus the pros, but I don’t see it that way at all.  This major dose of humility about to enter my brain and heart will be great for my business.  I am confident it will strenghten my resolve for constant improvement and growth in the expectations I have in my own company.

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The cons are minimal, they mostly represent the travel and away from my home time, not being able to cook my own meals and sit down for dinner with my partner. The flutter in my stomach that came from the first read of the instructions of the training seemed at first glance like a con rather than a pro. But after the second and third read, I went from Holy Shit, what have I gotten myself into to Oh yeah, bring it on. Bring on the challenge of having to create a Power Point Presentation in front of my peers out of the gate. The last time I created a Power Point presentation that didn’t look like an eighth grade project was over fifteen years ago. I am open to learning and this is the best part of this new path I am about to skip down.

I have spent countless hours developing a team of women, developing systems so that my business could run efficiently without my physical presence. I have taken classes, but they always are to improve my coaching skills to bring out the best in my team and my business. This is different. This is an opportunity for me to be a student, a kind of employee who has to report to some else’s agenda. At fifty four, this is a great shift. I know I will come out the other side after talking down my nervous stomach because I am about to embark on a new challenge.

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I love new challenges and this one that comes in the form of two intense weeks of training is exactly what I need. Despite the workload ahead to prepare for this training, I am looking forward to the shake up. For those of you who know me, you probably are thinking “Can she ever just settle down?” Truth be told, I have been feeling like I have been too settled recently. There is a sense of urgency that is a force in my life after losing three women peers last year to breast cancer. Not to sound doom and gloom but Am I next crosses my mind on more ocassion that I care to admit. I am not worried. I am pragmatic and this in itself is the driver in the race I call my healthy and joyous life as it is right now.  Out of my comfort zone is an investment in me and it is exactly what I need.

 

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RIDING A BIKE

RIDING A BIKE

“It’s probably a lot like riding a bike,” my partner said to me when he heard the news. One of my employees was out sick during this school vacation week and we were booked solid at my business with appointments. Appointments that would be near impossible to reschedule as many were teachers and students who had the time off and on their precious vacation week, they chose to use some of that time getting a treatment from my business. I decided to jump back in and do the treatments myself and was both excited and tentative; after all, I couldn’t remember the last time I was in the treatment room elbow deep in oil, skin creams and facial potions. Besides the actual treatment portion of the day, would I be able to perform at the level I expect each of my team members to rise to every single day? I liked the feeling; the paradigm shift, the slight discomfort and I was looking forward to the day ahead kicking me out of my regular role of line leader into the front lines of where the warriors showed up every day.

This of course is tongue and cheek, after all we are not talking about life changing surgeries or battles, I am not talking about teachers going into their classrooms that are now battlefields. I am speaking about a room filled with meditation music and aromas of lavender and citrus speckled with the sounds of light rain from the sound machine. I am talking about a warm and cozy heated bed, feet propped with a feather pillow and the softest made in America (Fall River, Mass to be exact) blanket covers. I am referring to the deepest of breathing and calmness literally manufactured from what I have created that is my business of beauty and skin and deep care of the human spirit in one of the last great businesses on the planet I get to call my own, the business of touch.

At our daily morning employee gathering as we discussed the plan for the day my team looked as humbled as I felt at the notion of their usually fearless leader jumping into the room. I decided to share a word for the day for us to contemplate.

Humility. One of my employees didn’t know what the word meant, the others jumped in with examples, “the opposite of pride,” one said. “Letting go of ego, being vulnerable,” were some other examples. As I listened and spoke about the unassuming nature of being humble, I was reminded again about how lucky how I am that I get to be an entrepreneur. Yes I am a tough boss, yes I have super high expectations, but I am also fair, I speak the truth so there are always learning opportunities and I will do the work right alongside of my team. As much as I like to teach, I equally cherish the learning curve too and yesterday was that for me. A chance to get back in the room and get my hands coated with essential oils and creams. More importantly it was a chance to see if all I have created as an expectation of my team of superchicks was reasonable and realistic. Besides this piece, it was also a chance to get into the room and be with some of our wonderful clients and have the conversations one on one, with the unique mix of both business and intimacy. All good. The only thing that could go wrong was if I sucked, if I couldn’t actually remember how to ride the bike. Unlikely, but nonetheless, a thought that crossed my mind and I am sure may have crossed the minds of my kind of uncertain team. Vulnerability at its best- Brene Brown would have been proud.

