The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

Viewing by month: October 2008

Faith

As defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

faith

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2): sincerity of intentions

2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust

3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs

Faith

Isn’t it funny how one word can elicit such a range of emotions?

Some people live by that word, faith. They walk with it every day. They wear faith as if it were a badge, and are not afraid to openly speak about it. Like prospectors searching for the perfect diamond, they dig deeper and deeper, hoping to find faith in its purest form. For them, faith is a source of strength, a font of knowledge, a shelter from the storms that life has to offer.

Some have that very same faith, but would never profess their beliefs outside of a church. Their reluctance to speak openly about faith could be a carry-over from the business world, or perhaps the mind-set of our society today. I mean, certain individuals have made removing God from schools, sporting events, courtrooms, all public places their life’s ambition. I can certainly understand one’s hesitance to speak openly about faith in certain circles.

There are those that hide behind their faith, talking the talk, but not walking the walk. These people frequently feel that their faith gives them to free reign to do or say what they please, regardless of the consequences.

Other people don’t know what faith means, according to any of the definitions found in the dictionary; nor do they care to know. I wonder if they truly don’t care, or if they are afraid of what they may learn. Hmmm.

Still others cringe at the mere sound of word, as if they had just swallowed sour milk! These people don’t want any part of that “faith thing”, and often look down at those who profess their faith. It’s as if they see faith as being a personality weakness, or character flaw.

So what is faith, anyway?

Well, obviously faith can be defined using any or all of the definitions offered above or using a combination of those definitions.

I humbly offer you my definition, and a few thoughts on faith.

Faith, for me, quite simply means believing.

In the religious context, I happen to believe in God. And I just happen to be a Catholic. But that doesn’t set me apart from other Christians. I like to use different makes of automobiles as an analogy for different denominations. Say, for instance, that we’re all going to meet at a particular restaurant for dinner. You may get in your Ford, another may get into his Chevy, and I hop into my Infiniti. We all have different vehicles, but we’re all trying to get to the same place, right? Different  Christian churches and religious denominations are just like that; we may have different  “vehicles”, but we’re all trying to get to the same place!

There are those of us who have come to the conclusion that we don’t believe in anyone or anything greater than ourselves. But even that is a belief, isn’t it? This brings us full circle back to my original statement: faith means believing.

Here are other examples of faith:

You may believe that your spouse will always love you and be true to you. You may go to bed tonight believing that you will wake up tomorrow morning, and that the sun will be in the sky, and that you will still have a job. You may believe that this country will withstand the test of time and remain the land of opportunity that it is. You may believe in God.

Here’s the thing:

You don’t know that your spouse will remain true to you, or that you’ll wake up, or that the sun will be in the sky, or that you will have a job. You don’t know that 2 years from now the United States of America will be the country that it is today. Where God is concerned, you’ve never seen Him, never touched Him, and never heard His voice, at least not in the sense of hearing as we know it.

If you believe in your spouse, or your job, or tomorrow, or this country, or God, or any of the above, then you, my friend, have faith. And oh by the way; it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

Contact me:: sam@theseedofhope.com

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/31/2008 at 7:35 AM | Categories: Faith -

Waiting To Exhale

If you were going to climb a mountain, would you attempt to do so holding your breath? How about running a mile? Swimming laps in a pool? Walking across the street? Riding a bike? Carrying on a conversation with a friend? Would you hold your breath?

The answer to all of these questions is obvious, isn’t it? The simple act of drawing breath is essential to everything that we do; it’s an essential element to living. Our life on this earth begins with our first breath, and ends with our last. You get the message, right? We have to breathe.

Curiously enough, in spite of our gifted minds, so many of us unknowingly try to get through life holding our breath! In our world today, in our country today, right here and right now, more and more of us are trying to survive without breathing! We are holding our breath, waiting for gas prices to stabilize, waiting for the stock market to calm down, waiting for the election to be over, waiting for the housing market to recover, waiting to get out of Iraq, and waiting for an end to inflation. We are waiting for this recession to come to an end. We are waiting for moral values to return to our society. We are waiting for things to be the way they “used to be”.  We are waiting for life to get better. So what’s wrong with that?

