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

evidence of things not seen

 

it happens quietly. subtly. before you realize it, an almost imperceptible, incremental change shifts the orbit of our daily lives from the axis upon which we believed it rested. among co-workers, friends, lovers and partners are the primal elements of human interaction that seemingly ground us yet create a seismic wake in moments of change. like the wife who one day awakens to find her husband packing his belongings, shocked to have missed the clues of his misery, confronting the factual is an eventual necessity. often our lives become easier to bear while wrapped in a cocoon of delusion. but the fuzzy warm perception of ubiquity is just that. a perception. a nothingness that exists before the grip of reality's tentacles squeeze us into a jarring, awakening embrace. only then do we begin to feel the evidence of things not seen.

enlightenment, once entered into the brain, cannot be removed. if we do not handle the facts of our lives, we bury them beneath some rarely accessed memory. more often though we find a way to make them palatable. we attach a comforting explanation or, better yet, we broaden our view of life so as to accommodate this discovery. soon we may even become glad to know what we know. but our best bet is often to forget the unpleasantness of the discovery and focus on the future, no matter how agitated it may make us feel. treat it as a part of our history.

throughout my lifetime, i am sad to say, i've often let others determine my worth. a determination that should be made by me and me alone. with age i know better. self worth is a construct or concept with which i am well acquainted. yet what we feel, we often define as fact. it skews our perception of reality. fortunately my self worth is only slightly tied to my accomplishments with the business. the business is not me nor am i the business. it lives outside of me and, unlike the parents of an entire generation, my pride for what i brought into this world won't be the conversation upon which my life exists. it is not a bumper sticker designed to reflect glory. in business there are winners and losers. with children you pretend. especially if your child hasn't yet shown the outward signs of winning. but when i played baseball in 1967, there was no tee, and i struck out each and every time at bat. all season long. it sucked hard losing at bat but being a loser taught me to search to find the things at which i excelled. and now looking back i am glad. because too much self worth for insufficient reason leads to mediocrity. and the world is overbrimming with mediocrity.

successful small businesses like ours run on the energy of the staff. there are times when i feel so much swirling energy that it is difficult to get hold of. in these moments i duck into the place where i choose not to see what's going on, if only for brief respite from the cold hard truth. the big truth. capital T.  i am responsible. if everything we are doing goes well, we take the win as a team. if it goes belly up (even the simplest of ideas or actions), then the fault is mine and mine alone. parenthetically, sarah has shown a willingness to climb into my foxhole through a hail of bullets. she gets me in a fundamental way. we have agreed that our fortunes and our lives are tied together through choice. partnership. love. sometimes love is the thing that we need most in a business. if for no other reason than on the worst days, it keeps us moving forward. on the best days it makes us soar. this kind of kinship is a rare and funny thing, and not something to be treat lightly.

lately, duross & langel has been going through growing pains. it is a wonderful thing to have one's work turn out as planned. growth and prosperity is a blessing for sure, but i work very hard to make sure everyone is woven comfortably into the tapestry of our work life. two steps forward, one step back. much better that than a sisyphian rock pushed up a sandy molasses hill only to roll back down at the day's end. adjustments in our approach are called for daily, that is the birthright of any small business. my position requires me to have clarity, especially when a realization strikes that i've allowed things to wander. it is then that i must get a grip. these adventures were borne of my vision, so if it's not happening the way i planned, i have no one to blame but myself. hearing that thought in my head is what kicks me into gear, and this has a way of ruffling the feathers of those who find my need to control, controlling.

recently, i went over a few changes in production that will need to be made with a staff member i adore. i must have been communicating my needs improperly because i could feel the heat rising in the conversation, and so i worked quickly to pivot the tenor of my point. rarely is the problem that a team member isn't doing a good enough job. were that the case, i would simply pass them through the door quickly on to their next place of employment. however, this particular issue was about how growing our business requires that we move forward toward the end zone while the goal post moves and shifts. business is ever evolving. encouraging staff to see this from my perspective can be challenging. "what worked yesterday won't work tomorrow and here's why." i know it's frustrating. well, to most. to me not so much. i thrive on this kind of thing. changes are good. especially when it means we are changing from what we have been to what we dream of becoming. it is through this process that i begin to see who is a team player and who will act as an interim replacement. both have their value to the company. 

i believe room should be made for people's emotions to appropriately flow into a conversation. after all, humans are emotional beings. finding a balance with people who possess too much emotion or drama can be difficult at best (and i often think i should receive some kind of tax break for hiring people ruled by their emotions). i'm of the opinion that anyone who allows the tears of another to move them is a stooge. tears are nothing. the story behind the tears however.. that can be compelling for a host of reasons. the often tearful is just the tip of the iceberg of personality types that cannot work in the long term: the dramatic, the shit stirrer, the one who makes snide or inappropriate remarks and then counters your verbal displeasure with "i'm just kidding".. linger too long on a decision about their future and they will surely poison the lot. you never quite know who you're working with until you have some time in. conversely, most team members don't understand what the situation will be until they have been around a while. at the end of the day, i believe what we all must ask ourselves is "what is truly most important?"

building 4 floors of enterprise with a host of disparate people is a game of three dimensional chess. do i love it? of course i do. i built this life for myself. i plotted and planned and poured an excess of dollars into this dream. watching it grow and develop, seeing it take on a life of it's own, building a family of people who share in this venture is the greatest achievement of my lifetime (to date). i am not unaware of how rare it is for a company like ours to have lasted so long or so well. to not only be relevant, but on it's way to becoming a local institution. to see our names become a brand that stands for quality and service was the highest goal for which we could have reached. money is money. it comes, it goes. but reputation.. that is another matter entirely. reputation is everything, and i require that everyone in the building live into the reputation we have built for ourselves. it cannot be easy for some to be in my employ, but for those who stand with me, who are loyal to me, it is the beginning of a lifetime of endless possibilities.

one year has officially passed since i hired my first salon employee. how pleased i have become by this choice. thank you kenzie. i never know how it's going to go for sure. i forge ahead with the best of intentions and the highest hopes for the future, and then wait and see how it lands. we didn't do too shabbily with the store, so i like my chances for the future with the salon. and with any luck, i will have all the time in the world to make it so. and then we will see the evidence of many things not yet seen.