Here was what I was worried about- not being able to find products easily and bumping into things making the peace of the treatment lose its juju. Forgetting to do a step, not living up to an expectation that the client may have had of me doing their service (ego 101- sorry Brene,) breathing too loud, stomach growling (yes this happened) Running late, (I did, but not bad for first run out of gate) not doing all of the steps I ask of my team at the end of all of the services, (nope, did this with bells on). As a matter of fact, I had a great day. It did all come back as I made my way through the day and I was grateful for the opportunity to serve. Really this is what I love most about owning my own business, serving. My business is way beyond facials and beauty- it is the ability to serve and nurture and not a day goes by when I am not a grateful human.

I got lost in the shuffle of my parents tumultuous and traumatic divorce as did my brother and as a result of this, college bound became a bit of an afterthought. I was not prepared emotionally; I weaved in and out of classes following in my parents footsteps of not completing a four year college plan. I was clear on one decision though, I needed to get a skill set while I figured out if college was ultimately to be my path. My grandfather was a definite influence in this thinking so it was a natural step for me to head to esthetics school. I had a love of skin and makeup and beauty since my first days getting my haircut as a little girl. The problem was that I did not grow up in a family where the expectation was for their first born granddaughter to go to “beauty” school so it was a hard sell and not one that was considered credible.

I don’t think my family really understood how traumatized my brother and I were so in actuality the notion that I wanted to even go to any type of school should have been appreciated rather than looked down upon. I made my way though and I can’t say enough how happy I am to have landed on my feet in the business of beauty. The return on investment for a six month vocational program was worth it all as this license gave me a set of skills that made me immediately marketable. I never regret my choice, I will finish college at some point just for the intellectual satisfaction though, but I am always struck by the automatic assumption for all of our kids to go from high school to college with seldom all of the alternatives in between. This is really all ego if you ask me; the vocational businesses are viable options for kids who aren’t sure or want choices rather than mandates. One business that tends to not often be effected by slower economies is the service business, hair, makeup, plumbing, electricians, computer techs the list goes on and I love meeting young people who had the guts to go forward with their dreams of shorter schooling because it is what they always wanted to do.

As I made my way through my day yesterday one client at a time with my own two hands that built a company employing and influencing women for over 16 years, I reveled in my early life decision. I was reminded of the choice I made way back in 1986 to follow an instinct rather than what every adult was telling me I was supposed to do with my life. Here I am and there I was; no wonder I had such a great day.


hanging out with my dear friend Sten who we sadly lost to ALS who helped me get my bike from Denmark TO Rhode Island teaching me that you can always get on a bike wherever you are and wherever you land.
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SET IT AND FORGET IT

SET IT AND FORGET IT

There was a movement over fifteen years ago. It was a rotisserie chicken movement. It was in my old life when my former husband bought something on an infomercial that was a contraption for roasting a chicken to perfection. The one liner that went along with the countertop roasting oven was “Set it and forget it!” And the promise was exactly what it sounded like. Put the chicken on the spicket and voila, this oven would make a perfect rotisserie chicken, no basting, no temperature checking, just put it in and take it out. I was a skeptic, but I must admit, this was a great purchase and we ate endless roasted chickens that were delicious.

As clever as Set it and Forget It was for engaging chicken rotisserie enthusiasts, Set it and Forget It does not apply to being a parent (if only) or running a business. Just like you can’t say something to your child one time and expect them to remember (Michael, take out the trash every Friday… imagine if as a parent you could say this once and miraculously it just happened every Friday without fail?), Set it and Forget It is also like this for a business.

Creating a systemic approach to running my company so that everyone who works for me knows the parameters of expectations is the Set It part. This is the seasoning part, the prep, the getting it in the oven before turning it on part. This is where lots of the work goes into and creating systems and teaching my team to follow them is 80% of success. There are times in my past sixteen years of leading a team of usually about twenty women that I have wanted to Set it and Forget it. There are times when I have been mentally or physically absent. When I have Set it and thought I could Forget it for a moment a month or a few months. I have seen the results of turning on the rotisserie and forgetting to set the timer as much as I have seen turning it on and ending up with a perfect result.

