steve duross - craftsman. artisan. entrepreneur. musings on running and growing a small business

manners, technology and decency

in between clients today we chatted about remaking the world in our image. kindness prevails, cheerful, well-mannered people populate the planet. we spoke of being able to afford the things we need. like insurance, rent and the cost of technology (which would also include the ridiculously expensive disintegrating signal and service we receive from the robber barons of comcast). we discussed the new patent from amazon that allows for air dirigibles to hang above our heads as great warehouses from which our goods will emerge on winged drones and parachute to our doors. i am mashing several patents together but you get the idea. far fetched? absolutely. but completely true. amazon is here to stay, the web is ever growing, and duross & langel is wading fast into the stream in a deep way. life as we know it is about to change. again. we acknowledge that so very many people wish to stand stock still, or push back the direction of progress. like a pendulum, group moods often swing from one side to another. but facts remain facts, regardless of what we feel. life moves on. "better to light a candle than curse the darkness". and now with my smartphone flashlight app, the light can illuminate longer, safer and more efficiently than any candle. as more of us choose our phones, tablets and computers for shopping, it is only realistic to make that segment of our business a robust and imaginative version of our store. trust is all that is required. well, that and a search box.

having conquered another holiday season, i can say without guile that the world has turned a bit meaner in 2016. we hope this anomaly dissipates with great haste. perhaps it is a simple turn of fate. after all, it was a long and mean political season, and regardless of personal political opinions, we were all made worse by the process. and then there is the weekend before christmas. people who talk (read: yak loudly) on their phone, holding it away from them on speaker. i don't even know what to do with that. it is anathema to everything my mother ever taught me. or to stand in the middle of the store and listen to a stream of snark from entitled birkin bag owners who loathe their own lives... it takes it's toll. emotionally, protectively, we begin to shut down. all possibility for a connection is lost. but luckily, fate also gives us moments of impossible grace. moments in time when we come together and connect with those around us in a way that is profound. and for every rude or ill mannered person encountered this season, the sweetest, kindest, warmest people were twenty-fold. whatever you might say or write about 2016, it is the goodness that my team and i will remember most.

this was another year that would define our endeavors pass or fail. we were witness to chance occurrences so precious, that they almost make one believe in the divine. in the idea that someone is looking out for us. so thank you 2016 and to everyone who supports our business. thank you for your generosity and kindness. your friends here at duross & langel wish you all good things in the new year.

the best is yet to come.

finding a place among the tribe

daunting. that would be my best approximation of the holiday season. as with any retail business, if you're doing your job, things get hectic. producing the product only serves to enhance the frantic nature of the experience. whatever one might think of the holiday season, it gives us a chance to catch up. an opportunity for which we are truly grateful.

i read somewhere that expectations only lead to resentment. well that's pretty glass half empty, but sometimes accurate. i create large expectations. within the brand. within our staff. within my family. i create large expectations within myself. at times this leads me to resentment. i know it does with some of the people around me. it simply cannot be helped. a by-product of demanding greatness. i sometimes wonder what my world would be like if i only cared about the bottom line. i guess we will never know.

recently i was chatting with my sister. a pas de deux of unsaid things that only siblings can deftly accomplish. as she danced around the idea, for the umpteenth time, of how her growing family (marriages, grandchildren, etc.) meant that everyone should curb their expectations about gathering the original core family at the holidays, i perfectly mirrored these sentiments until i swayed in the direction that this new paradigm left me free to pursue... how annoying. never wanting to lapse into the assumed role of odd-uncle-in-the-corner, i choose, as ever, to simply be free to do as i please. it's not that i don't love my family, i just don't wish to be undefined. or worse, allow them to define me. i fit into this tribe, but not easily. maybe if someone else in my family actually wanted to discuss the final four on this season's drag race finale... but no, that's never going to happen. i like to believe that with our business, having the profound opportunity to know so many people in an intimate way gives me license to show up in the world the way that i do. most likely not but a guy can still dream. it is on the rarest occasion that i find myself lonely, and though i thoroughly enjoy my solitude, most of my days are filled with an abundance of wonderful and interesting people.

recently i have been mourning the loss of a friend. something i feel more keenly than i would have expected. the thing is, i am standing in this moment trying to make sense of what's left and the world around me keeps moving as if nothing has occurred. sarah stays in the moment with me. silently strong. reminding me that whatever i am feeling is natural. with sarah i am never alone.

