Sometimes in life, there's space and time to tread casually. The choice to open a small business does not live there. Running your own shop can lift you high and it can cut you deep (often, in the same day). It's grippy. It's hold on you doesn't sleep and, many nights, nor do you.
You want to please. You want to succeed. But, these loaded concepts get confused, muddled, distorted, sometimes beyond definition, and almost always at the expense of the other parts of your life. At the end of the day, there are only so many hours you can stretch to get to where you want to be and limited postures you can assume to accomplish your goal of running things "well". The victories can feel like a dandelion in the wind and the failures, mountainous.
I grew up in a small town and have only affection for this way of living, especially today. But, oh the double-edged sword of it all! Our town doesn't keep secrets and, when things go sideways, it's obvious and public. Enter, social media. These tools allow for remarkable reach and growth, but the spotlight on your mistakes as a small business owner is unforgiving. Going off grid is not an option. The need to navigate this soup of reaction made up of "likes" and un-filtered feedback with grace is the way of it and you best learn quickly. One star, five stars. There's not much in between that matters when it's your creation on the line.
Do I still get excited when one of us sells a new product, something we believe in and are trying out or perhaps something we just really want you to love as much as we do? Yes, ma'am, I do, and so does the rest of the staff. I see it and it makes me smile every single time. That enthusiasm is my preferred definition of success when I am looking to measure. Not the profit margin, not the volume. Just that one item carefully selected by us and taken with trust from our shelves into your home. That's big.
Offerings of services vibrate at an even higher current. When our groomers work on your dog, they do so with their hands and heart. They are passing on to you their professional skills, their fundamental love for dogs, and their sense of where that meets in the art of giving expression to what you want for your pet. Every groom, on every given day, is created from these principles. It is why our reputation sits where it does and is to be enjoyed. But, when your heart is on your sleeve, it is also the place where ill-considered criticism, lack of respect from clients, and sharp practise by your competitors leaves an ache.
Nobody goes into small business thinking they have a mediocre idea that they are going to come at off-handedly. We all think we have the best concepts, the best designs, the best products, and the most solid plan of execution to bring ourselves to the next level, whatever that might look like. But, like any wave, there's ebb and there's flow, and real life intervenes. When your business plan takes on air and is populated by real people, with real strengths and weakness, and very real self-interest and agendas, what then? When the last ninety-nine people who left your shop did so with a smile, but the hundredth is unhappy, was it a good day? Taking it macro, when more money, more locations, more clients, more "follows" don't equal "success", where does that leave you? Two and half years in, looking back, I sit with more questions than conclusions. More noise than quiet. More service than sleep. Momma never said this would be easy. Thankfully, we're made of stronger stuff than the curve balls we endure.
As for tomorrow? Take your lessons with humility and a spoonful of organic sugar. Take your people into your circle and give them your best self so that they can be empowered to offer their own. Thank every customer who appreciates your efforts and, with dignity, continue to try to coax a little love out of those who don't. Work hard. Work smart. Work some more. Breathe.
We're still here. More resolve than defeat. #houndlife2019