The problem lies in that we are holding our collective breaths waiting for all of this to happen! We wouldn’t climb, or run, or swim, or walk, or bike, or talk without breathing. So why would we try to get through some of the most difficult times our country has faced since the depression, waiting to exhale? We can’t.

Breathe. Right now. It doesn’t matter if someone else is in the room with you. It doesn’t matter if you feel foolish. Keep in mind that at this very moment, someone, somewhere, is doing the very same thing. It doesn’t matter if you don’t think that you need to do this; do it anyway!

Through your nose draw in the biggest breath your lungs can possibly handle; now inhale a little more. Hold it for a few seconds. Now slowly exhale through your mouth, and as you do so, release all of the frustration, anger, and fear that you’ve kept bottled up inside for all this time. Feels better, doesn’t it? If you need to try it again, go ahead. It takes a long time to release the pent up feelings that you’ve harbored for weeks, months, perhaps even years. Repeat this as many times as you’d like; there’s no hurry. Just breathe.

Hopefully at this point you’re feeling a little better, so we’ll move on.

Life, or better yet living life, is a matter of perspective; it’s all in the way we look at things. Here’s another exercise for you to try; okay, okay, you don’t have to try it now, but promise yourself to do it later!

You probably have your “favorite” chair in your home or apartment. It may be in your den, living room, or study. You know the one I’m talking about; it’s the one in which you are the most comfortable. The chair. Your chair (mine happens to be in the kitchen).

Try sitting in a different chair in that very same room. Don’t pick the one closest to your favorite. Choose one on the opposite side of the room, or if you’re in the kitchen or dining room, the opposite side of the table. Have a seat. Go ahead, it’s just a chair; it won’t bite! Now close your eyes and clear your thoughts. Remain that way for a minute or so.

Now open your eyes and focus on what is directly in front of you. You’re probably seeing something in this room that you’ve never seen before, or at least not from this particular angle, in this particular light. Take in all that you see, even the smallest details. Now fix your gaze on the chair that you normally sit in. Again, take in all that you see. Isn’t it amazing how your chair looks from a different perspective?

You see, life, or better yet the way we look at life, is a matter of perspective. I offer you several thoughts, several angles, several views, on life, and living your life.

Do you think that you are the only person worried about the economy, gas prices, war, morals, and all the other concerns that were previously mentioned? Do you think that you are alone in struggling to pay that house note, rent, car note, utility bill? Do you think that you have been dealt a hand in life that no one else has. You’re not. You aren’t. You haven’t.

There are hundreds, thousands, millions of people in the world facing many of the problems that you are facing at this very moment. We feel alone with our problems because of our unwillingness to openly admit our fears, our doubts, and our frustrations. We have a tendency to let our pride and ego stand in the way of admitting our feelings. Why are we that way? Why are we afraid to let down our shields, to let others know that we have weaknesses? Why are we afraid to admit that, well to admit that we’re human? Why are we so quick to share all that is good in our lives, yet so reluctant to share that which is not so good?

I like to use the word abundance, which quite simply, means an ample supply of something. Abundance in one’s life can come in many wrappers. One’s list may include an abundance of faith, or health, or wealth, or happiness, or love, or peace of mind. The list goes on and on. Your list of abundance would consist of those things, tangible or intangible, that are most important to you. 

I venture to say that the list of people living in complete and absolute abundance is a very, very, short one. I’m not talking about the individual that has been blessed with 70, or 80, or 90% of his abundance list; I’m talking about the individual who has it all. I would love to meet this person and congratulate him on finding Utopia!

The key to a happy life for the rest of us comes in focusing not on what we don’t have, but in being grateful for what we do have. You’re thinking “it’s the old glass half empty, glass half full” way of looking at life. It’s that but it’s more: when you spend your time dwelling on all that you don’t have, you lose sight of the most important gift that you do have.