2016 is a year on which i will not look back upon with undiluted pleasure. a year that proved my spine is made of steel (some will say my heart too but that will be proven an unworthy epithet in the years to come). i learned that i can bend in gale force winds that blow unmercifully without breaking, that possessions rarely matter, that the only love worth giving is without expectation and that resentment belongs to those who simply cannot meet the measure. i learned that politics is rhetoric, that rhetoric is stupid and that pragmatism is my only way forward. i learned that to dream is not enough. a plan is required. and another, and another, and another. i also learned that you can still get mono at fifty-four (so so tired).

my tribe may be small but my tent is quite large. finding my place is a part of my journey. this is who i have always been and shall ever be, and as long as i have my strength and my health, anything is possible for the future

the rules of reciprocation

me and my big mouth. i should learn to control my need for joining in the conversation. cory was handling the request for a donation like a champ. then, upon hearing "well maybe if you have a bunch of sample sizes that you're not using", i blurted out a tiny bit of information that eventually led to the woman's ire.

"it costs us almost as much to produce a 2oz size as it does to produce a full size." i said. it was not snotty or dismissive or curt. i was merely offering a factoid. she retorted something about the price of the 2oz size being so high but i had already moved on to a ringing phone and a client checking-in for the salon. needless to say she returned the purchased goods 15 minutes later. i wasn't trying to be a dick. i simply wanted to be informative. unfortunately, like everyone else, there are moments when i can be thoughtless and obtuse.

the rules of reciprocation are pretty set. when one person does another a favor, there is an unwritten rule that at some point in time the favor will be returned. you shoveled my walk during a storm, i'll buy your candy bars to support new team uniforms. you help me secure a loan, put me up for retailer of the year, write a great review, send in your friends... "much obliged" my gratitude is assured. somewhere along the line, i may be asked for a favor in return. never specifically asked in return mind you, but that's how most societies across the globe for thousands of years have operated. not actually quid pro quo so much as being a good neighbor. a good friend. a kind person. an active member in our society. sure we will donate a basket to your kid's school fundraiser. this is what we do. community. relationships.

the store itself is an enterprise, not a relationship. we often have relationships with our customers but if we gave to everyone who asked, i would be forced to work for no pay. seriously. we are delighted that many people think so highly of our products that they want to include us in whatever is going on in their life. we are touched that there are so many people who are working to make the world a better place. to support kids, feed and shelter the homeless, offer low or no income women healthcare, fight for their fathers/mothers/kids/families who have suffered from disease. like you, when it gets personal, we roll up our sleeves and join in. give until it hurts.

rarely does anyone ever assume this is the case. we do not have nor do we wish to create a foundation. often money gets diverted to the bureaucracy of any organization. we believe charity begins at home. those in the house who wish us to support their charitable work are first up at bat. then our personal relationships with friends and clients. then a pool of requests that we choose from each year that vary according to emailed requests from the prior year.

but sometimes i say something or do something or simply stand in the wrong place at the wrong time and poof! away goes any feeling of goodwill i might have enjoyed from our giving because inevitably, someone gets disappointed or offended (or quite literally), they expect something specific in return. the following is our template for saying no to most of the average 15 requests per week:

Dear Whomever,

Thank you for thinking of us for your event/charity/organization/request.

At duross & langel, we receive over a dozen requests each week for donations. Having raised money for silent auctions and raffle events, I respect how difficult it can be to not only procure donations, but to have to ask.

Each year we focus our contributions to a list of charities we personally hold dear. In most cases we do this privately and quietly.

In the store we often raise funds for various charities through our business by apportioning a percentage of the sale of our own products. It has become our company policy that contributions should flow directly to those most in need rather than through events, and we prefer to limit our donations to smaller direct impact charities rather than large foundations.

We do not offer our goods for swag bags. Though the perception of greater exposure through charity is often suggested as an incentive for our participation, at duross & langel we believe that giving becomes it’s own reward. We wish you the best of luck with your fundraising event and thank you again.

Warm Regards,

Steve Duross

though the rules of reciprocation do not apply to commerce, we hope people never stop asking for our support. and we promise to do our best to support all communities. directly.