The Seed of Hope

A gift for tomorrow

A Seed was Planted

This "spiritual journey" that I'm on began early one morning is August of 2005, and it began with one word......

 

CHANGE

 

It’s a relatively simple word; six letters, one syllable. Rolls fairly easily off the tongue. Even at this moment, you may be 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. A seed of hope was planted.

 

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.

 

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 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. He had planted a seed of hope. 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 inspiration for me in the future.

 

Okay, so I attended a luncheon and met a great individual. 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! Yet another seed of hope had been planted.

 

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.

 

I am proud of Jackie, my rock, my wife, and my best friend. I am proud of my family. I am proud of our salon, and all those in it.  I am proud of what I do. I am proud of my industry. I am proud of the man looking back at me in the mirror. Yes, for the first time in my life, I’m proud of who I am.

 

I am proud for all of the above, but I am also thankful for all of the blessings in my life, and each day when I come to consciousness, I thank God for all that He has seen fit to bestow upon me, and for my faith that grows stronger each and every day. You see, I know that it was God planting those seeds of hope in me through the people He put in my path. Perhaps He is putting me in your path for that very same reason.

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