If you are reading this, you have been given, for at least one more day, the gift of life. Do you know how many people didn’t get to experience a good, bad, or any kind of day today? How many lives were cut short by illness, accident, violence, or simply old age? Don’t you think that the majority of those people would welcome one more chance to get it right? One more chance to make a difference for those they left behind.  One last time to look into the faces of those they loved. One more day. One more chance.

So many of us are waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for the next bit of depressing news, waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

Change your perspective in life. Focus on the good, not the bad. Live in a state of gratitude for those things that you do have, not those things that are missing. Make today count.

Take a deep breath. Exhale. Celebrate today. Celebrate your life.

Contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/30/2008 at 4:16 PM | Categories: Life -

Our Story

CHANGE

It’s a relatively simple word; six letters, one syllable. Rolls fairly easily off the tongue. Even at this moment, you are pronouncing the word in your mind, sizing up its fit and feel in your vocabulary. Change is not really an imposing word, is it?

Let’s look at the word in a different perspective. How about implementing change; you know, doing things differently from the way you’ve always done them? Whoa! Wait! Stop! Put on the brakes! Alarms are going off in your mind! That word change has taken on a different meaning! It has morphed into something else! It’s a monster!

You think about changing some things in your life, in your business, and immediately, you’ll get a lump in your throat, sweaty palms, and butterflies in your stomach. You know what I’m talking about. It’s another dreaded word: FEAR!

Fear of change, in life, and especially in business, is something very common to the majority of us. Fear of change is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to hide your face in shame about. We fear change because we don’t know what results change will bring. So many of us are afraid to step “outside the box” because we don’t know what “outside the box” feels like….even though we hate the box that we’re in!

I wonder how many dreams have been shattered by that fear of change. I wonder how many aspiring minds have settled for a life of mediocrity rather than face change. I wonder how many of us live in misery because of our fears.

I want to share with you my story of fear of change, and how overcoming that fear changed not only my life, but the lives of those around me.

On October 9, 1989, my wife Jackie and I became owners of a beauty shop in Hoover, Alabama. What matters in this story is not the how or why we became beauty shop owners; that’s a story for another day. This story begins with my becoming the owner of a beauty shop at the not-so-tender age of 37!

You see, here’s the thing: I didn’t grow up with aspirations of owning a beauty shop! I mean, as a kid you never heard me say “I can’t wait to grow up and own a beauty shop!” I mean, come on, the only time I entered that place was to visit Jackie or get my hair cut. Me, a beauty shop owner? Not in the cards; or so I thought.

So like I said, we became owners of a beauty shop in 1989. And fairly early on, that beauty shop became a money maker. Oh, we weren’t getting filthy rich, but we weren’t doing too badly, either. In fact, that beauty shop would eventually pay for a home, college educations, cars, a boat and lake house; all the trappings of a good life.

Funny thing about success: it can’t always be measured or defined in dollars and cents. You see, I hated that business. I felt imprisoned by it. It wasn’t professional. It wasn’t something that I was proud of. It wasn’t something that I wanted to be a part of. Still, because of the work ethic instilled in me by my parents, my commitment to Jackie and our sons, and the depth of my faith, I never gave up. Never quit.

Oh, through the years I tried to introduce change to that business, to make it more professional, to make it something of which I would be more proud. That change never came. Of course, I blamed that lack of change on anyone and anything that I could. In my mind, we didn’t change because of our staff, or because of our clients, or because of our location. So that change never came. So I sat there, bitching and complaining, for 16 years!

Bitter? On any given day, you might here me say “I’m sick of our staff. I’m sick of our clients. I’m sick of our business. I’m sick of my life. I didn’t ask for this crap.”

In August of 2005, something miraculous happened; I awoke one morning and my fear of change was gone! Gone. Gone.

I informed Jackie of my newfound “strength”, and convinced her that it was time to make a change in our lives.

We redesigned our salon, and while the changes were being made, I went about the task of redefining the way that we did business, redefining our approach to an industry of which we had been a part for all those years. I knew that owning an establishment that looked different was not enough. You can’t just look the part; you have to be the part. We had to build our business on the foundation of professionalism.

