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

the emperor has no clothes

a week ago Philadelphia Magazine honored us with a nod in their Best Of Issue as Philadelphia's New Beauty Empire. a friend of mine sent me a text that referred to me as the emperor. i laughed because it sure feels like the emperor has no clothes.


a great deal has been written on the measure of success. some of it by me. i define personal success by my level of desire and attachment to the work at hand. in this way, i have achieved much success over the years. but perhaps that is just me. anyway, it is easy to do when things are going well. outwardly, success is defined by many variables. luckily our little venture has met the external criteria layered upon it. which is good because life is so much easier with a bit of coin in the bank.


years ago i traded my legal husband for my work wife. since the one marriage was decidedly ending while the other one was burgeoning, i found myself blessed to have the help of someone i dearly loved. sarah lifted me up and helped me carry on. without guile, i learned that if i wanted any measure of success, i could not do it alone. the concept proved to be masterful. so i began to repeat it with others i trusted and loved. over the years we have built a family at duross & langel. i invested bright, young people to help me grow our business. though we all desire the external criteria to be met for success, together, as a team, we share my original vision of personal success. a rare and wondrous thing. then just as everything seemed to be going so well, everything changed.


i opened the salon and am trying to run four businesses without mucking up. sarah opened the yoga studio and has to spilt her time, attention and considerable talents. we moved rob and production to a new building (which is like setting him adrift on a row boat). cory is now responsible for being both me and sarah on the floor while managing the first crew of his own. the second floor is now populated by a talented team of stylists who are bending over backwards to embrace the culture of our business while building their own. and james has returned. i leave this for last because it has proven to be the third rail of our business and personal relationship. no matter how much we may still embrace one another as friends/brothers, we still fight as if we are married. i made james the sweetest offer to come back. what i left out of the conversation is massive. the reality of what he didn't love about running a small business is still present, only much much bigger and all consuming. sorry james. we are learning to cope with being together full time, creating new boundaries, and that our signals often get crossed. the only worthwhile attitude we can adopt is to always assume the best in one another. there is no regret in bringing my friend and business partner back into the fold. the regret comes from not being more cognizant of how difficult it would be for him. "here is an oddly defined role that acts as a catch all as well as the financial and support roles you are meant to play". at best a difficult (and at times extremely frustrating) situation to hand someone who enjoys clearly defined parameters. but this is change. we all must change. i am changing. always. though the pace is often painfully slow. yet i have the luxury of choosing the people i wish to surround me each day. most others do not. and though the work james is doing is vital to our current situation and future success, unfortunately it will take a few years to truly settle into this life.


everything is perception. the store is going gangbusters. the salon is picking up speed and referrals call every day for appointments. the yoga studio continues to fill classes. some slowly. some more rapidly. but it is happening the way i knew it would with sarah's talents to lead the way. the production studio doesn't need me that much any more. i could shed a tear or two about it but the goal was to make myself redundant. actually, if i am diligent about the next few years, i will have worked myself out of a job. that is why we have james and sarah and cory and rob and now, with the advent of the salon, my newest invested partner natasha. we have reached the apex where this whole thing is no longer about me. it is about us. all of us. each bringing to the table what they offer and in return, making the whole thing stronger. think of a single strand of string (me). now think of many strong strands wrapping and binding together to create a rope that can pull a ship. if i harbor pride, this is where you will find it. in the team i have brought together. it is, to date, my greatest achievement.


so when it comes to success and failure, i believe the only real failure is the failure to try. the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment, as we always must. as a team we have come together and we have tried. all of us in our different ways. can we be blamed for feeling that sometimes it is too difficult to change? too scared of disappointment to start it all again? yet still we get up in the morning. we do our best. nothing else matters. and before we know it, we achieve what it was we had hoped for, only different, and better.
coming together is a beginning. keeping together is progress. working together is success.