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

into the woods you have to grope, but that's the way you learn to cope. into the woods to find there's hope of getting through the journey



a sondheim quote is my favorite way to begin a blog. especially when it's relevance to the moment is powerful. from the brothers grimm comes a very old and familiar concept that there are going to be moments in our lives where we find ourselves wandering in the woods. and when we emerge, as we hopefully do, we will emerge transformed. a little different. a little stronger. a little wiser. though i do not find myself wandering lost in the forest, i am, to push the metaphor, cognizant that in this moment, my moment, i am tasked with knowing the forest from the trees. and there are giants in the sky.

when i talk, when i tell a story, my tendency is to tangent. often, i tell two or three stories all at once. this will be one of those occasions. it begins with a hike in the alps a few weeks ago where i began pitching the idea of james leaving IKEA and coming back full-time as CFO/COO. how did this happens? we were literally and figuratively in the woods. he was trapped. there was no wifi. no distractions. it was me and james and our future as a business was waiting somewhere beyond the glade. there was no way he was leaving IKEA. period. further in we go. the path splits. james has heard enough and begins to power up the path leaving me huffing and puffing behind. i chose a path that takes me in the same direction but offers a darker view of the landscape. five minutes in i realize i have wondered from the path. true story and a hell of a metaphor. standing 1200 ft in the air with another 800+ to go, i realize that outsourcing everything we now create by hand will rip out our soul. what am i going to do? i cannot do everything. actually, i can't but we can. i will wait until we make it to the top of the mountain, past the woods where he can rest and have a beer, i can have some soup. i will live to fight another day. and speaking of losing one's soul. i've come to the realization that good people who want to work in concert but don't fathom the soul of the operation only lead us further astray. it is not a judgement. it is a fact. everyone has an agenda. everyone needs something. if i can get you to do this then i can do that. but that's not how they say it. it becomes more of "this is such a great opportunity. why don't you want to do this?" howling. howling. more trees. so many trees. where is the path? there are wolves in these woods. one midnight gone.

when we began this journey ten years ago, never did i expect to give up control of anything. we went into these metaphorical woods the first time back in 2008 when we had just moved to 13th street, taken out a sizable loan and the bottom fell out of the retail market. panic was not an option. what must we do? how best to proceed? what do we lack that we must possess? what can we trade? we learned a great deal in that year that has forged the path to the present. growth can happen anywhere, at any time, if only you are willing. my life for the past 10 years has been an exercise in letting go of my attachment to the results. people come and go. the climate changes. i did not think we would be winning Greater Philadelphia's Chamber of Commerce Retailer of the Year for 2015. i did not even know i wanted it. but here we are. i could not imagine james would come back to the business we built together but life has it's own rhythm. my nephew is training to lead the new company we are creating for our manufacturing arm of the company. my niece will be running the salon. sarah is taking charge of the creative vision for the studio. cory is stepping up to co-manage the daily floor operations. wilson concepts is leading the online projects. letting go has taught me that effective leadership has nothing to do with control. creating a solid team of talented individuals has changed me in ways i would never have imagined. now i am tasked with building and funding our future. part of the process is lifting your skirt to underwriters so they can see everything more clearly. it's intimidating i'll admit but not prohibitively. we're dealing honorably so we get to keep our soul.

months ago i was in a big hurry to introduce the world to my vision for the next step in the life of duross & langel. when you stray from the path, you can find your way back. my priorities were out of whack. i couldn't leave well enough alone and allow the process to create the moment. i've been trying to force this process before it was ready. i have been attempting to promote something no one can understand because it has not yet been born. i know that tree. we've been this way before. stand still and be quiet. i hear something. follow that sound. sometimes the most difficult decisions are the most obvious. so you put everything you think you know aside and open up to what there is to see. and the ones still wandering in the woods? well, they have to find whatever they are looking for on their own journey.