An acquaintance (if I could remember who you were, I’d still be thanking you!) suggested that I read a book titled Blue Ocean Strategy, which cited corporations that had reinvented themselves in an existing market, via marketing, branding, and “seemingly” offering something that no else did. Cirque du Soleil and Yellow Tail Wines were two of the companies that were mentioned.

Okay, my wheels are turning. I’m thinking “How do I reinvent the salon industry? I’m not a stylist, so I can’t formulate a new color, or come up with a new cut. What can be our point of difference?” I came up with an answer, and we called a team meeting.

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you something!

I told you that we redesigned our business. What I failed to tell you that is that we relocated our new salon 13 miles away, changed the name, changed the phone number, and only invited two of our original staff to make the move with us. It was the closest thing to “salon suicide” two owners could commit! I told you that something miraculous happened to me in 2005.

Also, in relocating the only equipment we took with us was the salon chairs and dryers. Everything else (styling stations, front desk, mirrors, lights, etc.) was left in place for a future salon to use. As a matter of fact a new salon did move into our vacated space not long after we left. You may be asking “Why leave everything behind?” Jackie and I believe that you reap what you sow.

A couple of nights before we opened our new salon, we met with our staff and revealed our Blue Ocean Strategy. Our business was going to on built on five tenets. These tenets were going to be the building blocks of our salon, and were as follows: Professionalism, Timeliness, Friendliness, Quality of Service, and Perceived Value of those services. Independently, these five “trademarks” are merely good business principles. Collectively, when offered on a consistent basis, they would be our point of difference.

On December 6, 2005 we proudly opened Salon M² (that’s pronounced M Squared, as in Maniscalco x 2), with a new team consisting of Jackie, me, four stylists, and shampoo tech. “Nervous anticipation” is the best description for what each of us felt on that first morning. Nervous? Yes. Afraid? No.

Almost immediately, Salon M² became profitable. At the three month mark we were hitting weekly numbers that I’d hoped to reach sometimes during our second year. Our team was happy, our guests (new and old) loved our new “home”, and our revenue was tracking upward at a remarkable rate. This is good, yes?

Actually, no. I was very disappointed, and very disillusioned. We were in a new place, with a new face, and a new team, but it was the same old sixes and sevens. Something was still missing, and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Actually, I new what it was, but I didn’t want to admit it. Of course, I’ll admit it to you now; the problem was me, just as it had been for all of those 16 years. I was afraid to really take control of our business. Oh I had a logical explanation for not taking control of our business through change: “If we change too much, we’ll run off some of our stylists. If we run off some of our stylists, we lose some of our clients. Losing clients means a loss of revenue, and that going backwards. It’s too hard to move forward. No way are we going backwards.” So in reality, we still had that “beauty shop” mentality.

This is where REDKEN, a global manufacturer of hair care products enters the picture. In May of 2006, just 5 months after we opened, we became a REDKEN salon. That is to say, REDKEN was the only product line that we would carry. Period. That company made a complete commitment to us; we made a complete commitment to them. That commitment would prove to be the single most important business decision that I’ve ever made, even bigger than relocating the salon. Why? Well, not because of shampoo, or conditioner, or hair spray. Not because of marketing, or business strategies, or even REDKEN’s commitment to our salon. Nothing that complicated. Nothing that deep.

Three small words. Eight letters from the alphabet forming three small words.

You get it.

I can remember the moment as if it were yesterday, even though it was in July of 2006. Scott Cook, a regional Business Development Manager with REDKEN, had paid a visit to our salon to introduce himself and “check us out”. We had been talking for an hour or so when Scott said “Sam, you get it.” I was stunned. Speechless. Dumbfounded. Remember, I was only 7 months removed from being a beauty shop owner, miserable with his business life and going nowhere fast. And this guy from REDKEN, whom I’ve never met, is standing in front of me telling what a good businessman I am! I say that I was stunned. Well, I was stunned, but I was more than that. I was filled with pride, and gratitude, and humility, and gladness. Most importantly, I was filled with something that I had really never experienced before: confidence.