Just because I own my own business does not mean that when life has come at me, it has not affected the way I have been in my business and my own performance. I am human. I am woman and I have made mistakes. I have lost great people who have worked for me and I have weeded out dead weight of people who shouldn’t have worked for me in the first place. I hope that I always learn from my mistakes when someone leaves, and what I do know 100% of the time is that when someone does leave it is always a blessing in the long run with few exceptions. The great ones usually move on to something that continues their love of beauty and this always makes me happy because I know I have been a positive influence in this. Even if there have been negative elements, there are always divine lessons for both of us.

What I love most about running my company is that it is like a living breathing organism. It allows me to take breaks when I need to and it calls me back in when it needs me. For sixteen years, my business has never let me down and I always come back stronger and better from its unique lessons. I am convinced that it is because of my Set it mentality. Without the Set it, what do I have? If people who work for me don’t know what my expectations are then how can anyone of them succeed and how does my business succeed?

I have strong expectations and some people love this about working for me, some are energized by it and some grow tired of it. All of this is good in the long run. What I have realized, especially this past year with my caught it early for the second time breast cancer surgeries, is that my team continues to show up and has allowed me to Forget it so that I could recover. I lost some great employees right around my first surgery and it was hard to not take that personal when I reflected on the timing of their departures, but I have learned that business and employees are just that. No matter how much I think of them as family and close connections, first and foremost it is employee and employer. When I remember this, I am a better leader. Don’t get me wrong, sensitivity and empathy to my teams’ personal lives make for much better relationships. I care about them a lot. I care about their happiness and their work environment. I care about their lives, their children, their families, their livelihood, their animals, their weddings, showers, funerals, first homebuying, the list never ends. This day as I reflect on what was one of my most difficult years of owning my business, I am so grateful for my team of almost twenty shining stars who have rallied and risen to every occasion. I am blessed beyond words for their work ethic and their hearts as they come to work every day to help me fulfill my own business mission of taking stellar care of our clients so they want to come back often.

Recently one of my favorite employees decided she was getting a bit complacent and at 45 wanted to take a break and decide what she wanted to be when she grew up because she realized that she never really had defined this for herself. This was a big loss for me as I came to rely on her unique approach to my business and she offered honesty and solution based constructive criticism on an almost daily basis. She assured me that all would be fine, life would go on and someone else would take the helm. I knew as I always do that this is definitive truth. I know that grooming leadership is my strength more than even running my business, one of the most satisfying elements of being an entrepreneur is developing leaders. Her departure reminded me of this part of my ability that is intuitive to me me. I have always known what I wanted to be when I grew up because it is exactly what I am doing today. As sad as this loss was for my company and the women who have grown to rely on her own leadership skills, this opportunity for me to develop new energy is something I relish and it is a perfectly timed gift. Working with women and teaching them the skills that I know are invaluable to running a million dollar company also teaches them unique life skills they can bring to their personal worlds. These skills make them better women, not only in the workforce, but as mothers, wives, partners, and humans. It is my unique privilege to show up for them the way they show up for me. This is legacy and female small business owning in its finest hour.

I have the best team not because of luck as so many like to say when they speak to me about my team. I have the best team because they are willing to take a chance and step out of their comfort zones to trust my leadership. They are my nucleus, not the other way around. I just get to be the container of their strengths by keeping the cell healthy and growing. I am the lucky one every day because I get to own my own business, but because I get to work with twenty women who are the best in the business. We have learned to care and support one another. They have taken my Set It to heart and have given me permission to occasionally Forget It. They command my return when they know it is time for my leadership again. This is the well-seasoned machine of a team that I have the honor of being the line leader of. People leave. Great people leave and I miss the ones who were great, surely, but what I know in my deepest of cells is that the great ones stay too. I am so appreciative for the time they have given me before they left and I am most grateful for the time they are here present and part of this party I have the luxury of calling work. To all the chiefs in my kitchen who have come and gone, you know who you are and the Chieftresses who are still cooking up the feasts, Thank you. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be the line leader, the head chef and the student all in the same breath. Lucky indeed.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a Great Life.













surely not all of the team past and present but the photos i could find quickly this am to at least represent a few.
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BEING IN BUSINESS

BEING IN BUSINESS

A beginners guide to starting your female owned business (and yes female business owning is different.)

INTRODUCTION

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.

Etcetera… fill in here if none of these apply.

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.)