This past Sunday night my wife Jackie and I were attending a program for small group of salon owners from around the Southeast. The event was hosted by Redken, the hair care manufacturer, and all of the invitees were their customers.
At one point in the evening, Jackie and I were recognized as being the first Redken Elite Salon owners in the state of Alabama. In fact, our salon, Salon M², is one of only two hundred and twenty-five Elite Salons in the country, which makes what our salon has accomplished in our brief history quite remarkable. (Sunday marked the 5th Anniversary of our salon’s opening. We attained Elite status during our second year of operation.)
As we were being introduced and asked to stand, several thoughts flashed through my mind…
· I was filled with an enormous sense of pride in what our team of remarkable people has accomplished during the five years that we’ve been in existence, and in the fact that our salon has bucked the industry trend of declining numbers with continued growth.
· I was humbled and a bit embarrassed with the recognition because there are thousands of dedicated, hard working salon owners in this country who have never come close to living out the dreams of success that they had when they opened their doors for business.
· I was overwhelmed with gratitude as I reflected on all that God has done for us since our business “journey” began in 2005.
I was surprised by one realization that superseded all the others:
While I’m proud of our Elite status for Jackie, our team, and our guests, it really doesn’t mean much to me. It’s just not important. In order for you to appreciate the significance of this statement, I need to turn back the hands of time a few years, to February 10, 2007…
Our salon had experienced an amazing amount of success in the fourteen months that we’d been open, and I had been invited by Redken to talk to a group of distributor sales consultants here in Birmingham. The plan was for me to give a brief presentation on ways in which we were implementing the Redken website in our salon to grow our business, and to share a bit of our “story” with them.
God had other plans…
I had actually completed my presentation and was preparing to thank those in attendance for allowing me to share our story with them when I heard myself saying “And now I want to tell you why I’m really here!”
For months following that night I told people that for the next few minutes I “went into a zone.” That is, until a good friend of mine informed me that the “zone” I kept talking about was actually the Holy Spirit coming through me….
I was aware of the fact that I was speaking, but, for lack of a better description, it was almost as if I was taking a back seat to what was coming out of my mouth! I remember talking about my life, and Jackie, and our journey, and change. And God! As I was trying to listen to what I was saying, a little voice inside of me was screaming “Don’t do this! This is a business presentation, for a huge company! You’re making a mistake! Have you lost your mind? Don’t talk about God!”
Well, I didn’t stop talking. Recalling that moment, I don’t believe that I could’ve stopped, even if I’d wanted to. Everything was a blur, and I was fighting back my emotions and tears, and the words just continued to spill out of my mouth.
And then it was done. Whatever it was that had happened to me was over, almost as quickly as it began. (Later that night Jackie informed me that I had spoken, not for a few minutes, but for an hour!) I was a bit disoriented, but at least I had control of what I was saying. I mumbled a few words of thanks as men and women that I didn’t even know thanked me for sharing my heart with them, and for being so bold about God.
That was all it took.
That night God put a fire in my belly to go out and share the news of what He’d done in my life with anyone that would listen. It’s a fire that obviously continues rage in me to this day.
The problem back then was that I believed that Redken was my only vehicle for sharing that message, and that the salon industry was my only target. God had given us this amazing story to share with others. It was a success story about change, in life and in business, and about setting goals, and about defying the odds, and about life, and yes, it was about God. And the main character in this story was a guy from Alabama who had never believed in himself, or for that matter, liked himself.
It was a “feel good” story that I believed would help others in our industry if they heard it, and I was more than willing to tell it!
Over the course of the next several months I had several more opportunities to make presentations for Redken, and judging from the response of those in attendance, they were all well-received. This, of course, only served to add fuel to the fire to make a difference in our industry. I believed then, as I still believe today, that I could indeed make a difference. I was consumed by the desire to go out and plant hope where there was none, to let salon owners and stylists know that they could change their lives by believing in themselves, in their God-given talents, and in Him. I was ready to go!
There was one small problem. Either because of the downturn in the economy, or because of my insistence on including my faith in my presentations, or both, Redken wasn’t ready for me to ride their train.
The invitations to speak came less frequently and I’ll be honest in telling you that it was huge disappointment for me. I knew that I could make a difference, and I was willing to go anywhere at a moment’s notice. What’s more was that I wasn’t charging Redken for my time! Oh, they covered my travel expenses, but that was it. You see, I just wanted to do whatever I could to improve the quality of life of those struggling in the salon industry. I didn’t really care about being paid for it.
Every day, I would check my phone and my computer for an invitation to speak. Neither the call nor the e-mail ever came. This went on for several months, and with the passing of each one I became more and more frustrated. What was wrong? What was I missing? What had I overlooked?
I’ll never forget the moment. I was standing in the shower, mentally reliving for yet another day the frustration that had been dogging me for months, when it hit me like a bolt of lightning.
I realized that while God was at the center of my universe, and that everything revolved around Him, and that I included Him in my business presentations, and that my intentions were good and true, and that I truly wanted to help people, and that I was doing everything that I could to get Redken’s attention, and that I couldn’t figure out why He wasn’t helping me was because I was trying to do it by myself!
You see, I wasn’t really sure that it was part of God’s plan for me to be a “mouthpiece” for Redken, but it was something that I really wanted, so I hadn’t really included Him in the process. I don’t know…I guess I was gonna circumvent Him or something. (Back then, I didn’t realize that the true path runs through Him, not around Him.)
At that very moment I gave it all to Him. All of it. I figured that if He wanted me to reach people, and to share the news of what He’d done in my life, and to be a Crusader for Him, then He could figure out how to do it. I didn’t have to have the perfect plan. All that I had to have was the willingness to do it. Standing in the shower, I laid it all down. I gave it to Him.
Three weeks later The Seed of Hope was born, and the ways in which God has seen fit to use me since has been at times a bit overwhelming.
When Jackie and I were asked to stand in recognition on Sunday night, I realized that in His own way, and according to His plans, God was using a little salon owner from Birmingham to reach an audience much bigger than the Redken world. And that Elite status? Well, don’t get me wrong. It’s nice, but it just doesn’t matter. You see, I realize that I don’t have to have it to make a difference in His Kingdom. All I need is Him.