Scott had unknowingly, with those three small words, you get it, changed the course of my life. Funny, how three seemingly unimportant words, mentioned in passing, could alter a man’s destiny.

You see, the flame of confidence that Scott ignited in me on that July day grew, and grew, and grew. I exuded that confidence from every pore in my body. Confidence not only as a businessman, but as a person. That confidence spread to Jackie, and then to the rest of our team.

One more landmark day that needs to be mentioned; in fact, it has to be mentioned.

September 10, 2006

What’s so important about that day? You know that I’m going to tell you, so I’ll plow ahead.

I was attending a hair show in Atlanta with Jackie and Greg, another member of our original team. Actually, Jackie and Greg were attending the show. I just went along for the ride, and planned on watching football all day long; or so I thought.

I had decided to attend a luncheon being given for salon owners. I met an incredible lady at that luncheon. Her name is Ann Mincey. She is the V.P. of Global Communications for REDKEN, and she would prove to be a source of spiritual inspiration for me in the future.

Immediately following the luncheon I met Carolyn O'Connor, the Senior Director of Education For REDKEN. Carolyn would also become a source of inspiration for me, in growing our salon's business and my skills as a businessman. 

Okay, so I attended a luncheon and met two great individuals. What’s so important about that?

Have you ever had an “aha” moment in your life? You know, a moment when the light goes on, and bells start ringing? I had one of those that Sunday in September.

You see, I came to realize that “my way” of doing business wasn’t necessarily the best way. After all, we had been conducting business “my way” for over 16 years, and we still hadn’t gotten it right! It was time to try someone else’s ideas (in this case that would be REDKEN).

A few thoughts from that “aha” moment:

I made a commitment to excellence that day, for Jackie, for our salon, but most importantly for myself. I knew that I would never, ever, settle for less in my life again.

I made a commitment to take advantage of every resource and business suggestion that REDKEN had to offer. Did I believe that they had the answers for building the type of business that I envisioned? No. They did offer a plan of action for not only growing a business, but for any problems that I may encounter along the way. For years I had felt as though it we us against the world. On that day I believed that part of the world had teamed up with us!

There was one more “bonus” from that day, one that took me by surprise.

Admitting to myself that I had been wrong all those years, that I didn’t have all the answers, that someone else may just have a better way, that I didn’t have to know it all to succeed, was one of the most liberating moments of my life. It was as though the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. And at that moment I realized that I had a companion for my new found confidence: courage.

And life, as they say, has never been the same. I humbly offer you the following:

  • 2006, our first year in the new salon, proved to be our biggest year ever, with a smaller team.
  • Our revenues in 2007 grew by an amazing 40%.
  • In November of 2007, just 18 months after our commitment to REDKEN, Salon M² became the 115th REDKEN Elite Salon in the United States, and the first in the state of Alabama.
  • Jackie and I were nominees for the Global Business Salon Forum and Awards 2008 Entrepreneurs of the Year.
    In 2008, with our country teetering on the verge of economic depression, our salon has managed, gratefully, to keep pace with last years numbers.


Quite a remarkable two-and-a-half years. Rewarding. Enlightening. Mind-numbing. Humbling.

Don’t let me mislead you; it hasn’t all been a bed of roses. In business, as in life, there are new obstacles to get around, challenges to be met, and bumps in the road. There are still those days when I want to bang my head against the wall, to throw my hands up in disgust, to throw something. I don’t mind those days though; not any more. Curiously enough, I almost welcome them. I refer to those tough days as my “challenges of faith” days, and I know that getting through them makes me a better man for Jackie, our family, and those that I serve.

You’re right; I am no longer that disgruntled, miserable man. Now, on any given day, make that every day, if someone asks how I am, my response is “I’m awesome .” And I mean it. Better yet, I’m truly happy.

Contact me: sam@theseedofhope.com

 

Posted by Sam Maniscalco on 10/21/2008 at 7:52 AM | Categories: Business -

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